The discourse from our national leaders on the environment has changed so much since last election, I'm reminded of that Johnny Cash song, "The One on the Right is on the Left." Closer to home, long-time Halifax MP Alexa McDonough's reign is over and four political newbies are fighting for her old Halifax seat, so this will be a battle to watch. All four claim their party has the answers on the environment. Here's how our local hopefuls describe their positions on this key decision factor.
Catherine Meade, Liberal
The Liberal greenshift plan has been labelled "confusing," but Catherine Meade sums it up simply: "Tax less on what you earn and more on what you burn." Or, more on consumption and less on income, "one cancelling out the other." Taxes and refunds would be given to consumers and industry alike based on how much greenhouse gas emissions they create.
Meade says that, while much has been made of the carbon tax, "the environment is a complex issue and requires a multi-pronged approach. has a number of aspects: green mortgages, providing money for Canadians to retrofit their homes and $8 billion for national transit."
The Liberal plan has been compared to the Green Party's, but Meade says her party has the most "concrete plan---it is costed out." She doesn't think the Conservatives "even take climate change seriously" because their plan offers "nothing to encourage us to consume less."
Locally, Meade's top priority would be sustainably increasing harbour traffic. "Quite often, we see environment and economy pitted against each other," she says, "but they can grow in concert."
Darryl Whetter, Green
"Our environmental policies are unique in that impartial third parties have accredited them as being the best," says Darryl Whetter, citing a Sierra Club report. Like the Liberal plan, the Greens' carbon tax policy focuses on industry and consumers, and includes cost estimates. "With our carbon tax, we want to shift taxation away from income and jobs (which stimulate economies) to carbon and pollution (which cost economies)," Whetter says.
He calls this "a new way of collecting tax, not a raise of income taxes." Under this "polluter pays" system, the Greens would allocate investments in greener transportation, wind and solar energy---creating "jobs where the energy is created," in Canada.
In addition to the tax shift, the Greens commit to "raise the GST by one percent to help...the fact that one-third of Canadian cities now have problems with drinking water," says Whetter.
Atop Parliament Hill, Whetter would trumpet the need for Nova Scotia to take advantage of "one of the best wind resources on the planet," and invest in ports and rails to reduce wasteful trucking practices.
Ted Larsen, Conservative
Ted Larson says the Conservatives' plan "to get us off oil" and other greenhouse gas-emitting fuels and replace them with "cleaner renewable technologies" is "priority one." The Conservatives hope to cut air pollution in half by 2015 and greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020.
Unlike the Greens and Liberals, the Conservatives would focus solely on industrial polluters. "Seventy percent of pollution is from industry, not from individual households," Larsen says. Industries that pollute beyond a certain level would be required to buy carbon credits. The revenue would be used to retrofit homes, invest in greener technologies like hybrid vehicles and promote public transit, wind and tidal power. "We believe you can pay more attention to energy efficiency, but you don't have to tax people to do it," Larsen says. His party also plans to replace older, heavily polluting cars with newer, more fuel-efficient ones.
As Halifax's representative in parliament, Larsen would focus on increased federal funding for transit and $90 million to bring our sewage treatment up to new federal standards.
Megan Leslie, NDP
"The environment won't exist as we know it unless we deal with climate change," Megan Leslie feels. Her party would implement a cap and trade system targeting large carbon polluters because, according to Leslie, "700 companies produce 50 percent of emissions."
Though the NDP and Conservative environment platforms both focus on industry, Leslie says the Conservatives will not cap industry emissions. "What have is intensity regulations," she explains. "But we can decrease the emissions per barrel of oil or per kilowatt hour, and still use more and more oil," thus increasing overall emissions.
The NDP would create an "absolute cap" on emissions, beyond which "the company purchases a permit and the money is invested aggressively in energy efficiency for everyday folks." That means subsidizing fuel-efficient vehicles, investing in sustainable transit infrastructure and training workers for a new green economy.
Leslie is also concerned that "every day people are leaving Nova Scotia to work in Alberta. In Halifax, we have access to wind, waves, tide, fantastic universities and smart, innovative people. Halifax could be the leader in the country in green innovation with federal leadership."
Which environmental plan are you voting for? Let Chris know at email@example.com