CBC Manitoba election forum: Environment

CBC Manitoba's final election debate of this week focused on environmental issues, from the state of the province's lakes and rivers to the political parties' positions on climate change.

4 candidates squared off, took questions in televised debate and online chat

Liberal Kyra Wilson, left, Dave Nickarz of the Green Party, the CBC’s Chris Glover, New Democrat James Allum and Shannon Martin of the Progressive Conservatives at a CBC Manitoba election debate Friday evening on environmental issues. (Marjorie Dowhos/CBC)

The state of Manitoba's environment is weighing heavily on people's minds, according to Vote Compass, as it's among the top three concerns listed by those who have taken CBC's interactive election engagement tool.

The state of Manitoba's lakes -- including Lake Winnipeg, which has been plagued by algae blooms -- will be one of the topics to be discussed Friday at a CBC election debate on the environment. (CBC)
To that end, our final election debate this week focused on environmental issues, from the health of the province's lakes and rivers to the political parties' positions on climate change.

Candidates from the province's four major political parties squared off in a televised debate at CBC Manitoba's studios on Friday evening. Then, in a live online chat moderated by the CBC's Chris Glover and Donna Lee, the candidates took your questions.

The candidates were:

  • James Allum — NDP candidate for Fort Garry-Riverview.
  • Shannon Martin — Progressive Conservative candidate for Morris.
  • Dave Nickarz — Green Party candidate for Wolseley.
  • Kyra Wilson — Liberal candidate for Fort Richmond.

All this week, CBC Manitoba hosted nightly debates on the issues facing voters. These debates were in addition to, and do not replace, the leaders' debate that will be broadcast live on CBC Television on April 12.

See what the candidates said in our previous debates:

Paris climate accord

Following last year's historic climate conference in Paris, Canada agreed to a climate accord that would limit the worldwide temperature increase to well below 2 C.

Manitoba sent seven officials, including Premier and NDP Leader Greg Selinger, to the COP21 conference.

Contained in the agreement was the pledge to keep the rise of global temperature to "well below" 2 C. Canada is supportive of the even more ideal threshold of limiting it to below 1.5 C.

Another promise was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to reach carbon neutrality between 2050 and 2100. 

Some voters will be eager to know how the province's political parties propose to adhere to the accord. It's just one of many environmental issues CBC will be canvassing in Friday's debate.

Dangers in the water

Zebra mussels are invading Manitoba. The province identifies this invasive clam-like species as a "significant environmental and economic concern," costing "the North American economy billions of dollars to control."

These creatures reproduce quickly, threaten native biodiversity, litter beaches with their sharp shells, produce foul odours as they decay, and can be an expensive nuisance to watercrafts and water-based infrastructures like power stations and treatment plants. The pests cannot be eradicated "once established, so it is extremely important to stop their spread," the province warns.

They're not the only thing spreading through Manitoba's waters. Toxic algae blooms are also on the rise — growing so large they can be seen from space.

The aquatic plants contaminate beaches, damage fishing and tourism industries, and can produce toxins harmful to the liver and nervous system. These out-of-control blooms are triggered by pollutants like fertilizers and detergents flowing into the lakes from industry, sewage, livestock production, and agriculture runoff.

Another factor contributing to the algae influx is the draining of the Manitoba's wetlands. 

A document published on the province's Conservation and Water Stewardship website says "wetlands are among the Earth's most productive ecosystems," while also being "one of the Earth's most threatened." These ecosystems not only store carbon, they also filter out the pollutants causing the blooms before they reach Manitoba lakes. 

That same document adds that if wetland loss continues at its present rate, by 2020 an additional 370 tonnes of nutrient pollution will find its way to Lake Winnipeg. 

Wetland ecosystems also play a recognized part in mitigating flood damage across the province since they store and slow water that could otherwise contribute to flooding. The Manitoba Water Caucus says that wetlands loss in recent decades is a key factor to many of the province's large flood events.


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