The federal Conservatives' tough-on-crime approach extends to polluters who break the law, Stephen Harper said as he campaigned Wednesday in the key battleground of British Columbia.

Speaking in Vancouver, the Conservative leader said his party would increase the maximum penalties for the most serious environmental crimes to $6 million for corporations and $1 million for individuals.


Conservative Leader Stephen Harper outlines proposed new penalties for polluters during a stop in Vancouver on Wednesday. (CBC) ((CBC))

The money would go into an environmental damages fund that would support environmental emergencies and community projects in pollution-plagued areas, Harper told reporters.

The promises are part of a $113-million, five-year environmental platform, which includes an additional $25 million a year after the first five years.

"If you want a government that is tough on environmental crime, then you should re-elect a government that is tough on crime generally," Harper said.

He added that a Tory government, if re-elected Oct. 14, would train a special team of environmental prosecutors to pursue environmental offenders.

The new environment policy would also increase the inspection and seizure powers of officials, and give the environment minister the power to deny a licence or permit to any company with a poor environmental safety history.

Penalties 'quite simply a national disgrace'

Harper has faced sharp criticism from the opposition for repeatedly saying that Canada's commitment under the Kyoto accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2012 is unrealistic.

But on Wednesday, Harper attacked the opposition, saying that under the previous Liberal government, penalties on industrial polluters were commonly as low as $4,000 and none ever exceeded $50,000.

"This was, quite simply, a national disgrace," Harper said. 

Harper said the Conservative plan creates "sensible, realistic" measures that would hold polluters responsible for damaging the environment.

"For the first time in more than a decade, this country actually has an environmental policy," he said.

"Yes, the opposition makes sweeping pronouncements about its commitment to the environment. But when they had the power to act, when they were in government, Canada had virtually no environmental monitoring enforcement capacity."