NDP, Libs appease greenies, YP sends compost

Talk about recycling. A coalition of Yukon environmental groups sent all three parties a questionnaire asking for commitments on environmental…

Talk about recycling.

A coalition of Yukon environmental groups sent all three parties a questionnaire asking for commitments on environmental issues.

This week, they received responses from the NDP and Liberals.

The Yukon Party recycled its news releases.

“They’re all old press releases and they’re not telling us what they’re going to do,” Jim Pojar, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon, told a news conference in the CPAWS office Wednesday.

“All the other parties seemed to get it,” said Pojar.

The Keep it Clean, Keep it Green, Keep it Wild coalition — made up of CPAWS, Bringing Youth Towards Equality, Yukon Conservation Society, Raven Recycling and others — asked the parties for commitments on six environmental policies and 19 specific issues before the election.

The NDP and the Liberals answered “yes” to creating new protected areas, land use and conservation planning, diversifying the Yukon’s economy, concrete action on climate change, protection of watersheds and product-stewardship programs for products like oil or car batteries.

But they provided the coalition with few specific commitments and, instead, gave conditional responses, or none at all.

The Yukon Party scored “no response” across the board.

 “We’re simply recording what the parties did respond to,” said Mac Hislop, CPAWS campaign co-ordinator, while representatives from the coalition’s groups stood by.

“It’s certainly a positive thing they’re prepared to make, in some cases, strong environmental commitments,” said Hislop.

“We have to assume that since the parties have made commitments to these issues, and taken steps forward, that we take them seriously.”

The coalition is prepared to work with any governing party to help make the commitments reality, said Pojar.

But it has not priced them, assuming if the parties commit to something they will find ways to pay for it.

Yukoners feel strongly about the environment, and they will bring that passion to the polling place, said Pojar.

But he wouldn’t endorse any one campaign.

The coalition is made up of non-profit organizations that must remain apolitical in election campaigns.

“We can’t go beyond that; we’re non-partisan organizations, it’s not something we’re in a position to do,” said Hislop.

Given good information, rather than explicit instructions, Yukoners are capable of making good decisions, said Karen Baltgailis, the Yukon Conservation Society’s executive director.

 “What we’ve done is provide information,” she said.

Party answers on issues that transcend the ‘environmental’ label are revealing.

For example, take the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd’s habitat.

The NDP gave a conditional yes to the idea, while the Liberals and Yukon Party gave no response.

Designing subdivisions that limit urban sprawl and limiting land released to development is another: the NDP supported the idea, while both the Yukon Party and the Liberals said nothing.

“As I am sure you can understand, conservation and environmental issues … can sometimes be difficult to reduce to a simple ‘yes or no’ answer,” wrote Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, in his response to the coalition.

“We … trust that you will not judge a ‘no answer’ response to specific questions … as a negative response.”

The Yukon Party’s letter to the coalition followed a familiar pattern — highlighting the party’s accomplishments, including development of mine-closure policies, establishing the Old Crow Flats protected area and the Chisana caribou recovery project.

The accompanying press releases sent to the coalition, “more fully reflects the Yukon Party’s commitment to Yukoners and our environment,” wrote leader Dennis Fentie.

 The coalition’s campaign is anchored in a recent Strategic Communications study conducted for CPAWS, which found a high percentage of Yukoners care about environmental issues.

The survey’s results contrast somewhat with the questionnaire’s results.

“The public may be further ahead of the political parties in their comfort with some of these issues,” said Hislop.

And, though no one said it, that’s probably why none of the parties have received unbridled support from the coalition.

Nobody met the coalition’s expectations, said Pojar, when pressed.

“They haven’t fully incorporated it into their platforms, no,” he said.

But they still could, said Baltgailis.

“If Yukon people ask their politicians the right questions, there’s no reason political parties can’t incorporate more and more of these things,” she said.

The coalition’s website is: www.thinkgreenandvote.com.

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