Harvey takes a look at how the various environment platforms were shaping
up during the lead up to the 2004 federal election
Leur position sur la planète Terre
Alors que le
de la planète peut
ne pas influencer
les résultats du
vote le 28 juin,
Where they stand
on Planet Earth
June 2, 2004
the Conservative site was not working on Monday morning, and since
newspaper deadlines wait for no party, I had to move on. If you want
to try, their website is www.conservative.ca.
That said, the Liberals and Conservatives are meting out their
platforms one plank at a time, and so far, neither has favoured us
with the environmental plank. Only the NDP and Green Party have
actually released a full election platform. The Liberal web site
features the environmental content from the Speech from the Throne and
a budget; I will assume that their election statements won't veer too
far off this.
In a nutshell, it's this. They will work to address cross-border
issues with the US (no details), get clean drinking water to First
Nations reserves, and spend $4 billion over 10 years to clean up
contaminated sites. They reiterate their commitment to the Kyoto
Protocol on climate change, but offer only the voluntary "One
Tonne Challenge" directed at individuals as the only concrete
step towards implementation. Potentially, the most significant
environmental commitment, albeit indirect, is to fund infrastructure
and provide cities with new revenues through GST relief and gas tax
sharing. Water and sewage treatment, rail and public transit are all
potential beneficiaries of this money. Under-whelming.
Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve the problems we have
created with the same thinking that created them." In other
words, you have to think outside the box. Right now, the only parties
doing this are the NDP and Green Party. Their environmental planks are
substantive, with some differences in emphasis and strategy that may
solve the problems
we have created with the
same thinking that created them."
The emergence of the Green Party as a national force in this
election seems to have sharpened the NDP's pencils. It isn't by
accident that a "Green Canada" is front and centre in the
NDP's slogan, which was launched in B.C. where the Green Party could
interfere with a potential NDP breakthrough. The good news is there is
substance behind the slogan.
The NDP has outlined a strong agenda in energy, clean air,
transportation, and greenhouse gas reductions (all three are related).
Making the transition from a fossil fuel economy to one built on
energy efficiency and renewables is the greatest challenge facing
Canada, and the NDP has it covered quite well, including looking after
workers and communities affected by the transition.
They have an "okay" but weaker agenda on clean water,
toxic chemicals and biodiversity protection. These elements seem less
well developed, and the ocean (fishing) is missing completely, other
than an important reference to industrial aquaculture. Overall, the
NDP's strength appears to be a strategic approach to marrying
environmental imperatives with economic development. There is a
conscious effort to address issues facing workers in traditional
sectors, like energy and auto-making-a clear reflection of the
involvement of labour in the party and the efforts of unions to set
their own progressive agenda on energy and climate change.
Likewise, the Green Party platform has its strengths and
weaknesses. The Greens cover more ground than the NDP, including the
critical need to reduce the release of toxic chemicals into our
environment, the existence of fishing and mining issues (but not
aquaculture or corporate agriculture), and waste management. But they
provide less detail on how to achieve their goals, suggesting that the
party knows the "what" but not necessarily the
"how." That may not be fair, given that their platform
document directs readers back to the website for full details, but
this is not a good strategy. I did not have time to re-visit the
website for more information, and most people probably wouldn't
bother. The platform document should be comprehensive enough to
convince readers of the substance of the policy and the party.
Where the Green Party stands out is in their focus on taxation and
subsidy shifts as a driver of change. In essence, they would tax the
activities that we want to discourage - like pollution - and reward
those that should be encouraged - like employment. It makes sense,
but telling Canadians today that gas taxes should be raised by 10
cents a litre is like waving a red flag at a bull.
For a citizen looking to vote green, either party stands up on the
ideas level. Strategic thinking on implementation, however, lies so
far with the NDP.