Liberal victory doesn’t thrill environmental groups 

Alliance as opposition is also a major concern

With the Liberal Party firmly back in power for a third term, environmental groups are concerned about the federal government’s ability to follow through on leftover campaign promises from the previous two elections.

Central to their concerns is the Liberal government’s commitment, made in 1993 and reiterated in 1997 and 2000, to pass "strong" endangered species legislation. Yet Bill C-33, the Species At Risk Act died on the order paper in 1997 and again in 2000 when the Liberal Party called the federal election.

Other primary concerns include Canada’s failure to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our failure to meet commitments outlined in the National Park strategy, growing opposition to genetically modified foods and organisms, and the lack of environmental representation in Parliament.

Environmental groups are also concerned with the Opposition Canadian Alliance Party’s near sweep of B.C., despite the fact that the Alliance all but ignored environmental issues in their election platform.

"Although anyone’s environmental platform would look good beside the Alliance, I have to say we are more than a little disappointed with the Liberals’ environmental track record over their two terms in office," says Joe Foy, director of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

Prior to the election, the WCWC circulated a survey to candidates in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding asking their opinions on key environmental issues. They also issued a summary of the Liberal’s environment record over the past seven years.

"Not only has the ruling party failed to enact needed legislation, the opposition Reform (now Alliance) Party has consistently called for even weaker environmental protection. From failure to protect endangered species and their habitat, to failure to act to curb climate change and reduce toxic waste, Canada is now earning a new reputation – as a country that blocks progress in solving environmental problems."

Among the issues covered in the WCWC report is the Environmental Protection Act, which environmentalists feel was "gutted" prior to becoming law in early 1999. The original Act targeted persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances that have a potential to harm people and the environment. After intense lobbying on behalf of industry, however, the Liberals ratified the Act, "taking out all its teeth." Three Liberal MPs who objected to the changes defied party solidarity and voted against it.

In regards to the failed species protection legislation, environmentalists were actually "relieved" when the Act died on the table – they considered it too weak and narrowly focused to achieve any sort of protection for endangered species.

"We’re one of the only industrialized nations on this plant not to have some kind of strong, and I emphasize the word ‘strong’, endangered species legislation," says Foy. "Although we tend to think of our American cousins as a little more right-wing than we Canadians, where the environment is concerned, we are actually light years behind."

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