Environment not a top-of-mind issue in provincial election, say environmentalists
Voters should make candidates aware of issues of concern, they say
Three environmentalists say there isn't enough government leadership on protecting the environment and the ongoing election provides voters the chance to grill candidates.
Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said the province's environment isn't in bad shape overall, but it's not a top-of-mind issue.
"You'll find out there among the members of the general public the high level concern about water quality, about the state of our forests, particularly our Crown forest, spraying in the Crown forest, so there's a general level of angst," Corbett said.
The provincial election means New Bruswickers can ask candidates about their positions on environmental issues, Corbett said during a panel on Information Morning Fredericton.
Marieka Chaplin, executive director of the Nashwaak Watershed Association, said they want to encourage the concept that the election is a time to think about nature and conservation.
"Ourselves as a watershed organization, we are very concerned about water protection," she said. She pointed to blue-green algae and water quality in provincial parks as recent issues of concern.
"We'd like to see in this election fresh water protection getting a bit more time, a bit more resources dedicated to it."
Chaplin points out watershed groups across the province are testing for water quality, temperature and E. coli levels in rivers, brooks and lakes.
"But there doesn't seem to be a particularly effective mechanism yet for getting that information out to the people," Chaplin said.
The province has a water strategy tool and now it needs a strong deliverable to be implemented, she said.
"People of this province want to know the status of our rivers, of our lakes, of our streams," Chaplin said. "We need an initial report that will provide that detail to know what our status is."
Chaplin said with climate change, the temperatures in rivers and streams will get warmer, which will cause more water quality issues.
More protected areas
Roberta Clowater, executive director New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said there isn't enough being done to protect nature and ensure there are areas protected from not only industrial development, but any development.
"Therefore that insurance policy that we need to protect us in a time of climate change, that we need to protect the nature that we care about, that we need to protect the river systems that protect us from flooding are just not there," Clowater said.
Clowater doesn't believe the government is doing enough to ensure nature is protected.
As an example, she said there's a federal target to protect 17 per cent of land and fresh water nationally by 2020.
The charity, which calls itself Canada's voice for wilderness, released a report this summer that indicates New Brunswick is "lagging well behind most other Canadian provinces" and had only protected 4.6 per cent of the province as of the end of 2017.
"We're still waiting for action on the New Brunswick government's part," Clowater said.
More than one priority
Corbett said voters are often asked to make a something their top priority in an election when there are several things that a voter wants to focus on.
"We know how much New Brunswickers value clean water, their open spaces, their rivers, their streams, their coastlines ... We know that it's important and it's up to us to articulate our concern."
Clowater said she noticed all the political parties were paying more attention to environmental issues in this election and talking about a diversity of topics but she says voters need to keep talking to the candidates.
Corbett agreed, saying that some parties are opposed to things like spraying and hydraulic fracking that others support, it's up to voters to make sure they let each party know how they feel.
With files from Terry Sequin