NDP leader Todd Hardy believes his team holds a trump card going into the October 10 election.
“People have recognized, over the years, and even the other parties have said it, that the NDP definitely is the strongest one on the environment,” said Hardy on Thursday from Vancouver, as the party revealed its environmental platform.
“Because of that, when we make this kind of commitment we will follow through immediately.”
The NDP is promising protection of critical wetlands, a fair land-disposition process and action on climate change.
But there are few elements of the NDP’s environmental plan that clearly differentiate it from the Liberals or Yukon Party.
The NDP is promising effective animal protection laws.
So are the Liberals.
The NDP will support Yukon-based research and development and incentives for green jobs and green businesses.
The Yukon Party showed its support for such initiatives with a cold climate research centre it wants to build at Yukon College.
All three parties have floated species-at-risk legislation.
All three want land-use planning to provide certainty for developers, environmentalists and First Nations alike.
And all three parties vow to implement a climate change action plan.
The difference, said Hardy, is that the Liberals and the NDP have no credibility, and Yukoners know the NDP will keep its word.
“You can make promises all you want, but you’ve also got to be measured by your past actions,” he said.
“When you’re talking about land-use planning, process for disposition, honouring and implementing parks and habitat areas for First Nations self-government agreements, or when you’re talking about incentives for green jobs, those are promises that have been made by other parties.
“They’ve been in government, they haven’t followed through with any of them.”
The Yukon Party has broken environmental promises in the past, noted Riverdale South NDP candidate Peter Lesniak.
“The Fentie government promised species-at-risk legislation.
“It did it twice. It did it in 2003; it did it in 2005.
“Where is the legislation? The work was done by the bureaucrats, yet the minister didn’t bring the legislation forward.
“There’s a clear example of a promise broken by the current government — something that an NDP government won’t do.”
The Yukon Party has no standing on the land-disposition process because, under its watch, things have not been fair, said Lake Laberge candidate Nina Sutherland.
“There have been, over the last few years, inconsistent approaches used in the disposition of land in the territory, one example being Fish Lake Road,” said Sutherland.
“Ministers have existed with conflicts.
“The NDP are making a commitment that no minister will be in a conflict that will affect land disposition.
“There have also been different departments working with different agendas.
“The NDP are going to eliminate that silo approach.”
There are also parts of the NDP environmental plan that neither of the other parties have mimicked.
For example, the NDP is saying it would protect 54 well-known critical wetland areas in the Yukon from industrial development.
And it would implement a permanent ban on coal-bed methane extraction — a sub-sector of the Yukon’s fledgling fossil fuel economy that at least one company, Cash Minerals Ltd., is interested in cultivating.
“Alaska and BC have banned this industry because the environmental consequences have been extremely detrimental,” said Lesniak.
“It uses tremendous amounts of water, which is contaminated in the process.”
If the ban scares off coal-bed methane investment, so be it, said Lesniak.
“I don’t think it would scare off other types of investment.
“The NDP government would not be interested in developing the regulations and guidelines that industry needs to do this kind of activity in Yukon.
“The environmental costs are just too high.”
The party would also halt a land-disposition policy that grants exclusive tenure to Yukon outfitters who have remote camps.
“Yes, it would have to be halted; it would have to be revisited,” said Hardy.
However, the NDP is not proposing to revive its protected areas strategy, which a former Liberal government shelved before the current Yukon Party government buried it.
“Not at this time,” said Hardy.