The below questionnaire was submitted to each of Yukon’s federal candidates from the Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society – Yukon. Included are Larry Bagnell and the Liberal Party of Canada’s response to each issue:
1) The recent changes made to the Yukon Environmental and Social Assessment Act through the passing of federal Bill S-6 were strongly opposed by the Yukon’s First Nations, the environmental community, public, and even some members of the mineral industry. If elected, would you work to reverse the changes made in Bill S-6?
The Liberal Party will repeal the four offending amendments; we confirmed this to Yukon’s chiefs in a letter from Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett in July of this year. As the MP who shepherded the YESAA Legislation and several Yukon Land Claim and Self-Government Agreements through Parliament, it is important for me that the spirit of any amendments are developed by equal tripartite partners, and maintains the integrity of the process. The Government of Canada did not provide any opportunity for environmental organizations or others Yukoners to input. That is why I spoke passionately at the two large public forums against this unilateral imposition on Yukoners.
2) The world is coming together in Paris late this year to develop a fair, ambitious, and legally-binding agreement to solve the climate crisis. If elected, what specific action will you champion to ensure that Canada shows true leadership on climate in Paris and beyond?
As Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau will attend the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, and will invite all Premiers to join him. Within 90 days of the conference, a First Ministers meeting will be held to work together on a framework to combat climate change. Central to this will be the creation of national emissions-reduction targets, informed by the best economic and scientific analysis. These targets must recognise the economic cost and catastrophic impact that a greater-than two-degree increase in average global temperatures would represent, as well as the necessity for Canada to do its part to prevent that from happening.
3) The position of National Science Advisor to the Prime Minister was cut in 2008, and there have been severe cuts to staffing and resources to federal science departments including Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, and Environment Canada; the closing of a large number of long-term monitoring stations for climate and water data; and the downsizing and destruction of scientific libraries and archives. If elected what will you do to reverse these trends?
Liberals will revoke rules and regulations that muzzle government scientists and allow them to speak freely about their work, with only limited and publicly stated exceptions. We will consolidate government science so that it is easily available to the public at-large through a central portal. We will create a Chief Science Officer whose mandate would include ensuring that government science is freely available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are appropriately considered when the government makes decisions. I will lobby to reverse the downsizing and destruction of scientific libraries and archives.
4) If elected what will you do to move Canada towards a clean energy future and away from fossil fuels?
Liberals will fulfill Canada’s G-20 commitment to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. The next step will be to allow for the use of the oil and gas Canadian Exploration Expenses tax deduction only in cases of unsuccessful exploration. The savings will be redirected to investments in new and clean technologies. Liberals will invest $200 million annually to create sector-specific strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors. As well as $100 million annually to clean technology producers, so that they can tackle Canada’s most pressing environmental challenges, whether in our air, in our water, or on our land.
5) Many countries, regions and communities have banned hydraulic fracturing because the scientific evidence strongly suggests that this practice seriously endangers our water resources, biodiversity, habitat, and communities. If elected what will you do to move Canada away from this dangerous form of fossil fuel extraction?
The Liberal Party supports job creation and the development of Canada’s natural resources but we also recognize the importance of doing so in an environmentally responsible manner. Without public trust, Canada’s environmental assessment processes are increasingly paralyzed. A Liberal government will replace the changes to the national environmental assessment process – with a new, comprehensive, timely, and fair process. As natural resources are a territorial jurisdictions, it will be up to the Yukon government. Currently there is no social licence for fracking in Yukon. I have studied some of the in-depth geological reports on hydraulic fracturing and I have some serious ongoing concerns about the long term impacts.
6) Salmon stocks in the Yukon River Watershed have reached alarmingly low levels. If elected what will you do to reverse these devastating trends, and live up to our commitments in the Pacific Salmon Treaty?
The Liberal Party will deepen our commitment to work with other governments to protect Canada’s waterways through education, geo-mapping, watershed protection, and infrastructure investments in the best waste water treatment technologies. This will include acting on the recommendations of the Cohen Commission. We will also work to better protect Canada’s endangered species. This means responding faster to scientific advice on listing species, meeting mandatory timelines for responding to COSEWIC recommendations, and completing robust species at risk recovery plans. When I was MP, I wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to implore her to reduce the bycatch of salmon in the Pollock fisheries.
7) There is increasing pressure to develop offshore Arctic oil and gas resources as exemplified by Shell’s recent drilling program. Oil and gas exploration and development in this region threatens northern environments, biodiversity and communities due to ice, storms, and lack of capacity to deal with disasters and spills. If elected will you put a stop to oil drilling in the Arctic?
When I was sitting in the House of Commons, the necessity for safe drilling in the unique situation of remote ice covered Arctic waters was a point I emphasized. I ensured that expert witnesses appeared before the parliamentary committee. I asked the Harper government several times in Parliament what their plan was to research safe methods for drilling in to the Arctic. They had no answers. I have issued two press releases condemning drilling in the Arctic without a cleanup plan. Shell has backed off, but more potential drilling in Greenland waters is also a risk we need to be cognisant of.
8) There is concern in the North over potential future bulk water exports to southern jurisdictions. If elected, will you ensure that bulk water exports are not part of any future international trade agreements?
The Liberal Party have said that water cannot be treated like any other natural resource, nor is it to be commodified. Although Canada has abundant fresh water reserves, the unprecedented drought and serious water shortages that B.C. experienced these last few months underscore how precarious a resource it is and how it should not be wasted or sold to foreign buyers, but preserved for us and future generations of Canadians. We are proud of the Liberal Party’s long-standing position on this issue which was first brought into policy in 1999 by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
9) Currently the Navigable Waters Act only covers the main stem of the Yukon River as far as the Whitehorse dam. Will you amend the Navigable Waters Act so that it covers all Yukon navigable waters?
The Conservative’s amendments to the Fisheries Act and elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act have weakened important environmental protections. The Liberal Party is committed to conducting a wholesale review of these changes to restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards. The protection of our freshwater resources will be an imperative. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples will be included in the reshaping of federal environmental laws and policies to ensure respect of rights and to reflect Indigenous values in federal legislation and regulations. As part of this review, all of Yukon’s bodies of water will be looked at.