AT ISSUE: Canadian environmental policy has far-reaching effects

Gyro Park at Cadboro Bay is seen in a droplet of water hanging from a leaf. Nature and the environment are issues many Canadians believe are being put on the back burner with the focus having shifted more to the economy.

Gyro Park at Cadboro Bay is seen in a droplet of water hanging from a leaf. Nature and the environment are issues many Canadians believe are being put on the back burner with the focus having shifted more to the economy.

Report shows that Canada is falling behind other countries on environmental protection

From an oil tanker ban in B.C. waters to global warming, voters have plenty to consider when deciding which box to check on election day.

The Pembina Institute, a non-partisan sustainable energy think tank, released key findings from a new Environment Report by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) last week.

The report found greenhouse gas emissions are rising — up 24 per cent since 1990. Non-renewable fossil fuels still make up 90 per cent of our primary energy production, while wind, solar and tidal energy sources represent less than 0.5 per cent of total generation.

The CIW report also found nearly every province and territory in the country is producing more waste.

“If we don’t have a healthy planet, we won’t have a healthy society,” said CIW Director Bryan Smale.

“One of the main goals of the CIW is to show the interconnections among the many dimensions of our wellbeing — taking into account the full range of social, health, environmental, and economic concerns of citizens.”

In its document Ideas for Positive Change, the CIW outlines actions for government leaders which include improving the enforcement of environmental policies.

In Greater Victoria, a lack of enforcement on derelict vessels is at the forefront of this issue.

“There is a whole branch of Transport Canada set up with a set of procedures and policies and no enforcement arm,” said Adam Olsen, a Central Saanich councillor who sits on the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities task force on derelict vessels.

“We need to have an appropriate amount of resources to at least start to address the issue. The other thing it requires is a considerable amount of co-ordination between the various government levels.”

In 1972 the federal Liberal government imposed a moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the north coast, but recently the question has been raised as to whether or not it will continue to be enforced.

The Liberal, NDP and Green parties are all calling for a legislated ban, but the Conservative government maintains that a ban is not necessary.

Several environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, have expressed concerns about the shipping of oil and gas and related products through coastal waters such as Juan de Fuca Strait.

“The tanker moratorium needs to be strengthened and enforced,” said Jeffery Young, biologist with the David Suzuki Foundation.

The simple message is that people who care about the environment should get out and vote, said Young.

“The federal government has extensive responsibility for our environment.”

He listed fresh water protection including protection of a variety of ecosystems, lakes, wetlands, ocean, sensitive marine environments, fisheries; air quality and protection of endangered species among them.

“Change needs to happen. The environment, and how a party might choose to act on the environment, really makes an impact.

“We encourage people to think about the issues that matter most to them,” said Young.

Candidates weigh in on the issue:

What’s the most important environmental issue that needs addressing?

We asked two candidates from the Victoria riding, as well as incumbent Saanich-Gulf Islands MP and federal cabinet minister Gary Lunn and candidate Edith Loring-Kuhanga.

Christopher Causton (Liberal) said the biggest challenge is taking personal and collective responsibility for our environment.

“We have to set the example, whether it’s using and promoting public transport, composting, recycling; and encourage our families, neighbours, and friends to be aware of the impact we all make.”

Public policy is vital, he said. “All levels of government can provide programs to educate and offer incentives to individuals, organizations and business. We have the responsibility as individuals to ensure they are implemented.”

Climate change is most important, due to its scope and impact, said Jared Giesbrecht (Green).

“It is time to build a sustainable 21st-century economy with a market-wide price on carbon pollution. More locally, encroachments on farmland in Central Saanich and resort development along the Juan de Fuca Marine trail have also made limiting urban sprawl an important issue.”

Gary Lunn (Conservative) said: “Locally, I am proud of my record in promoting and preserving the Gulf Islands National Park.

“Nationally, I believe we need to focus on continuing to support clean energy innovation, and encouraging Canadians to be more energy efficient.

“We also need to avoid economically damaging policies like a carbon tax.”

“Climate change is already affecting us in Saanich-Gulf Islands,” said Edith Loring-Kuhanga (NDP). “It all ties in to our use of energy, and to issues such as offshore drilling and the possibility of supertankers polluting our shores.”