How eco-friendly are party platforms really? TheStar.com – Ontario Election – How eco-friendly are party platforms really?
All the major parties talk of being green, making it tough for voters to choose
September 29, 2007
It’s easy to say you’re being green.
All the major parties in the Ontario election campaign make the claim.
They all want to promote energy conservation and renewable electricity sources. They all swear they’ll stop smog and climate change. They’re in favour of parks and green space and cleaning up the Great Lakes. They agree it’s a great idea to promote local foods.
In fact, they’re tripping over each other to convince voters they’re on the right side of what has become a motherhood issue.
“There is certainly more focus on the environment in the platforms than in the last provincial election,” says Rick Smith, head of Environmental Defence. “That’s good news.”
The bad news is that all this makes for a tough ballot-box decision.
With a few exceptions – nuclear power and incineration are the clearest – figuring out the differences requires a thorough knowledge of the issues; an awareness far beyond what’s expected of the average voter. As the chart below suggests, any discussion of them inevitably requires digging into mind-numbing detail.
A coalition of 13 environmental groups tried to ease the confusion this week when it released a comparison of the Conservative, Green, Liberal and NDP platforms.
The analysis rated each party as “Yes,” “No,” or “partial” on six major issues. As expected, the Greens got the most “Yes” marks and no “No’s.” They’re far out on their own because, true to their origins, they view every policy – finance, health, education and the rest – as part of a sustainable whole.
The others still treat the environment as just one of many competing issues, often in conflict with others and, so, in need of compromise.
Among the Big Three, the NDP fared best in the coalition’s report, followed closely by the Liberals, with the Conservatives lagging badly.
But even that analysis isn’t a foolproof guide. It assessed the parties on whether they’d commit to do something, not on how they’d actually do it. It also didn’t take past performance into account.
On toxics, for example, the Liberals and NDP both got a “Yes” for saying they’d “pass a Pollution and Cancer Prevention Act.”
The Liberals do, in fact, promise to “create a tough new toxic reduction law that requires companies that emit toxic pollution to reduce their emissions over time.”
The NDP is much more specific: Along with pollution controls it would pass a “right to know” law that requires emitters to make public exactly what and what quantity of toxic chemicals they use and put into the environment or consumer products.
The Liberals refused to support such a law when it was introduced by NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) during the last session of the Legislature.
The Liberals promise to create a comprehensive land-use plan for the pristine far north, plan is competed, in consultation with the area’s virtually only inhabitants – what all now refer to as First Nations.
But they pledged the same thing in 2003; then steamed ahead and approved the Victor diamond mine.
The current promise puts them in the middle: The NDP would impose a moratorium on development until a plan is in place; the Conservatives focus on taking steps to ensure developers don’t run into conflicts.
The Greens go furthest on the green side; not only promising a plan but also a permanent ban logging in the far north.
Of the environmentalists’ favourites, the NDP tends to favour regulations to achieve goals, the Greens prefer measures such as tax shifts that let market forces do the job.
And so it goes, on issue after issue.
Making matters more difficult, the parties aren’t consistently green.
The NDP is considered to be mostly on the side of the environmental angels.
But because of its need to protect forest industry jobs in the north, it has been criticized for pledging electricity price cuts for the industry and, as it did early in the campaign, slamming the Liberals for announcing the province would buy paper products only from operations that meet the toughest environmental protection standard.
The most definitive message in all of this?
If you intend to base your vote on environment policies, start studying and questioning. Hurry hard.
You’ve got just 11 days.