Tony Walsh, NDP
Canada’s reputation as a leader in environmental laws has fallen to an all-time low under the Conservative government, says Chatham-Kent-Leamington NDP candidate Tony Walsh.
“Under the guise of economic development, the Harper government has spent a decade de-regulating and gutting our environmental laws without exception,” he said. “We don’t even know how bad the situation really is because we have had scientists muzzled, data destroyed, data not collected and so on.”
Walsh said a strong environment and economy are not mutually exclusive.
“When someone says they can’t operate under laws which protect the environment and the health and safety of all of us, what they’re really saying is that they won’t care.”
Walsh said an NDP government would restore policies that protect the future of all Canadians.
“We don’t have another planet,” he said. “We can use legislation to protect it as well as finding ways to provide incentives to those whose practices help the environment.”
Katie Omstead, Liberal
There is no reason Canada can’t have a strong economy as well as a vital environmental policy, according to Chatham-Kent-Leamington Liberal candidate Katie Omstead.
“I dislike the fact that the Harper government continually guts environmental regulations and spreads fear by telling Canadians that if we don’t do this we will suffer economically,” she said. “That is absolutely untrue.”
She said a massive decrease in the number of lakes and rivers designated for protection, the trend toward self-regulation in many fields and the decrease in employees for environmental oversight is a “black eye” for Canada.
“When we have issues such as the blue green algae situation in Lake Erie where our infrastructure can’t handle storms, leading to massive run off, that’s a symptom that the environment is a low priority in Ottawa. Liberals are proposing to spend in this area as an investment in our environment.”
She said whereas Canada was once a participant in global environmental treaties and conferences, “we don’t bother becoming involved any longer. It’s like the problems will just go away. They won’t.”
Dave Van Kesteren, PC
“When you’re not in power it’s very easy to say you need to do this or that,” he said. “When you’re in government and your actions have consequences you need to proceed more cautiously.”
Van Kesteren said the Conservatives have lowered the nation’s carbon footprint and are moving away from a fossil fuel based economy.
“We’re not turning on a dime because it would wreck economic havoc to do so,” he said. “The fact is that we are a huge nation, a northern nation and we need oil. That’s just the way it is. We are moving ahead with alternative sources of energy but at a pace that’s responsible and measured and protects our way of life while we change.”
He said the government stands ready to work on issues such as the Lake Erie algae bloom to make sure those contributing to it have alternatives.
“If we need greater protection for farmers or greater capacity in municipal systems so fertilizers don’t get into the lake the same way, we’re willing to help but we can’t do it alone.”
Mark Vercouteren, Green Party
For a government that prides itself on economic issues, the Conservatives have an extremely shortsighted view of the future according to Chatham-Kent-Leamington Green candidate Mark Vercouteren.
“Their long-term focus is to exploit resources as quickly as we can and move away from fossil fuels when we have no alternative,” he said. “That just sounds like bad planning and shameful treatment of the planet.”
He said changes in the economy to emphasize sustainable efforts are needed.
“Eco tourism is a growing industry but when you’ve polluted the waters and have massive algae blooms, it doesn’t work. We’re going to pay a price for what we’re doing now if we don’t change.”
Vercouteren said even Saudi Arabia is aware that oil will run out.
“If statements by the Saudis that we need to look at other energy sources isn’t a wakeup call, what is? We can’t keep denying the inevitable.