Mike De Souza

Canwest News Service

Saturday, March 08, 2008
Edmonton Journal
A Canadian bill of green rights is one of the cornerstones of a new federal road map towards environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s officials and opposition MPs were told on Friday.
The message was delivered by leaders of the country’s 11 largest environmental groups who met with Harper’s office and other federal leaders to deliver a pocket-sized 28-page summary of their plans.
The proposal — Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a world of difference — recommended several new measures and policies for Canadians to address climate change, energy use, food production, toxic substances, water, forests and oceans, including a new tax of at least $30 per tonne on greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 that would rise to $75 per tonne by 2020.
“This is quite simply the most ambitious, the most comprehensive vision for environmental progress that has been produced in a generation, and we’re very pleased to be here this morning to launch this document,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence at a news conference with the other groups.
They described their road map as a “shortlist” of the most essential federal environmental priorities with accountability near the top of the list through an “ecorights” bill that could restore public trust in the government.
“By enacting this kind of statute, the federal government would be able to earn the trust of Canadians on an issue where, right now, they have either lost it, or they are very close to losing it entirely,” said Will Amos, a staff lawyer at Ecojustice, an environmental law organization that was formerly known as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.
“Canadians point to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a feature of their Canadian identity, and Canadians consistently point to a clean environment as another component of their identity.”
Fill legislative gaps
Although many Canadians might assume that their environmental rights are already protected, Amos said there are gaps in existing federal laws that would be filled by a new green bill of rights.
In their document, available at tomorrowtodaycanada.ca, the environmental groups also urged the government to adopt a “precautionary” principle for addressing environmental issues by acting to resolve problems
even when there is scientific uncertainty.
The road map also calls on the government to ensure that it eliminates potential environmental risks for future generations in the same way that it is trying to eliminate the federal debt.
Finally, it recommends that Canada should be a good global citizen by taking action at home, sharing best practices and ensuring that polluters pay the real cost of actions that damage ecosystems and communities.
© The Edmonton Journal 2008