Promotional photo of Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.
NDP Highlights Clean Drinking Water Issues, Greens Vow to Scrap Indian Act
By Allison Jones
With the front-runners catching their breath, the battle for third place seized the campaign spotlight Saturday as the NDP and the Green party each promised a new deal of sorts for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
In northern Ontario, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh assailed the Liberal record on improving the lives of First Nations communities as he committed to ensuring universal access to clean drinking water, promising to act faster and more effectively than the Trudeau government.
But in British Columbia and not to be outdone, Green Leader Elizabeth May went one better, promising her government would end the era of ``colonial oppression'' and dismantle the Indian Act.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took the day off from campaigning and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer made a few brief stops in eastern Ontario, but unveiled no announcements, leaving Singh and May to talk policy for the day.
Singh visited Grassy Narrows First Nation, where residents have dealt with the health effects of mercury poisoning from contaminated water for decades. The federal government and Grassy Narrows have struggled to reach an agreement on building a treatment centre for victims of the mercury from an upstream paper mill, and the chief of the First Nation, Rudy Turtle, is running for the New Democrats against Liberal Bob Nault.
Singh promised an NDP government would immediately spend $19 million to fund the centre, but he also vowed to do ``whatever it takes'' to ensure that everyone has clean drinking water.
``There's no excuse in 2019, with the wealth we have as a nation, with the technology we have as a country, that we cannot clean this water, ensure that all communities have clean drinking water,'' Singh said.
He pointed to a parliamentary budget office estimate of $1.8 billion as the capital costs needed to accomplish that goal, and said the government should ``absolutely'' be able to find that money to pay for something so important.
Singh said there would be no question of immediately providing funding if unclean drinking water was a problem in major Canadian cities, but the government has so far failed to apply the same urgency to reserves.
There are currently 56 long-term boil water advisories on reserves across the country.
May also discussed Indigenous issues Saturday, promising that the Greens would allow communities to opt out of the Indian Act as part of its strategy for reconciliation.
``Greens reject the Indian Act and are committed to dismantling this racist and oppressive legislation in full partnership and with First Nations taking the lead role in the process,'' the party said in a statement.
The Greens have also pledged to re-introduce legislation to implement calls to action of both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and enshrine the tenets of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law.
Scheer started his day at the official opening for a Buddhist temple in eastern Ontario, then planned to hit up a pizza shop and a fall festival. But the Tories also put Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to work, attending a fundraiser in the west Toronto area of Etobicoke _ home to that province's premier.
Doug Ford has said he would stay out of the federal election, but his public appearances have been especially sparse of late.
Ford's popularity took a hit following cuts included in his spring budget, and tensions in the province were particularly high over the weekend, with a looming education worker strike and potential school closures.
Polling has suggested that Ford may be hurting Scheer's chances in Ontario, and the Liberals frequently try to link the two leaders.
They dispatched Mark Holland, running for re-election in Ajax, to make remarks outside Kenney's event.
``This is Ontario _ for an Alberta premier to be coming and campaigning is highly unusual,'' Holland said. ``We'd like to hear from Doug Ford, who is the premier of this province, but he's nowhere to be seen. He isn't coming to events, he's not showing up and talking about his record, and there's a very clear reason why.''
Scheer himself capped off a difficult week by defending his party's vetting process after the Conservatives fired a B.C. candidate who had made slurs against LGBTQ people.
Over the past week Scheer was also confronted by the revelation he is in the process of renouncing his dual American-Canadian citizenship and confirmed that he has ``pro life'' views, something he had previously avoided saying.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2019.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
Environment Champions Want Voters to Make Climate Their Main Priority This Fall
By Mia Rabson
Two leading Canadian activists say voters need to think about climate change as if we are country at war against greenhouse-gas emissions.
``There's never been a moment quite like this in human history,'' said Stephen Lewis, a former Ontario NDP leader, who chaired a 1988 international conference on climate change on the initiative of then prime minister Brian Mulroney.
He said similar scientific conclusions were drawn then as from more recent climate science, but three decades of little action have put humanity in a much more worrying position.
``We really have to motivate people to get involved and here we have an election coming when climate can be made the major issue,'' he said.
Lewis and longtime environmentalist David Suzuki are joining to run a series of campaign-period talks aimed at encouraging young people to stand up and make this election entirely about saving the planet from what Lewis calls ``self-immolation.'' Although both have been directly or indirectly affiliated with left-of-centre political movements in the past neither wants to be drawn into the question of whom to vote for this time.
``It becomes an issue that is no longer a partisan issue of whether the right or left have the right policy,'' said Suzuki. ``It's now something we have to embrace as a nation. We have to address it as if it's war.''
But for many environment leaders, deciding where to plant their support this fall is major conundrum. Neither of the two leading parties has plans that would even hit Canada's relatively timid emissions-reductions targets.
Tzeporah Berman, international program director for Stand.Earth, said opinion polls have shifted in Canada over the last year, as people become more directly affected by the increased number and severity of floods, droughts, forest fires and storms attributed to climate change.
``For many progressives I think it's a very hard election in Canada this year, quite frankly,'' said Berman.
``The idea of a Conservative government that doesn't take climate change seriously, that is very scary at this moment in history. But at the same time the Liberal government's current plan to allow oil and gas production to increase and in fact to even facilitate that by buying the Trans Mountain pipeline and approving LNG Canada, is an incredible lack of ambition.
``I worry it is going to have a significant impact on once again splitting the progressive vote.''
The Conservatives climate change plan, released last spring, was widely panned by environmental experts who noted it had no specific targets for cutting emissions and cancels two of the biggest programs that could cut emissions _ namely a carbon tax and standard to force cleaner-burning fuels.
The Liberals haven't released a new plan for the campaign _ it could come later this week _ but their current policies leave Canada only about halfway to emissions-reductions targets specified in the Paris Agreement, which international scientists say are already not enough.
Suzuki and Lewis say that in 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed Canada on to the Paris accord and promised to take actions to help keep the world to within 1.5 C to 2 C of warming compared to pre-industrial temperatures, it felt like Canada was about to start moving on something it had been promising for decades.
``We all thought this is it, he seized the challenge,'' said Suzuki. ``But then he bought a pipeline.''
The Trudeau government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2018 for $4.5 billion in a bid to get the controversial project to twin the pipeline built and carry more Alberta oil products to the British Columbia coast. Trudeau's argument is that Canada needs to use revenues from developing its resources in order to fund the transition to a cleaner, greener economy.