Photo: Stay engaged! A healthy environment depends on a healthy democracy

Stay engaged and keep holding our leaders to account (Credit: k-ideas via Flickr).

By Leanne Clare

I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland when I woke up this morning. I have a cold and had to go to bed before the election results were fully decided last night. I awoke to discover that Canada's political landscape has completely changed.

I'll leave the dissecting of what this means for the future of politics to the pundits. But what the election result means to me personally is that my role in keeping Canada the type of country I love to live in didn't end at the election booth. This new political reality means I have a role to play in making sure my views about the environment are heard. And despite some obvious signs that the environment isn't a priority for many in Parliament, there's some good news in last night's election results, too.

In his election-night speech, the new Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton made several references to the need for strong climate change and other environmental policies. With 102 seats in the new Parliament, the NDP have an opportunity to be a strong voice for the environment in Ottawa and have made it clear they intend to do so.

Canada also elected its first Green Party MP, who stands to be an advocate for change and reason when it comes to the environment and many other issues important to Canadians. She's shown her commitment to these issues for decades, and that determination was rewarded last night with a decisive win in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also acknowledged last night that a new majority Conservative government has an ever greater responsibility to represent the views of all Canadians — not just those who voted for his party.

That means it's time for the Government of Canada to do the responsible — and popular — thing and take leadership on the environment. A recent Environics poll found that 53 per cent of Canadians believe environmental concerns should take priority over economic growth. An even greater number of Canadians, six out of 10, think that protecting the environment actually strengthens the economy and leads to job growth.

These are the views of the majority of Canadians, so it seems fitting that those views be reflected in the policies of a majority government in Ottawa. If they aren't, I'm going to do my part to make sure my elected representative, the new Environment Minister and other members of Parliament hear my views on environmental issues.

In the coming days, weeks and months you'll find suggestions on the David Suzuki Foundation website for specific ways to take action on the issues you care about. Remember that you are a part of the majority of Canadians who feel exactly the same way, so stay engaged and keep holding our leaders to account. Being a part of a healthy democracy is the only way we'll achieve a healthy environment.

May 3, 2011

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May 03, 2011
5:40 PM

On April 25, Harper was “asking voters whether they want to align themselves with the party in power – or outsiders”.

May 03, 2011
1:45 PM

The results of this election in a proportional vote would be: CON 122, NDP 95, LIB 59, BQ 19, GREEN 13 These are the democratic results! 1 person, 1 vote. I think when more than two parties are running in a democracy, it isn’t fair to the people who voted to only consider the candidate with the most votes. Most of the time, more people voted against that candidate than voted for that candidate. The majority of voices in an election deserve to be heard.

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