Friday, October 16, 2015

Cast your ballot for the prairie

Eared grebes won't be voting on Monday
It would be foolish to claim that any of the federal political parties who have a chance of forming the government after we vote on Monday are strong on environmental issues; even more foolish to say that any of them will be great defenders of our prairie farms, ranches and ecosystems.

Just the same, your choice as a voter may contribute to the election of a government that will be making decisions regarding funding priorities, regulations, and programs relating to agriculture and other industries that will for the coming years affect the landscapes and creatures who do not have any way to influence policy--unless we keep them in mind when we vote.

As we consider the options, thinking strategically or not, it is worth pondering what each party might do if they form government. If the way I vote helps this or that party form government, will their decisions and policies protect and restore our grassland, farmland and wetlands? Or will their decisions and policies erode natural habitat and foster unsustainable agricultural practices?

local ranchers' cattle graze on the pastures at Stalwart National Wildlife Area, managed by the Canadian Wildlife Service 
Here are ten questions to think about as you go to the polls on Monday:

1. How can I help elect a government that will renew funding to conservation programming in Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, and Parks Canada rather than a government that saves on taxes by cutting staff and programs in these ministries?

2. How can I help elect a government that will actually enforce the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and provide the science and policy resources necessary to complete and implement the embarrassing backlog of recovery plans for species at risk, rather than a government that clears the way for development by circumventing the legislation and looking for ways to weaken it?

3. How can I help elect a government that will expand and improve Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program to fund more local non-government organizations who are trying to conserve endangered species and their habitats, rather than a government that withdraws funding from any organization that questions its direction?

4. How can I help elect a government that will restore funding to our National Parks and Historic Sites, and add more science and conservation staff to follow the Parks Canada mandate to protect the ecological and historic treasures of our nation, rather than a government that is bent on turning our parks into roadside attractions where all that matters it visitation figures and cost-recovery?

5. How can I help elect a government that will enforce strong regulations to ensure that oil and gas development and pipelines will not destroy sensitive habitats such as native prairie, rather than a government that colludes with the resource industry to remove and weaken public oversight?
Assessing range condition on native grassland

6. How can I help elect a government that will create programming that supports environmentally sustainable and carbon-sequestering practices on farms and ranches, providing incentives to producers who choose to follow these practices, rather than a government that cuts existing programs aimed at fostering healthy landscapes for growing food and habitat?

7. How can I help elect a government that will restore protection for our creeks and rivers, rather than a government that sees regulations on waterways as an impediment to development?

8. How can I help elect a government that will improve sustainable public access to natural landscapes by establishing new parks and conservation areas, rather than a government that divests itself of responsibility for millions of acres of grassland and makes new parks only in marine areas where there is no chance of any conflict with commercial interests?

9. How can I help elect a government that will restore Canada's international reputation as a leader in conservation science and environmental sustainability, rather than a government that muzzles scientists, closes libraries and archives, and refuses to sign international agreements on the import of endangered species, on desertification, and on climate change?

10. How can I help elect a government that will include the environmental ethics and knowledge of aboriginal people in its environmental policy development, rather than a government that looks for ways to outflank or buy favour with cash-strapped First Nations who have resource-rich territory?
Sun setting on Spy Hill-Ellice PFRA Pasture straddling the Sask-Man. border


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