The agreement signed by the B.C. NDP and B.C. Green Party could signal a monumental shift in the way the provincial government will address environmental issues. The David Suzuki Foundation has been advocating for policies and solutions that are key to the agreement. These include:
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• Increasing and expanding the province's carbon tax
The agreement calls for increasing the carbon tax by $5 per tonne in 2018 and expanding it to include fugitive emissions from natural/fracked gas production and slash-pile burning in forestry. This closes a loophole in the current carbon tax that allows industries to freely pollute the atmosphere and is something the Foundation explicitly called for during the election campaign. Combined with a new rebate structure that will put cheques into the hands of British Columbians to offset their contributions to the tax, these changes will make B.C.'s foundational climate policy fairer for both businesses and consumers.
• Working with the Metro Vancouver Mayor's Council to improve and expand public transit
The B.C. NDP and B.C. Greens have pledged to first work with the Mayor's Council and the federal government to ensure that funding is available for completion of Metro Vancouver's transit and transportation plan. The provincial government will also work with the region's mayors to ensure more equitable funding of transit over the long term.
• Work to build a strong, 21st-century economy for the province
Although the agreement does not include any details explicitly supporting B.C.'s clean tech sector, it does call for the creation of an Emerging Economy Task Force and an Innovation Commission to work for business development and the technology sector. Combined with a new approach to traditional resource-based industries like forestry that puts a stronger emphasis on sustainability, these actions could help build B.C.'s clean technology sector and help the province take advantage of the rapidly growing global market for related products.
• Preventing investment in long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure projects
Not mincing words, the agreement says the B.C. NDP and Greens will "Immediately employ every tool available to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province." This pledge, if delivered upon, would go a long way to protecting coastal communities and sensitive marine ecosystems. It would also mark a meaningful provincial stand in the global fight against climate change. The federal government has approved the project but lengthy legal battles could be looming.
• Stop construction of Site C dam
The agreement calls for referral of the Peace region Site C dam project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review, a step missing during the project's original approval. While work on the project will continue during the review period, the six-week and three-month timeframes for reporting indicate a willingness to halt the project depending on review findings. The Site C dam would not only flood valuable agricultural land and violate Treaty 8 First Nations' rights and title, but also limit new power sources such as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal from taking hold in B.C.
It remains to be seen whether the full suite of these recommendations will become reality, but they represent an important shift in the conversation around environmental issues in B.C. The Foundation hopes to engage with B.C.'s next government around these and other crucial issues to help get the province on the right track to ensuring a sustainable, prosperous future.