The Green Party of Alberta will be voting for a new leader in Red Deer on November 4th.
To give members and the general public a better idea of what the leadership candidates stand for, the Leadership Campaign Committee is posing a different question to them each week in the lead-up to the vote.
This week’s question, the first in the series, is this: What are your priorities for improving environmental regulation in Alberta?
The candidates were given a 150-word limit. Their responses are listed in the order in which they were received by the Committee.
Romy Tittel: My first priority will be to strengthen the section on non-recoverable costs [under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act] that have resulted from such sites as orphan wells. This section was last updated in 1992 and too much has been allowed to go unresolved since. The recent court case that has allowed ATB to get first dibs on any recoverable funds to pay off its debt before environmental reparations are made is also something that has to be dealt with in conjunction with this section.
My second priority will be to enhance monitoring, including additional budget considerations for appropriate staffing in the field. The groups I have been involved with who are protecting our headwaters from logging as well as ensuring our species at risk are being taken care of have noted this abysmal lack of adequate staffing as a key component in their efforts to protect our environment.
James Friesen: The target I would like to see is Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions reduced by at least 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. I believe this goal to be both reasonable and necessary.
I would also commit to a “fee-and-dividend” system, which is similar to a cap-and-trade system and would set an initial price on carbon of $50 per tonne across all sectors, including the Alberta tarsands. I believe that revenue generated from this remodeled carbon tax could be in part returned to the people, used in part to restore the rainy day fund, and to reduce the need for a sales tax.
I commit to investing in a “Green Climate Fund” that would assist Alberta companies in addressing climate change, and provide “Green Technology Commercialization Grants.”
Brian Deheer: My highest priority would be to revise the structure of the Alberta Energy Regulator, an inherently dysfunctional regulatory agency that is funded and, some would say, controlled by the industry it is tasked with regulating. The AER should be re-designed so it is free to do its job without influence from Oil & Gas industries. Addressing this single issue would have the greatest impact on EP in Alberta. We should work with industry leaders to bring the laggards along.
Alberta has some good EP legislation and policies, though there’s room for improvement, for example in the Land Stewardship Act, the Water Act, the Water for Life Strategy, and the Wetlands Policy. In many cases, these are not being enforced or implemented. Indigenous consultation also needs improvement. We must avoid irreversibilities, e.g. contamination of aquifers from fracking; and we must consider the full, long-term costs of environmental damage in resource decisions.
Marco Reid: If I had only one thing I wanted to focus on regarding environmental regulation in Alberta, it would be to increase the validity and reliability of the sources for policy makers’ scientific data.
Traditionally, the sources for information about environmental regulation are sought from an academic body like a university. The problem is that some of the funds and resources donated to these agencies can come from private organizations or groups pushing their own agendas.
I want the data that guides policy makers to not be funded by any corporate traces. My solution would most likely be the creation of a government agency paid for by the taxpayer, answering to the taxpayer, that is facilitated by all parties elected in the legislature.
It will be with clear scientific sources, and more respect on how to read research and data, that will allow our legislature to appropriately respond to environmental issues.
* Ensure full cost coverage, by the companies/shareholders involved, of cleanup and restoration of areas affected by resource extraction.
* Hire sufficient provincial staff to maintain effective monitoring of environmentally protected lands and waterways, and to prosecute violators.
* Restrict human access to areas to be protected for endangered species.
* Blanket ban on clear-cut logging.
* Set ambitious deadlines for ending fossil-fuel burning electricity production, and fossil-fuel engine emissions in the province.
* Significantly tighten restrictions on use of waterways for waste/runoff disposal, and increase enforcement resources.
* Complete ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
* Increased public, especially from indigenous communities, inclusion in resource development project approval processes.
* Increase violation fines to the point where it’s not economically viable for a business to treat fines as just a “cost of business”
For information on the GPA generally, go to www.greenpartyofalberta.ca