2008 Election Survey Bloc Québécois
Sierra Club Canada and Greenpeace Canada submitted their 2008 election survey on environment
issues to the five federally funded political parties. The full
text of the questions can be
read. The parties responses are both summarized in a grid and reproduced in full. The text of the Bloc Québécois response follows.
Note: Covering letters which acompanied survey responses have been omitted. The text of party responses is, in all other respects, unaltered.
Bloc Québécois Response
Climate and Energy
Greenpeace, Sierra Club Canada and 30 other Canadian organizations have joined forces to build a national consensus for urgent policy action on climate change. Part of the campaign is to ask every candidate in this election to sign the KYOTOplus Pledge
which calls on them to “work to ensure that Canada honours its Kyoto commitment and sets a national target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25%, relative to the 1990 level, by 2020.”
Q: Will your party support the KYOTOplus objectives and targets for reductions in emissions?
The Bloc Québécois believes that it is crucial to avoid the irreversible consequences of global warming, which represents a 2° Celsius increase since the pre-industrial age.
To achieve this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended a greenhouse gas emission cap over the next 10 to 15 years and a reduction by 2050 of more than half of GHG emissions, compared to 1990 levels.
For industrialized countries, this means a 25 to 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The Bloc Québécois actively thus supports the KYOTOplus reduction target.
Climate and Energy
It is essential for Canada to develop a comprehensive plan to phase out the use of nuclear energy, recognizing that it is irresponsible for us to generate more highly radioactive waste – toxic waste that will be radioactive for millennia, placing an unfair burden on future generations of Canadians.
Q: Will your party support a comprehensive plan with a firm timeline for the phase-out of nuclear power in Canada?
Canada is a vast territory and each of its regions has a distinct situation. The Bloc Québécois supports the fact that each province’s energy choices do not fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction. The Bloc does not plan to develop or support a plan to phase out nuclear energy in Canada.
Climate and Energy
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is the federal crown corporation that designs and markets CANDU reactors and other nuclear technology. It has received over $20 billion in federal subsidies since it was founded in 1952. AECL has received over $200 million in federal subsidies to design a new reactor - the Advanced CANDU reactor. The Canadian nuclear industry is currently asking for hundreds of millions in additional subsidies to secure the sale of the prototype reactor to Ontario. Over its 50 year history AECL has only managed to sell one reactor design, the CANDU-6.
Q: Will your party end subsidies to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and refuse to provide Ontario with subsidies to purchase the Advanced Candu Reactor?
The Bloc Québécois is concerned about the astronomical sums that have been invested in Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) since its creation. Clearly, it makes no sense for the federal government to invest in the development of Ontario’s energy network, while Québec had to develop its network on its own. However, we feel it is important to wait for the results of the strategic assessment that is currently underway before making a formal statement on all of the subsidies provided to the AECL. It is important to point out that the AECL’s mandate is not limited to the development of CANDU reactors that supply electricity. In fact, some of the AECL’s activities are devoted to basic research and the production of medical isotopes, which provide many Canadians with access to timely and reliable diagnoses. This is why the Bloc Québécois believes that it is important to have an accurate picture, and to assess the impact of withdrawing subsidies, particularly on research.
Climate and Energy
Alberta Tar Sands
By 2020, the tar sands are expected to emit more than 141 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year—more than what all motor vehicles currently emit in Canada. Several people downstream of the tar sands already have been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and other auto-immune disorders that are likely to be a result of pollution from upstream tar Sands operations.
Q: Will your party support a moratorium on new Tar Sands projects?
The federal government must establish quotas that will allow us to come as close as possible to the Kyoto objectives by the year 2012 and a cap that complies with the IPCC’s requirements for 2020. Since the Bloc Québécois favours a territorial approach, it is less concerned about how each province attains its objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the results that count. It is up to Alberta to arbitrate between the tar sands and the other sectors of its economy.
Food and Agriculture
Genetically Engineered Food
Public opinion research indicates that over 80% of Canadians want mandatory labelling for Genetically Engineered (GE) food, and 40 countries have a mandatory labeling system. The federal government adopted “voluntary” labelling in April 2004, and until today Canadian consumers have not seen a single label telling them that food contain GE ingredients.
Q: Will your party propose legislated mandatory labelling of genetically engineered foods in the next parliament and agree to an immediate moratorium on the approval of all new GE crops and foods until the government’s procedure for GE risk assessment has been reviewed and strengthened to meet strict scientific standards based on the precautionary principle?
The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebecers have a right to know what ends up on their plates. The Bloc Québécois is proud to be the party that tabled Bill C-517, requiring mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.
Canada is behaving irresponsibly by rejecting the precautionary principle, which would prevent any risks to human health and the environment caused by the use of GMOs. By making no efforts to ratify the Cartagena Protocol, by not imposing mandatory GMO labelling , and by supporting American action against the European moratorium on GMO imports, the federal government has overtly sided with industry and ignored the concerns of consumers.
This attitude has to change. That’s why the Bloc supports a moratorium on new GMO seeds. At the moment, this is the only way to monitor the potential harm caused by GMOs.
National Marine Reserves
Less than 0.5% of Canada’s oceans are protected, despite clear scientific evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of reserves in protecting marine resources including fisheries. Although Canada has plans to create a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012, it is far from being a leader when it comes to the amount of ocean area protected. Canada lags behind all other developed countries, when we consider the financial resources invested.
Q: Will your party support the creation of a representative network of Marine Protected Areas including 25% in Marine Reserves (no-take zones) in Canadian waters by 2012, and support a long-term goal of putting aside 40% of the international high seas in Marine Reserves?
In terms of marine areas in Québec’s territory, the Bloc Québécois hopes that Ottawa will develop a genuine partnership with the government of Québec and respect Québec’s wish to have complete control over the management of its territory. The Parc marin du Saguenay is a perfect example of genuine partnership.
The objective of protecting 40% of international waters seems both realistic and desirable.
National Water Policy
Canada houses only a small fraction of the world’s renewable freshwater resources (6.5%), and an even smaller fraction of this (2.5%) is geographically accessible without harmful large-scale water diversions. As well, invasive species, persistent organic pollutants, endocrine disrupters and groundwater depletion all have an impact on our water supplies. The allowance of bulk water exports and diversions also threatens our water resources. We cannot continue to take our water resources for granted in
the face of global warming. Clean and abundant water is essential to ensuring the health of Canadians and the health of our economy.
Q: Will your party develop a comprehensive Canada-wide water strategy in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, First Nations, and community organizations by 2010, including a Sustainable Water Act that will conserve water through such measures as national appliance water efficiency standards, enhanced prohibitions on bulk water exports, and legally-binding federal standards for drinking-water quality and sewage treatment?
Let us be clear: water resources, with the exception of boundary waters, are under Québec’s jurisdiction. And Québec has not wasted any time in launching new initiatives, namely the Québec Water Policy in 2002 to ensure the quality and availability of water.
But it is far from clear whether trade agreements, particularly NAFTA, give Québec complete freedom to protect its water resources.
Now, it is up to the federal government to act before water shortages in the United States become critical, and to hold discussions with the Americans and Mexicans so that water is excluded from NAFTA.
Especially since the solution is simple: an agreement by exchange of letters among the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico specifying that water is not covered by NAFTA must be respected by international tribunals as if it were an integral part of NAFTA
It would be completely irresponsible to wait for the American government to contest Québec laws before taking action.
Preserving Natural Lakes
A current loophole in the federal Fisheries Act allows healthy natural lakes to be re-designated as tailings impoundment areas - dumps for toxic mining waste - under Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMERs) section. There are other,
safer options for disposal of mining tailings, ones which don’t threaten freshwater ecosystems or groundwater quality.
Q: Will your party protect Canada’s lakes and groundwater sources by working to ensure that no more lakes end up on the MMERs list under Schedule 2 of the Fisheries Act?
The Bloc Québécois is unequivocal on this issue: We must not sacrifice lakes or bodies of water for mining development.
The Bloc Québécois is therefore committed to working to ensure that the regulations under the Fisheries Act, and the Act itself, are amended in order to prohibit the federal government from turning lakes into dumping grounds with the stroke of a pen.
Species at Risk
Canada’s endangered species and other species at risk are not adequately protected because the federal Species at Risk Act is not being fully implemented. Action plans for recovery are in place for less than 1% of Canada’s listed species at risk.
Q: Will your party support accelerating the implementation of the Species at Risk Act by implementing, by 2009, recovery strategies and action plans that identify and protect habitat for all species listed before 2008?
The principle of providing more protection for endangered species is a principle that the Bloc Québécois firmly upholds. However, we do not believe that the Species at Risk Act can improve the protection of endangered species. In fact, we feel that it is an intrusion into many of Québec’s jurisdictions, and duplicates An Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species which has been in effect in Québec since 1989.
The Bloc Québécois also notes that Canada’s Species at Risk Act promised to protect the most vulnerable species. However, some of the most seriously endangered species were excluded from any form of protection. The Bloc Québécois believes that the designation of endangered species must first be done according to scientific criteria. The Bloc Québécois also believes that the process to establish a list of endangered species must be carried out within Québec’s legislative framework.
Few places in the world can still boast the kinds of wild spaces – and wild species – that can be found from coast to coast to coast in Canada. In the face of rapidly accelerating climate change and other threats, Canada needs to move fast to secure this natural legacy by permanently protecting a minimum of 50% of our remaining wild areas.
Q: Is your party committed to: • support a significant increase in the amount of protected areas in Canada, especially in large intact forests such as the Canadian Boreal Forest and Arctic ecosystems by establishing interconnected networks of protected areas and implementing regional land-use plans before approving any large- scale industrial projects, including the Mackenzie Gas Project and new Tar Sands expansion.
By 2009, announce a funded plan to complete and manage Canada’s network of National Parks, National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries?
In terms of establishing protected areas, the Bloc Québécois notes that Québec has over 1800 natural sites that meet the definition of a protected area. All of these natural sites are regulated and managed according to 22 different legal or administrative designations. In May 2008, the government of Québec announced the creation of 23 new protected areas, attaining 6% of Québec’s area, and placing Québec second among all Canadian provinces.
Québec adopted a highly structured consultation process that involved many players who participated in identifying territories in need of protection. We believe that our common goal—increasing the area of protected habitat—would be reached sooner if the federal government would limit its role to assisting the government of Québec in organizing its territory.
Health and the Environment
Environmental contaminants in our air, water, and food are having an enormous negative impact on the health of Canadians. Health Canada estimates that the direct health care costs and lost productivity caused by environmental factors add up to
between $46 billion and $52 billion a year.
Q: Will your party work in Parliament to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to implement the recommendations of the April 2007 all-party report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development? This includes placing the onus on companies to show that chemicals are safe, rather than the current onus on government to demonstrate harm, and requiring prompt and meaningful action to limit human exposure to a substance when scientific evidence shows it to be toxic.
The Bloc Québécois largely supported the measures contained in the April 2007 report. In particular, the recommendations pertaining to a better evaluation of chemical products and noxious substances must be implemented. But the Bloc Québécois believes that we must go further still. One of the most glaring gaps in the CEPA is the precautionary principle. We believe it is imperative that it be formally included in the Act in order to be able to take concrete action before problems arise and citizens are exposed to substances that affect their health, or could even be fatal.
According to a recent report from the Canadian Medical Association, an estimated 700,000 Canadians will die prematurely over the next two decades because of illnesses caused by poor air quality.
Q: Will your party be prepared to, by 2008, set national and regional emissions reduction targets for harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter, based on stringent air-quality standards that protect both the environment and human health, especially the health of vulnerable populations?
The Bloc Québécois is genuinely concerned about air quality and its recent actions demonstrate our commitment to Quebecers’ health.
The Canadian Medical Association recently released disturbing data on the effects of poor air quality, showing that thousands of Quebecers and Canadians will die prematurely from exposure to atmospheric pollutants.
At about the same time, Health Canada reported that the increase in heat waves combined with the deterioration in air quality will cause an increase in respiratory problems, certain forms of cancer and allergies.
Given these alarming figures, the Bloc Québécois strongly believes that we can no longer turn our backs on this problem: the federal government must immediately tackle the issue of atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to smog formation.
In particular, the federal government must work with Québec and the provinces to immediately implement the most stringent norms.
The Bloc Québécois denounced in no uncertain terms the air quality norms announced by the federal government and tailor made by the major oil producers. These norms are so lax with respect to tar sands producers that they will allow them to significantly increase their emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants that have a direct impact on human health and the environment. In short, these tar sands producers will be able to increase their volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 60% by 2015, and their nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions by 5%.
The Bloc Québécois considers this unacceptable and plans to pursue its actions in favour of a net improvement in air quality.
Environmental Bill of Rights
Currently, many Canadian health and environmental laws and policies are weaker than corresponding laws in other nations. Canadians need a strong Environmental Bill of Rights, to protect us from toxins and other environmental hazards.
Q: Will your party support the passage of an Environmental Bill of Rights that would: establish the right of citizens to a healthy environment; establish a duty of public trust on the part of the federal government to manage and protect the environment for the benefit of current and future generations; allow Canadians to take action against the federal government for any breach of its public trust duty; guarantee reasonable access to environmental information so that citizens make informed decisions; establish a right for citizens to participate in environmental decision-making?
Last June, when several environmental groups released their project to establish a declaration on environmental rights, the Bloc Québécois immediately applauded the initiative.
Given the federal government’s attitude regarding efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and its dismal record on other issues within its jurisdiction (the contamination in Shannon, contamination of lands in the Technopole, munitions in Lac Saint-Pierre), the Bloc Québécois believes that regulatory mechanisms must be introduced to force the government to take responsibility.
This is all the more flagrant with the Conservatives since they have not hesitated to disregard laws adopted by Parliament on climate change.
With an environmental rights charter, citizens would have a role to play in protecting the environment and would finally have a tool that would help them force government to respect its laws and obligations.
Putting a Price on Carbon
Today, Canadians recognize that the economy and the environment are two sides of the same coin. One reason we have entrenched environmental problems like poor air quality and accelerating climate change is that government policy sends the wrong economic signals. Our tax policies often subsidize economic behaviour that damages the environment and the climate by propping up damaging development – such as in the tar sands – instead of driving investment in more sustainable approaches. These old policies are both economically costly and environmentally unsustainable.
Q: Will your party institute carbon pricing through carbon taxes and/or a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions and use the proceeds to finance further actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while supporting low-income Canadians and immediately shortening the phase-out period for the accelerated capital cost allowance for the tar-sands industry?
For the Bloc Québécois, the best way of ensuring a real decrease in GHG emissions is to impose a cap on GHG emissions using absolute targets combined with a carbon exchange. Rather than imposing an artificial carbon price, the scarcity effect and the possibility of selling credits at a good price on the exchange would make it possible to establish day after day an adequate carbon price to achieve target results. This market flexibility would allow us to attain reduction goals at a lower cost. For example, the price per ton of carbon on the European market has attained 38 dollars without threatening their economy.
The Bloc Québécois also proposes some solutions designed to accelerate the transition from a fuel-based economy to a future economy based on energy conservation and renewable energies:
The Bloc Québécois would invest $105 million more a year to build the fund for the production of renewable energy in order to further encourage the development of solar, geothermal and wind energy.
A preliminary fund of $515 million over three years would be invested in efforts to reduce oil heating and replace it with renewable energies.
Investment options with respect to public transportation is a Québec government jurisdiction. The government requires sufficient, stable and reliable funding in order to be able to improve public transportation infrastructure and services. The Bloc Québécois has demanded that the proportion of the gas tax that is transferred to Québec and the provinces be immediately increased to $0.05, rather than waiting for the 2009-2010 fiscal year as planned.
The Bloc Québécois also proposes making the public transportation tax credit refundable, which will cost an estimated $190 million a year.
The Bloc Québécois would allocate an additional $70 million annually to the Energy Efficiency in New Buildings Program in order to allow more citizens to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
The Bloc Québécois also proposes:
- $560 million over three years to promote and accelerate the conversion of commercial fleets into ecological vehicles;
- $460 million over three years to maintain and improve the ecoAUTO Rebate Program in order to make the purchase of a hybrid or electric car more attractive;
- $280 million over three years to improve intermodal transportation infrastructure in order to encourage a shift away from trucking to alternative forms of transportation;
- $40 million per year for the development of second-generation ethanol using waste (cellulosic ethanol) rather than usable raw materials.
Oil and gas
Both Conservative and Liberal federal governments have multiplied their gifts to the oil and gas industry, which have translated into billions of dollars.
In 2003, the Liberal government introduced and passed, with Conservative support, Bill C-48 which benefited oil companies by offering them the most attractive tax regime in North America, even ahead of that of Texas under George W. Bush. This legislation, still in effect today, allows oil companies to save more than one billion dollars in taxes, year after year.
Oil companies are also benefiting from accelerated amortization of their investments in the tar sands. While the Conservatives announced the gradual elimination of this program in the March 2007 budget, the oil companies will be able to continue to benefit from this program, in large part, until 2015. The Conservatives have therefore spared the oil companies that already have projects up and running.
Thirdly, the tax cuts announced by the Conservatives during the 2007 Economic Statement will allow oil companies to save even more. For the year 2008-2009, this will translate into $1 billion in tax savings.
In short, the multiple gifts conferred upon the wealthy oil companies by both the Liberal and the Conservatives will allow them to save over $2.7 billion in 2008-2009.
For the Bloc Québécois, this is an obscene situation.
The Bloc Québécois will continue to demand that the Canadian government end all tax gifts to wealthy oil companies.
Under the current Nuclear Liability Act, Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for most of the public liability associated with private nuclear installations.
Q: Will your party support a Nuclear Accountability Plan that includes legislation requiring full cost accounting of nuclear energy; fully shifts the liability and cost of insurance for nuclear power and long term waste disposal facilities onto electricity rates; and eliminates all direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies to nuclear energy?
We believe that all of the costs related to the production of nuclear power (warehousing, insurance, environmental) should be reflected in retail prices.