Three federal candidates in the Cardigan Riding faced the public in an environmental forum Thursday night giving their party’s stance on everything from the elimination of fossil fuels to helping farmers and fishers transition to a green economy.
The first of 12 questions put to the candidates asked for their views on banning the use of glyphosate, a herbicide used in both agriculture and cosmetic landscaping to kill weeds. Many organizations question its safety.
NDP candidate Lynne Thiele first spoke of her involvement with banning cosmetic pesticides in Stratford several years ago.
“The NDP believes in science and research and the precautionary principle,” she said. “I have no doubt brains and leadership can replace glyphosate.”
Green Party candidate Glen Beaton said the evidence is clear that glyphosate is harmful to humans.
“It is an important product but not at the sake of lives being lost to cancer. There is no question we need to ban it and (companies) need to shift their direction and develop a nontoxic one,” he added. “We have to push industry to do a better job.”
Incumbent Lawrence MacAulay said all government regulations are based on sound science and he has complete faith in Health Canada and the work they do.
“We continue to monitor for new information including regulatory action from government and we take appropriate action if and when it needs to be taken,” Mr MacAulay said.
One sticking point Mr Beaton kept returning to was government science, or what he described as the lack thereof.
“We lost all our scientists under the Harper administration and they have not been reinstated,” Mr Beaton said.
He said across all federal government departments scientists need to be reinstated and given the freedom to do their research.
Mr MacAulay argued that the scientists are there and they aren’t being muzzled.
“Just before we took power the Harper government pretty much destroyed the Fisheries Act and protection for fish and fish habitat,” Mr MacAulay said. “We restored these protections and went as far as strengthening the Environmental Impact Assessment Act.”
When it came to questions on the inevitability of drastic changes in the way we live in the future due to climate change, all three candidates agreed there needs to be transitions in farming practises and energy use, but what they differ on is the timing.
Mr MacAulay referred to the millions of dollars in investments the Liberal government has made in agriculture in particular.
“Organic practises are growing every year and we export as much as we import,” he said.
Ms Thiele said stepping away from monoculture and moving back to mixed farming is a step in the right direction.
“Where you have just one crop you are at the mercy of all the corporations,” she said. “We don’t need deep water wells, we need manure on the fields.”
“The Green Party believes in sustainable community driven agriculture. This means farms are owned and operated by farmers, not corporations,” Mr Beaton said.
Mr Beaton said his party pledges to fund research and support farmers to help them shift from traditional farming methods to organic and retentive farming practices.
He also said the Greens are poised to begin the transition away from fossil fuels the day after the election.
Ms Thiele said the NDP plan involves immediate training of displaced fossil fuel workers to building the green energy equipment it will take to replace fossil fuels.
“You can’t just do it overnight,” she said.
“People think we are going to turn off the taps at the gas station, but that’s not going to happen.”
Mr Beaton said the Greens have solid plans set to begin the day after the election. The aim is to have zero emissions by 2050.
“It’s a tough job and we can’t wait another four years to start this one because our house is already on fire,” he said.
Mr MacAulay said the Liberal’s plan to plant two billion trees, protect 25 per cent of the land and water by 2025, and provide interest free loans to help retrofit homes are timely targets.
Cutting taxes for companies with zero emissions and investing pipeline profits into green energy solutions are also coming down the pipe, Mr MacAulay added.
Other topics covered in the forum included: Marine Protected Areas, Northern Pulps’ proposal to put an effluent pipe in the Northumberland Strait, floating oyster cages in estuaries and bays across PEI, plastic waste production and investor/state dispute provisions in international trade agreements.
PC candidate Wayne Phalen sent his regrets and Christian Heritage Party candidate Christine Squires wasn’t invited to participate.
Ms Squires said she thought about going anyway but added, “Being as I wasn’t invited I really didn’t know which way to go.”
The forum was organized by 24 groups from across the Island whose mandate is to protect the environment.