With all the elections coming this fall and winter, global warming is bound to spike up with the increased hot air! South of the border they're electing a president, here in Canada we're heading into a federal election, and in Vancouver where I live, we'll vote for a new civic government in November.
It would be great if the environment didn't have to be an election issue. If all political parties recognized it's an issue so critical that it should transcend partisan politics, then we could vote for our party of choice based on its fiscal and social policies. The goal should be to convince all political parties to make the environment the top priority rather than to vote for the party with the best environmental record and policies. But the environment is an election issue, and as our situation stands, it should be the top election issue, especially in our upcoming federal election.
After all, if we keep dragging our heels on environmental protection, our economic and social systems will, at best, face increasing stress from the costs of dealing with environmental health effects and diminishing resources, and, at worst, be moot points.
But it's tough for voters to cut through all the rhetoric. Will the Liberals' Green Shift start us on a path toward sustainability, or is it just a "tax on everything"? Will the Conservative plan lead to reduced greenhouse gases "while preserving our standard of living and way of life", or will it stall needed action on global warming? What about the NDP's Green Agenda for Canada? What role does the Green Party play?
I can't tell you which party to vote for; I'm not even sure which one I'll vote for! But I can say that it's vitally important for all Canadians to put the environment at the top of the agenda in this election. That means becoming informed about the issues and the various party positions on those issues and asking the candidates some direct questions.
I can tell you what I believe are some of the most important issues. Global warming is at the top of the list. Years of inaction by various governments mean that urgent measures are needed — but it's not a choice between environment and economy. On the contrary, other countries have shown that actions such as shifting from reliance on fossil fuels and other nonrenewable energy to renewable sources creates numerous jobs and economic opportunities, as well as reducing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. I also believe that putting a price on carbon emissions, through measures such as carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems, is essential and has been shown to be effective in other countries.
Conservation of wilderness and parklands is also crucial. This is one area where the government has made some positive steps over that past few years. For example, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the amount of land protected recently in the Northwest Territories alone was equal to the area of about 25 Prince Edward Islands. But more needs to be done to ensure that these kinds of efforts continue, no matter which party forms government.
Nowhere is the need for increased conservation more urgent than along Canada's extensive coastline and offshore waters. Though we have the longest coastline in the world, a paltry one per cent is currently protected within formally designated conservation zones. Increased protection for our rivers, lakes, and oceans should be a priority for the next government.
Of course, those are just a few of the crucial issues. We should also be asking the people who intend to lead us about bulk water exports, clean water, pesticides, health, and more.
If we want democracy to work, we can't just leave it all up to the politicians. Governments are there to serve us, and so it is up to us to let them know what is important to us and what we believe they must do to ensure that we continue to enjoy the quality of life that so many have worked to build in this country. So, get out and vote, but before you do, don't just listen to the candidates — talk to them as well!
I'm sure I'll have more to say as the campaign unfolds. Stay tuned.