Return to Federal Leaders Reply to Conservation Questions – Excerpts

Conservation Plans, Reply – Elizabeth May, Green Party – full text.

(*please note …this letter was converted from a .pdf document, excluding Party logo/graphics.)

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# Green Party Response to Vancouver Island & Coast Conservation Society

July 3, 2015 beach-people-1113tm-pic-363 - cropped

Dear Mr. Gourlay,

Thank you for your emails. The Green Party of Canada has been at the forefront of the movement to strengthen conservation and promote sustainable development, and we strongly support VICCS’ proposals.

Conservation is a guiding principle of the Green Party. I was Senior Policy Advisor to Minister of Environment Tom McMillan when Canada accepted the elements of sustainability in 1986. The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987 issued “Our Common Future” a report setting out the challenges of environment, development and militarism. After some halting progress over the decades, since 2006 Canada has been moving away from those principles. Your five-point plan would help to restore the Canadian commitment to an ethic of conservation and sustainability to protect our lands, waters, and natural resources.

The Green Party is committed to reversing years of neglect and to taking long overdue action to strengthen environmental protection and responsible environmental stewardship. The Green Party vision is one of a sustainable future grounded in fiscal responsibility, ecological health, and social justice. As the only party with a triple-bottom-line approach to every policy (economic, ecological, and social), the Green
Party’s position on key environmental issues and our commitment to excel in environmental stewardship is clear.

In answer to your questions:

1. “With the exemplary work of Canada’s Commission of Conservation in mind we would ask if your Party, given the mandate to govern the country in the October 19th elections, would promise to reinstate such a Commission by 2017?”

Canada’s Commission of Conservation was established as an urgent necessity in a time of rapid and unregulated industrial expansion. The Commission’s founders recognized that for Canada to reap the economic opportunities of a new century, we must also weigh the challenges and costs of development on our natural environment. The Green Party of Canada wholeheartedly agrees. The Green vision for…

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Canada is a sustainable economy that not only respects our environmental limits, but leverages opportunities. We have the opportunity to capitalize on the shift to a post-fossil fuel economy. With an abundance of natural resources, Canada is well-positioned to take advantage of this transition. However, we must first ensure our natural heritage is protected, wilderness in robust networks of ecologically representative areas set aside, and our federal government must support research and development in green technology with committed funding.

A new Commission empowered with a mandate to examine the state of Canadian Conservation is a welcome notion. In fact, the Green Party advocates for a comprehensive new approach towards how we tackle complex, inter-jurisdictional policy issues like conservation. Establishing a Council of Canadian Governments to promote a more collegial and collaborative federalism acknowledges the 21st-century reality that most issues of concern to Canadians inevitably involve more than one level of government. A Council of Canadian Governments, chaired by the Prime Minister, would include provincial Premiers, territorial leaders, representatives of the municipal order of government, and representatives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit leadership. Policy coherence across all levels of governmental jurisdiction would ensure that all tax dollars – municipal, provincial, or federal – work together for shared goals, whether to address prosperity and innovation, health, poverty or, in this case, climate change and conservation. The Council would provide the opportunity for our political leaders to dispense with the partisan rhetoric and cooperate seriously with their counterparts for the benefit of all Canadians.

The policies of a Council of Canadian Governments, or Commission of Conservation, would only be limited by the strength of available scientific evidence. If Canada is to meet the growing challenges of environmental stewardship, it is critical to restore and expand our scientific capacity and support our scientists. Science and scientific research should not be influenced by partisan considerations, nor should it be subject to across-the-board austerity measures. That’s why Green MPs would prioritize the rebuilding of scientific capacity in the Government of Canada with particular attention to those
departments that have incurred the most devastating losses – Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada and Health Canada. Greens also believe that Canada should have a Parliamentary Science Officer, to be modeled after the existing Parliamentary Budget Officer that would provide independent advice to Parliamentarians on the science of important public policy issues.

Currently, the federal government lacks the will and capacity to implement the ambitious and progressive conservation policies that Canadians deserve. This can, and must, change in the next Parliament, and Green MPs will be strong advocates for much needed reform.
2. “Our second request of you and your Party is then, if given the mandate to govern the country in the October 19th elections, would you promise to proclaim December 11th ‘A Day For Our Common Future’ and work for the goals of sustainable development as outlined by the Brundtland Commission?”

The release of the Brundtland Commission’s report, Our Common Future, in 1987 is an historic occasion worth celebrating. It marks a unique moment when Canada was a key player in negotiating effective international environmental agreements that actually worked. We hosted the world in Montreal and forged a protocol that has resulted in massive reductions of CFC usage and saved our ozone layer. We worked with our American neighbours to combat acid rain. In 1988, Canada co-hosted the first major international conference on climate change where Norwegian Prime Minister Brundtland opened the conference alongside Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

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Canadians could serve to be reminded of the days when our global leadership on the environment mattered. The Green Party supports the creation of ‘A Day For Our Common Future’ to promote and celebrate the goals of sustainable development. The author of that report, Secretary General of the WCED, Jim MacNeill, is a dear friend and mentor and will be thrilled to know of your initiative.

3. “Our third request of you and your Party, should you be given the mandate to govern the country in the October 19th elections …would you promise to engage the various sectors, levels of government, and the public in a Canada-wide Conference on Conservation and Development in 2017?”

While we acknowledge the symbolic importance of holding a Conference on Conservation and Development in 2017, upon the occasion of our 150-year anniversary, the Green Party believes that we must act sooner to tackle the important issues facing Canadian environmental policy. Specifically, following the election, Green Party MPs would push for immediate action on carbon pricing and preparations for Canadian proposals to take to COP21 to take place in Paris this December. While December 11th is, as you note, scheduled to be the final day of the conference, I expect that the conference will run into over-time hours and not close before the 12th or even the 13th.

It is long past time for Canada to move to the forefront of the global clean energy revolution. We must immediately stop subsidizing fossil fuels. The single most effective step at the national level would be to establish a carbon pricing regime that puts Canada on a path to deep carbon reductions. The Green Party’s preferred approach would be to introduce a carbon price through a Carbon Fee and Dividend system. The carbon fee would only be levied on fossil fuels at source – when the coal, oil or gas comes out of the ground or crosses the border into Canada. The great benefit of the carbon fee is that both producers and consumers will have clear incentives to develop and support production processes that reduce reliance on fossil fuels. For example, local food, with low or no transportation costs subject to the carbon fee, would have a price advantage in local markets. The Green Party supports returning the carbon fee revenues to the citizens of Canada in a form of fiscal recycling. This means that every dollar generated by the carbon fee would be returned to Canadians through a dividend payment. For Canadians with lower incomes and those who conserved more, this equal payment would be a significantly higher percentage of their total income and greater than what they spent on goods whose prices increased because of the carbon fee: these Canadians would actually make money on the carbon dividend. The Green Party will make carbon pricing a priority item on the first agenda of the proposed Council of Canadian Governments. We are confident that bringing all levels of governments together in a constructive framework will allow us to reach a consensus on how to coordinate the various provincial and federal initiatives to build a coherent and effective national carbon pricing system.

The time is long overdue for Canada to come up with a credible climate change agenda and participate constructively in international negotiations for a new climate agreement. Canada must once again become a constructive leader in climate negotiations and the global efforts to combat climate change. As you mention, the Prime Minister has agreed to an inadequate G7 proposal to wean off fossil fuels by 2100 – in fact, he helped to water down that plan, adding 50 years to the global target. The Green Party believes Canada must do much better. We must meet our critical goal of capping the global temperature increase to 1.5 to 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change. The Green Party believes Canada should commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% below 2005 levels by 2025. Our long-term target should be to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, with further cuts to greenhouse gas emissions

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of at least 80% to 90%, compared to 1990, by 2050. The Green Party is very optimistic about the prospects for a serious climate change action plan once we elect a federal government committed to bringing governments and Canadians together to ensure serious progress. Pending the establishment of a Council of Canadian Governments, the federal government should convene a First Ministers Conference as soon as possible after election in October to prepare credible Canadian proposals to take to the international climate negotiations in December.

While the Green Party would be committed to holding a Canada-wide Conference on Conservation and Development in 2017 we believe that we must act now to address the issues that have long been neglected by the Harper Conservatives. The issues of conservation and climate change are too important to ignore any longer.

4. “We would then ask if your Party, given the mandate to govern the country in the October 19th elections, would promise to seek out new opportunities and measures that would see some 20% of our land base, coastal and freshwaters, designated as protected areas within the next four year election cycle …going beyond Canada’s immediate global responsibilities while fostering local and national initiatives that assure our country’s long-term prosperity?”

Ecological integrity is the highest order of conservation and protection, and is integral to our national parks system. Since 2006, the Government has added more than 160,000 square kilometres to the Canadian federal parks and marine conservation system. While new parks, especially in the far north, have added huge tracts of lands to our parks system, they have come at the expense of ecological integrity.

For the first time in our history, a park has been created which allows oil and gas activity within the boundaries of the park. The Sable Island National Park Act places the Canada-Nova Scotia Off-shore Petroleum Board as the senior regulator, with power to permit seismic testing within the park and directional drilling under it, without even consulting Parks Canada. This, in addition to privatization within parks – from the ice walkway in Jasper, to the proposed for-profit monstrosity “Mother Canada”, proposed for Cape Breton Highlands National Park – are examples of the violation of the principle of protecting ecological integrity.

The Green Party conservation plan is comprehensive and ambitious. We are committed to reversing the dangerous moves of the Harper administration to undermine the fundamental principles of ecological integrity in our national parks and devalue park protection. We will act swiftly to protect existing parks and expand our terrestrial and marine park systems. We must also extend, in partnership with provinces, territories, and Aboriginal peoples, Canada’s network of land, freshwater, and marine protected areas and establish compatible-use buffer zones around national parks for the maintenance of natural biological diversity and ecosystem health.

Green Party conservation goals include:

● Meeting our international biodiversity commitments, including protecting 17% of our land and inland waters and 10% of our coastal areas by 2020;
● Completing our National Parks and Marine Protected Areas Systems by 2030;

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● Supporting the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework to protect at least half of Canada’s boreal forest;
● Identifying ecologically significant areas and establishing a Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan for Canada;
● Working with the provinces to protect wildlife corridors through land use management plans;
● Strengthening Canada’s Species at Risk Act to include enforcement powers;
● Implementing effective policy tools to ensure sustainable use of our water resources, including metering, pricing, and regulation, which both reflect a fair value for water and foster efficient use.

These steps are just the beginning. The Green Party supports your call to raise awareness among the Canadian public and engage with all levels of government to promote conservation goals and extend them beyond our international commitments.

5. “…would you promise to commit additional and substantial financial resources and government assistance so as to engage Canadians in local conservation and sustainable community development initiatives?”

Government plays an important role in deciding what infrastructure is needed and where, including systems that promote environmental sustainability by building on world-class innovations in clean energy and technology. Over two-thirds of our carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels for transportation, manufacturing, construction, and electricity generation. Whereas municipalities have taken the lead on piecemeal approaches to infrastructure issues in the absence of federal leadership, the Green Party is committed to backing municipal programs with real investment. The Green Party undertakes a commitment to fund the following six areas immediately to a total of $3 billion ($500 million per fund per year):

● community brownfield remediation;
● water and wastewater treatment facilities;
● sports, recreational and cultural facilities;
● public transit;
● cycling and pedestrian promotion;
● community housing.

By investing in sustainable community development initiatives, we foster real change at the local level that reflects the passion for conservation that all Canadians share.

It’s time for Canada to return to a leadership role in sustainable development, both domestically and internationally. This must start with a commitment to economic, ecological, and social integrity. The Green Party is committed to strengthening our national parks system, expanding marine protected areas, and enforcing habitat protection.

While I hope I’ve answered all of your questions, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions. You may also find our full policy document, Vision Green, to be helpful in understanding our party’s policies.

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Thank you again for writing. I applaud your commitment to conservation and sustainable development. I am pleased to support VICCS’ initiatives to realize these important goals in our local communities and beyond. I would very much like to see you again. It has been far too long,


With best wishes,
Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

(*note …a copy of the original letter, a .pdf document, is available on request. Contact VICCS)