Election 2015: Conservative candidate defends his party’s record on the environment

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative candidate Dan Albas says recent government moves streamlined environmental protections.

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative candidate Dan Albas.

Despite being the second most important issue on the minds of Canadians after the economy in this federal election campaign according to pollsters, the environment appears to be getting little attention on the campaign trail.

And that has many people concerned, especially because of accusations the former Conservative government has weakened Canada’s environmental protections with legislation that many environmentalists feel favour money over the health of our part of the planet.

But not so says Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative candidate Dan Albas.

The Tory incumbent defends the government’s action on environmental protection, saying the process for environmental projects has been streamlined, reducing duplication with provincial requirements.

And he said the Conservatives  reduced the number of federal agencies that have to approve projects having environment impacts to three from 41.

“Proponents can now have a decision in two years for major project,” said Albas, a move that he claims will include both the required public process and scientific assessment.

He said Canada has worked with the U.S. on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is trying to address the issue of climate change in a “balanced” way that does not turn away billions of dollars worth of investment in this country in the coming years.

But critics have zeroed in on areas like environmental assessments, saying the federal government has become far more lax in maintaining regulations.

Kelowna-Lake Country NDP candidate Norah Bowman touts her work organizing a local response to the Tory omnibus bill that she described as including measures she said “gutted” federal protections for lakes and rivers. The NDP says it would overhaul Canada’s environmental assessment regime to ensure social and environmental sustainability helps projects succeed.

It is opposed to controversial pipeline projects like Northern Gateway and Keystone XL. It also says it would introduce a cap and trade mechanism for carbon emissions and eliminate subsidies for industries using fossil fuels while investing in clean energy.

The Liberals, on the other hand, support Keystone XL, which would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico for refining, but oppose Northern Gateway, which would take oil from the Alberta oil sands to the northern B.C. coast across the northern part of this province.

The Liberals say they want a regulatory regime that protects economic growth and environmental protections and would invest $200 million annually to create sector-specific strategies to support clean technology in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy and agriculture.