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100 Debates for the Environment in Newfoundland & Labrador

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100 Debates on the Environment is a national initiative to hold non-partisan, all-candidate debates on the environment in 100 ridings across Canada on October 3rd. The initiative included debates in over 120 ridings, with 3 in Newfoundland and Labrador. The 100 Debates project aims to create a wave of national discussion on some of the most challenging environmental questions facing ridings across the country.

Some questions for this debate were prepared by GreenPAC (marked by *), a non-partisan, non-profit organization working to elect and support environmental leaders of all major parties running for office. Others were crafted locally with Social Justice Co-operative NL, Too Big To Ignore, Fishing For Success, and several partners at Memorial University, including the Department of Political Science and Department of Sociology (marked by **). Support for this event has been provided by Memorial University’s Department of Philosophy and Nexus Center of Humanities and Social Sciences Research as well.

Candidates at the St. John’s East, Avalon, and Long Range Mountains debate were asked the following questions, and videos of the exchanges are available for perusal:

100 Debates for the Environment (St. John’s East)
100 Debates for the Environment (Long Range Mountains)

(Video from the the Avalon debate is available on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/yyrbcpk5)

But we want to hear from those who do not have a chance to engage in this exciting event. What follows are the questions put to candidates in every riding, and the responses that have been received.

This post will be updated as we receive more responses from candidates.

* indicates question set by ‘100 Debates for the Environment’

** indicates question set by local partners


Question 1*

Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Climate Action

Around the world, we are seeing inspiring examples of leadership to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and accelerate the shift to a green economy. At the same time, we are seeing a ramp-up of the effects of climate change. We see extreme weather events across the country, including wildfires, flooding, and droughts. These are causing anxiety and worry, given their enormous financial and environmental impact.

Per person, Canadians produce the most GHG pollution of all G20 industrialized nations, including the United States – nearly three times the G20 average and eight tonnes per person. What will you do as an MP to ensure Canada does its share to ensure we have a safe climate? What are the key elements of an action plan that you will advocate for to ensure Canada meets its international obligations to reduce GHG pollution?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

The time is now for Canada to declare that we are beginning the transition off of fossil fuels, and that we are going to build the infrastructure of the 21st century. This means major investments in the wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, and other forms of renewable energy that we have an abundance of all around us. It means improving public transit systems and instead of giving subsidies to oil companies, subsidizing electric vehicles, home retrofits, and other environmentally friendly endeavours.

It only makes sense to use the endless supply of clean energy we have at our disposal, rather than continue using the fossil fuels which require mining, drilling, fracking, and other methods of extraction that damage the surface of the earth, pollute our land, water and air, and are on track to cause worldwide devastation the likes of which would only be outdone by nuclear Armageddon.

Our kids will thank us when their world is energized by harnessing the power of nature, instead of savaging the earth to maintain the profits of a select few. All we need to make it happen are politicians who don’t protect the interests of the fossil fuel industry. The Green Party is the only party with a credible plan to address the climate crisis.

Question 2**

Oil & Gas

In the past year, three spills have let 264,000 litres of oil into our oceans. CEO Scott Tessier of the C-NLOPB, our offshore regulator, has deemed 2018 “a disappointment.” In addition to spill impacts, the seismic blasts used in offshore oil exploration have raised environmental concerns over their effect on fish and plankton.

What will you do to ensure that ongoing production, in existing oilfields, is pursued in a safe and environmentally responsible manner? Just as importantly, how will you approach potential new exploration and development proposals, given concerns over the sustainability of further fossil fuel extraction in our carbon-constrained world?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

My position is that we should not be doing any new exploration or beginning any new fossil fuel projects, as these are only setting us further behind and making it harder to meet our commitments of the Paris Agreement.

A just transition to a clean energy economy will require the use of fossil fuels for at least another decade, in which time we should continue to follow the stringent work practices that make Canada a world leader of safety in the oil and gas industry. Improvements should be made where needed, because as recent spills prove, the practices of these companies are not perfect.

Environmental impact need to be at the centre of any decision made in energy development, including impacts on our marine habitats. Every effort must be made to ensure we are protecting our environment, and that we move towards a future of sustainability.

Question 3**

Oil & Gas / Fisheries

There has been criticism of the province’s regulator for opening bids for oil and gas exploration in marine refuges, like the Northeast Newfoundland Slope, and on fishing grounds that harvesters and communities depend on for a living. This seems opposed to the spirit of Bill C-68, which aims to ensure greater protections for fish and marine habitat, as well as for fisheries and coastal communities.

As Member of Parliament, how will you ensure the sustainability of our fisheries and fishing-dependent communities in a province that seems to have doubled down on oil extraction?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

I would support a ban on oil exploration in sensitive marine areas and fishing grounds. If these two industries are going to be at odds I would suggest that government should be working to protect the fishing industry, which has been a main economic driver for our people for hundreds of years, rather than the oil industry which is destroying the planet.

Question 4**

Fisheries

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their report on oceans in a changing climate, concluding “the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up 90 percent of the excess heat.” Marine heatwaves happen twice as often as they did in 1982 and have doubled in intensity. Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has doubled.

These changes “are already affecting the distribution of fish and decreases in their abundance and fisheries catch potential due to climate change are projected to affect income, livelihoods, and food security of marine resource-dependent communities.” As well, “long-term loss and degradation of marine ecosystems compromise the ocean’s role in cultural, recreational, and intrinsic values important for human identity and well-being.”

Given the risks that climate change poses to our ocean ecosystem, what actions will you take to protect our fisheries and those who depend on them?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

As previously mentioned I believe if the government is going to be supporting one industry over another it should be the interests of the fishery we try to protect and not the oil industry. Climate change is already happening and having serious impacts on our environment and oceans. I would support anything that improves the state of marine habitats. I would work with all stakeholders and learn from experts about the best things to do to protect our fishery and oceans.

Question 5**

Urban Transit

In Newfoundland & Labrador, transportation accounts for 35 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and between 2009 and 2016, per-household emissions increased by 40 percent. Statistics Canada’s most recent figures show that, overall, 12 percent of Canadians take public transit to work, but only 3 percent of Newfoundlanders & Labradorians do. Regionally, we still lag behind: in Halifax, 12 percent commute using public transit, while in St. John’s only 3 percent do.

What actions would you take as MP to shift modes of transportation away from private vehicles?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

I would advocate for major investments in our public transit systems and for a shift in culture and policy towards transportation that doesn’t harm our environment. This has many challenges in a place like Newfoundland, especially in rural areas, but I think with members of parliament who are more focused on protecting our planet, we can find solutions to improve public transit and reduce our carbon emissions while we do it.

Question 6*

Water

Many Canadians know that our country has the longest coastline in the world. Less well-known is that Canada is home to roughly half the world’s lakes, an equivalent volume of the world’s fresh water, and roughly one quarter of the world’s wetlands.

Canadians are witnessing the impact that industrial development and climate change is having on our water. We are seeing a growing number of pollution hotspots, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada has noted that climate change, as well as the historic loss of wetlands across Canada to industrial development, has led to a 250 percent increase in flooding over the past two decades, as well as a reduction in water quality and wildlife habitat.

What can the federal government do to work with different actors, like municipalities, to reduce both water pollution and the risk of flood events, which have been aggravated by industrial development and climate change?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

The federal government should work with all concerned actors to protect our oceans, lakes, rivers, and wetlands through expanded environmental protection laws. Industrial development should be approved only if it is clear that it isn’t putting the environment at risk. If there are ways to lower the risk of flooding in areas that are prone to it, through infrastructure or orherwise, every possible effort should be made to ensure people in flood zones are able to live in their homes with peace of mind.

Question 7*

Wilderness Conservation

Asked about what they most love about our country, Canadians point first to natural beauty, wildlife and spectacular wilderness areas. Yet we are falling below our international commitments to protect these spaces, and our parks and other protected areas are not funded at the level needed to conserve the diverse plants and animals that live there. A recent study shows that 50% of Canadian wildlife species are in decline.

Ninety-four percent of Canadians value the emotional and physical benefits of spending time in nature. However, 82 percent say that they’re concerned that future generations won’t have close or easy access to nature. What will you do protect the quality and quantity of wilderness in Canada?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

It all comes back to stopping the industrial growth that has caused all these problems in the first place. We must become a society who values and respects nature and the planet we live on, and all the life it contains. We need more focus on protecting ecologically sensitive areas and less on industrial growth for profit at any costs.

Question 8*

Pollution & Toxic Substances

Over the last several decades, Canada has made big strides to improve the health of Canadians and our environment by regulating toxic substances. Legal limits on lead in gasoline, restricting chemicals like DDT and ozone-depleting substances, the Canada-US acid rain agreement, and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity have had an enormous positive impact on the health of Canadians and our environment, saving lives, preventing illnesses, and saving billions of dollars in avoided health care costs.

However, air pollution is still the leading environmental cause of death and illness in Canada, and Canada remains the only western industrialized nation without legally binding, national air pollution standards.

In addition, our laws and regulations have not kept pace with emerging threats from newer toxic substances in our environment, including from everyday consumer products. Many of these products have demonstrated links to cancer, genetic damage, developmental problems, chronic illness and many other health effects. These effects are often more severe for children and other vulnerable populations.

Our overarching toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, has not been significantly strengthened in 20 years. What will you do to ensure that Canadians are better protected from the health and environmental impacts of toxic substances?

Candidates’ Answers:

Kelsey Reichel (Green Party — Bonavista–Burin–Trinity)

Fight to get Canada off of fossil fuels, and onto renewable energy. This would create cleaner air and greatly reduce the harmful stuff in our environment today, leading to a healthier society. With the right political leadership, we can become a country that puts the health of our people and environment, over the profits of multi-nationals corporations.


Photo by Reuben Strayer.

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