Where in the world?

Environmental issues largely absent from federal campaign

Clayton Thomas-Muller speaks to a group of university students about Alberta’s tar sands and why this is an important election issue during a student debate Q&A.

Daniel Crump

Clayton Thomas-Muller, 350.org’s Indigenous Extreme Energy Campaigner.

Daniel Crump

In what’s now considered the longest political debate in Canadian history since the 1800s, you’d think there would be time for an emphasis on environmental issues from our federal candidates. However, that has not been the case for the most part with political parties other than the Green Party.

Issues such as the state of Canada’s economy, the legalization of marijuana, strengthening relationships with First Nations people and helping out the middle class have taken precedence. The aforementioned topics are vital and necessary to debate,  but environmental issues in Canada should also be up for discussion.

At the Vote for the Environment forum held at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) on Oct. 8, panel speakers Eric Reder, the Manitoba campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, and Anna Johnston, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law in British Columbia, shared key steps for maintaining a healthier environment.

Reder says the Canadian environment should be protected by the federal government instead of provincial or territorial governments.

He thinks the federal government would select projects more wisely because of the economic and environmental impacts they could have, as opposed to a provincial government that could possibly make environmental sacrifices for economic growth.

“Species, water and air cross territories and provincial boundaries and can affect one another all throughout Canada,” Reder says.

“There are only a handful of countries in the world that don’t recognize environmental rights and Canada is one of them,” Johnston says, adding “a constitutional amendment with involvement and agreements of provinces,” could mean a step toward a healthier environment.

Canada ranks 12th in the world for carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy. China, the European Union (EU), India, Russia and the United States of America outrank Canada’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook.  

While Stephen Harper and the Conservative government promised to cut down carbon emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 from the 2005 carbon emission levels, it’s been reported recently the goal will fall short, according to the federal government’s commissioner of the environment.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, an environmental activist with 350.org, suggests “the best way for students to engage and contribute to the global climate dilemma is by seeking out on campus the local… fossil fuel divestment campaign.”

Both the U of W and the University of Manitoba are targeting university endowments to get them to divest from fossil fuel development, which is a good way to get the ball rolling, Thomas-Muller said.

With files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Published in Volume 70, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 15, 2015)

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