Conservative Platform unveiled

Conservative Environmental Platform: Skimpy

Harper's Conservatives announced yesterday in Toronto their highly anticipated (waiting until the last week of an election will have that effect) party platform.

But for our purposes, now is the chance to review the environmental component of their platform, as done for the Liberals, NDP, and Greens.

I'm admittedly sympathetic to (small-c) conservative policy, but what the Conservatives have released as their environmental plan cannot possibly avoid being labeled "skimpy". Under the heading "Ensuring Health and Environmental Well-Being", there are only four sub-points dealing with environmental issues, so it won't take too long to break it down here:

A Cap and Trade System for Pollution and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
I actually like what is written here in that they say they want to include air pollution and not just carbon emissions. But they advocate North American wide system which is completely uncertain to develop.

Tougher Enforcement of Environmental Laws
A new Environmental Enforcement Act will bring in new lawyers and enforcement measures. Hard to say how well this would actually be implemented based on a few sentence description but if they are serious about applying more resources to enforcement then this idea has real merit. What they do say sounds reasonable to me. Heck, if they are going to run on being "tough on crime" then this is where they should focus (rather than 14 year olds).

Conservation of Land & Water
The platform vows to continue increasing the size of conservation lands and water. This should be a pillar of any party's environmental platform and it frustrates me that the other parties aren't emphasizing this. Even Elizabeth May gave Harper credit on this one during the debate. But still they don't say exactly what will be affected so they're largely asking you to take their word for it.

Toxic Chemicals Regulations
They have been, and will continue to assess a list of identified potentially toxic chemicals to reclassify how they should be regulated (such as Bisphenol-A). This is weak to include in the platform since (a) it was already in the works when the Conservatives took power; (b) it is mostly a public health issue so it's lame to bring up during environmental discourse; and (c) it's just old news (geez, give us something new!).

Additional components of their economic plan are subsidies for diesel fuel consumption and renewable energy technologies, the former which is counterproductive and latter unnecessary if they are serious about capping emissions.

So that's about it. The list is pretty disappointing, but I would say any verdict would depend on how serious they are about capping air pollution (likely not very) and increasing conservation lands (we should demand details).

For a general analysis there is the always insightful Andrew Coyne or a Globe and Mail panel.

Watch Peter Mansbridge's interview with Stephen Harper on the National last night.

Photo: PM Stephen Harper's Flickr stream.

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