Earlier today, Western Canada Wilderness Committee national campaign director Joy Foy expressed concern about a morning media briefing where the David Suzuki Foundation, ForestEthics and The Pembina Institute panned the New Democrats' platform while praising the Liberals' climate change policies. And he's not the only one speaking out about that briefing. In an exclusive interview with Public Eye, Sierra Club of BC executive director George Heyman said he was "disappointed" the three groups didn't notify other environmental groups about that briefing. And he questioned their opinion that the "positive ideas" included in the New Democrats' platform are "insufficient to compensate" for the party's promise to cancel the carbon tax.
"I'm not sure if they mean it's insufficient to compensate from a scientific point of view or from an emotional point of view. If it's from an emotional point of view, I understand that they - like many environmentalists and environmental organizations - believe that a carbon tax is an important part of fighting global warming. But nobody I'm aware of has ever claimed that is the only element of a climate change plan that is necessary or even the most effective part of a climate change plan," said Mr. Heyman.
"One of the things that a carbon tax accomplishes is to - through a market mechanism - encourage people to move toward less carbon emitting heating, better and more insulated homes and businesses and more fuel efficient transportation. But there are other things in the platform that will insent people to do that. I've said that the Sierra Club supports the carbon tax. But until there's been a detailed scientific review of this platform and what the Liberals propose - and I certainly haven't had time to do one, nor has my organization and I'm not sure the other organizations have either - I think it's a little difficult to say that it's not sufficient to compensate."
Mr. Heyman also said he was "surprised that those three organizations didn't consult with other organizations with whom they've worked over many years on this file and other environmental issues. I'm disappointed we didn't have a chance to talk to them about (the briefing). And I'm looking forward to an opportunity to ask them if they're now intending to simply work on their own or if they want to continue in a consultative and cooperative manner to work with the Sierra Club and the many other environmental organizations in B.C."
As for his opinion of the New Democrats' platform, Mr. Heyman said, "There's a lot of very positive things in it - both from the perspective of stopping climate change and from a broader environmental sense. Certainly, the hard-cap on greenhouse gas emissions by industrial polluters is probably - in my view at least - essential to reach the province's target of emissions reductions by 2020. The end to gas well flaring that they talk about is also critically important. And the investment in public transit - coupled with incentives for people to use it by rolling back transit fares that are a disincentive to many people - are all critical elements of a plan to fight climate change."
"Clearly, the Sierra Club in the past has supported the carbon tax and continues to be disappointed this is not part of the NDP platform. At the same time, we think there are many problems with the current version of the carbon tax. And, in order for it to be effective, it needs to be changed for it to be stronger and more equitable and use the proceeds that it generates to actually provide even greater assistance to working families to retrofit their homes, to retrofit their personal transportation, to be more willing and able to use public transportation. So there's a number of good things here."
"And, included from the non-climate change file, are the Species at Risk proposed act, the end to open ocean fish farming - which I think most British Columbians understand is a serious threat to wild salmon stocks - and a commitment to reintroduce environmental regulation and enforcement by presumably hiring staff who can do that job after seeing massive cuts in the ministry of the environment over the past eight years."