ELECTION 2015: MP candidate touts Liberal environment plan

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have released a 12-page plan for the environment, and by extension, the economy.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have released a 12-page plan for the environment, and by extension, the economy.

The plan came partly in response outcry from Conservative and NDP candidates that the Liberal Party had failed to establish any concrete campaign points leading up to the October 19th election. According to Kootenay-Columbia Liberal candidate Don Johnston, Trudeau’s plan offers a clear, unique direction for Canadian environmental policy.

“The Conservative government has not taken what I would call a sensible approach to the environment,” Johnston said. “We need to create a method within government to build cleaner, better, smarter and more environmentally friendly ways of doing things.”

Since 2006, the federal government under Stephen Harper has contributed over $17 billion in funding for various environmental initiatives, programs and developments. But, according to Johnston, the Liberal plan is about more than just throwing money at a problem.

“Rather than the amount you spend, it is the effectiveness of what you have been doing, and how that connects to resolving issues around climate change,” Johnston said.

One key point within the Liberal environmental plan is improving the scientific backing of environmental assessments for a wide range of projects. Johnston said it is an issue of credibility and public trust, first and foremost.

“People are suspicious,” Johnston said. “I think they (the Conservative Party) are making ideological decisions as opposed to treating environmental policies with scientific risk assessments. I think if we don’t have environmental assessment and other tools that are built on science, we do not have the trust in terms of people believing that the environmental assessment was effective and thorough.”

Another major announcement within the Liberal plan is the Canada Green Investment Bond, which is a fund for small companies that are setting up and investing in clean energy projects and technology. Johnston said the fund would encourage Canadians to get involved in the growing environmental sector, which he believes Canadian companies can lead.

According to incumbent Conservative candidate David Wilks, the Canada Green Investment Bond is just another example of Trudeau and the Liberals recycling Conservative policies.

“That is typical of the Liberal Party, that they choose to say a lot of rhetoric to the electorate prior to an election, but the fact is… we continue to move forward with strong environmental policy,” Wilks said. “Whether it is green technology such as wind power or solar power, there are federal programs that have been put in place to allow companies to move forward.”

Wilks said while jobs in new sectors should be supported, it is important to remember where many people in the riding work. He added that the forestry industry is a mainstay of the Kootenay-Columbian economy and the companies that drive the industry actually take care of the environment effectively.

“We have found a great balance when it comes to working with the environment and natural resource extraction,” Wilks said. “(forestry companies) have the most to lose if they do not treat the environment properly, and they are the greatest stewards of the environment, because they rely on regrowth.”

Ultimately, Johnston said the two parties fundamentally disagree about the urgency of reforming economic policies to protect the environment.

“Mr. Harper keeps making comments about how nobody is going to take action around natural resource development if it means added cost to a project,” Johnston said. “He completely misses the fact that the costs of not doing something are in my opinion much more catastrophic than the cost of doing something.”

Johnston concluded by noting the strength of the future Canadian economy will be dictated by what is done to reduce Canada’s environmental footprint now.

“This whole notion that it is either the economy or the environment needs to be turned on its head,” Johnston said. “The two are absolutely inter-linked.”