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BC Election `96: Survey of Environmental Issues

Provincial Election, Environmental Issues
West Coast Environmental Law Association

The Issues

1. Global warming. The NDP government has done more than other provinces. Still, the Party's claims exceed its track record in terms of practical steps while in power. The Liberals are new to the issue, but do acknowledge that the province must meet the stabilize-by-2000 commitment even though the commitment was made by the federal government.

2. Water Act. All the parties support regulating both the quantity and quality of groundwater. Action on this is long overdue. Action is also overdue on protection of instream flows (not giving licences for all the water without leaving some left for the fish). All the parties expressly support it, except for the Liberals, who talk a lot about rivers, but are vague about instream flows.

3. Biodiversity. All the parties are committed not to delete any current provincial parks (good to have on the record). The NDP has an excellent record of moving toward protecting 12% of the province as wilderness. The Liberals also express commitment to the 12% goal. Reform does not. The PDA notes correctly that the 12% figure should apply to unique ecosystems, not just to the province as a whole. The NDP promises to do more to protect endangered species and their habitat, while the Liberal Party is lukewarm on it.

4. Property tax. The Liberals support the proposed Trust for BC Lands and tax relief for land permanently preserved by private land owners. The tax incentive is also supported by the PDA, the Reform Party and the Green Party. The NDP is more cautious, saying it will "revisit" the issue. Good potential for some action soon.

5. Environmental Protection Act. The NDP did lots of public consultation on a new BC Environmental Protection Act, but never summoned the political will to actually pass it. Now, they say it will be "the major environmental protection act of the government." The Liberals promise "new and progressive legislation on environmental issues," but the emphasis of their campaign has been on fewer environmental standards and cutbacks to environmental protection.

6. Digital maps. The Liberal Party, Green Party and Reform Party seem more amenable to allowing non-profit groups affordable access to digital maps than does the NDP. Still, the NDP says it is studying the issue and welcomes input.

7. Forest Renewal BC. The NDP would keep Forest Renewal BC as it is; the Liberals would dismantle it.

8. Forest Practices Code. Another dividing line between the NDP and the Liberals. The NDP would maintain the Code and extend it to private land. The Liberal Party would rewrite and weaken the Code.

9. Contaminated sites. The NDP promises to continue pushing forward draft regulations to clean up contaminated sites, using interminable "public consultations" to soak up extreme opposition from some municipalities and other quarters. The Liberals are vague: they would do it "as soon as it can be done effectively."

10. Pulp mills. Ending on a good note for the environment, both the Liberals and the NDP are committed to the long-standing BC requirement that pulp mills eliminate organochlorine pollution in their effluent by 2002.

The Parties

Green Party: Not surprisingly, the Green Party's environmental policies are the strongest of any of the parties'.

Liberal Party: The Liberal Party does have some good environmental proposals, such as expanding marine protected areas. And the Party has committed not to reverse some key environmental decisions, such as existing parks, the 12% quota, and the pulp mill pollution regulations. But, despite the Liberal Party's claim that it values protection of the environment, many of the Party's key planks would be unavoidably bad for the environment. The Liberals' proposed budget cuts, for example, would hit hard at environmental protection. The Liberals' proposed "reevaluation" of the Environmental Assessment Act and the Forest Practices Code is clearly `code' for lower environmental standards. And, who in government would do all this rewriting of environmental laws if the environment ministry is cut back even farther than it has been cut already?

NDP: The NDP has both the luxury and the handicap of being the party in power. Voters can see what it has done, and they can see what it hasn't done. The NDP had a strong mandate from the electorate to pursue environmental protection vigorously. And, it has done so, becoming a world leader in creating parks and controlling pollution from pulp mills. The NDP passed an Environmental Assessment Act, the Forest Practices Code, and contaminated sites legislation. It promoted recycling, cut smog with the AirCare program, promoted energy efficiency, and much more. That being said, the NDP has also postponed or refused many measures that are urgently necessary. Serious environmental problems remain: global warming, degradation of fish habitat, urban smog, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and toxic contamination.

Progressive Democratic Alliance: The PDA's positions are very supportive of environmental protection. One notable exception: the PDA would not require pulp mills to abide by the 2002 deadline for eliminating organochlorine pollutants from their wastewater effluent.

Reform Party: The Reform Party has positive positions on some practical environmental issues. It supports Water Act reform, tax incentives for protection of private land, the adoption of an Environmental Protection Act, and no changes to existing parks, for example. However, environmental protection is not a high priority for the Reform Party. Reform has yet to acknowledge that global warming is a problem, and it doesn't have a position on key environmental issues such as Forest Renewal BC, contaminated sites, and pollution from pulp mills.

Social Credit Party: The Social Credit Party's decision not to respond to our questions appears to sum up its approach to protection of the environment!

Publication Date: 
May 1, 1996
Publication Pages: 
West Coast Environmental Law Association
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