PEI Votes·Analysis

Election promises: 3 environmental issues

The CBC's Kerry Campbell takes a look at key environmental issues, what the parties have done, and what they say they will do.
P.E.I.'s four party leaders met in an election campaign forum on April 22 to discuss the environment. (CBC)

Key environmental issues: What the parties have done, and what they say they will do.

High capacity wells

Liberal Party

The Liberals intend to stick to the plan put in motion by the previous Liberal government, which deferred any decision on lifting the moratorium on allowing more high capacity wells for agriculture pending the creation of a new Water Act.

The P.E.I. Potato Board asked the government to lift a moratorium on high-capacity wells for irrigation. There is no moratorium for other industries. (CBC)

Leader Wade MacLauchlan said this will begin with a white paper, move through a series of public consultations shortly after the election, followed by the tabling of the act itself in the Legislature. He said new legislation could be ready in 12 months, so may be passed in the spring sitting of 2016.

"[A Liberal government] would be guided by the best available science as well as a commitment to environmental stewardship," said MacLauchlan.

The science, he said, would be presented in a way the public can appreciate and share in the educational process.

Progressive Conservative Party

The Progressive Conservative position is similar to the Liberals. They are also calling for a new Water Act to dictate what happens with regards to high capacity wells, and stress that any decision has to be based on the best research available.

Green Party

The Green Party would maintain the current moratorium. Its platform says P.E.I. should have the "most enlightened" water protection regulations in the world.

New Democratic Party

The NDP would maintain the current moratorium.

Fish kills

Green Party

At the leaders' forum on the environment, Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said P.E.I. need to stop referring to "fish kills" and start calling them "river kills." He said the fish deaths are the most obvious outcome, but the entire river eco-system is decimated every time one of these occurs.

The NDP released a poster in 2013 mocking the government's inability to put an end to fish kills. (CBC)

The Green Party says P.E.I. needs to drop its "one-size-fits-all" approach to buffer zones. It says some waterways are more sensitive and require more protection, and thus need larger buffer zones. 

Liberal Party

At the same forum, Leader Wade MacLauchlan noted some farmers are taking measures on their own to protect rivers, putting in 20-metre buffer zones instead of the regulation 15 in some cases. MacLauchlan said many in the agriculture industry have taken similar steps and should be commended.

On actually requiring larger buffer zones by law, he said the issue could be addressed during consultations leading to a new water act, or in consultations on land use policies that the Liberals have also announced.

Progressive Conservative Party

Leader Rob Lantz said there needs to be more scrutiny of fields which have been exempted from three-year crop rotations, and allowed to use a two-year crop rotation. He expressed concern it's a "rubber stamp" process for those who apply. Lantz suggested there needs to be a more rigorous process of assessing those applications, and more follow-up to determine what effect a reduced rotation has on nutrient content in soils on a reduced rotation.

New Democratic Party

The NDP says it would work closely with farmers to protect waterways, doubling funding for Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) programs to take sensitive land out of production. The NDP has also committed to a new water act and to an annual report focusing on the state of the environment.

Cosmetic pesticides

The P.E.I. division of the Canadian Cancer Society turned up the heat on this debate by calling for a full, province-wide ban on cosmetic pesticides. It's the strongest position the group has taken to date on the issue.

Liberal Party

MacLauchlan returned again to Water Act consultations as an opportunity for Islanders to have input on this issue. He said the issue is not perceived the same in rural areas as in municipal areas, suggesting a Liberal government would not move towards a province-wide ban. He said the province regularly reviews legislation from other provinces to make sure P.E.I.'s legislation is in line with what's happening across the country.

The previous Liberal government gave municipalities the power to ban cosmetic pesticides, but the pressure is still on for a province-wide ban.

The previous Liberal government gave municipalities the power to ban industrial cosmetic pesticides, the kind used by lawn companies, but without a province-wide ban commercial products would still be available in retail stores.

Progressive Conservative Party

At the environment forum, Lantz said the existing provincial legislation isn't satisfactory, and neither is leaving the issue to municipalities. Lantz said he's committed to "moving in the direction" of banning cosmetic pesticides province-wide. But his party is waiting to see what the major municipalities do with the limited powers given to them by the province last year to deal with the issue.

Green Party

Peter Bevan-Baker said while overall he supports grassroots decision-making at the lowest level of governance possible, that won't work with cosmetic pesticides because most territory in the province is unincorporated, without any municipal government. Therefore he said the province must show leadership and bring in a comprehensive, province-wide ban.

New Democratic Party

NDP Leader Mike Redmond said his party would ban cosmetic pesticides within 100 days of forming government.

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