Yukoners are turning greener.
A recent public opinion poll, commissioned by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, shows growing support for environmental initiatives in the territory.
“I was surprised by the high level of support for conservation issues in general — we didn’t think it was that high,” said CPAWS conservation campaign co-ordinator Mac Hislop.
The poll, conducted in June 2005, asked 405 eligible Yukon voters where they stood on a variety of environmental issues.
And 91 per cent of respondents agreed the next territorial government should ensure land use and conservation planning pre-empts large-scale industrial development.
“We haven’t seen a lot of attention over the last number of years to the environment,” said Hislop.
“And this data shows it is important to Yukoners.”
“It is safe to say the (poll) results reflect some dissatisfaction with the current party’s performance on the environment,” said CPAWS executive director Jim Pojar.
“Polling data indicates political parties probably need to pay some attention to environmental issues, because they resonate with the public, and environmental issues may be vote determinate.”
It’s good to find out where the public is before an election, added Hislop.
So far, CPAWS has shared its poll findings with the New Democrats and the Liberals.
But the Yukon Party has been too busy to meet with CPAWS.
“We’ve had some difficulty getting together,” said Hislop.
“Hopefully next week the stars will align, but there are lots of other activities they are involved with.”
The poll found widespread support for environmental conservation in the territory, even if conservation must come at the expense of the resource sector.
It also found growing support for increasing the amount of protected land in the Yukon.
Today, 78 per cent of Yukoners support increasing protected areas to 30 per cent or more of the territory, while in a 2001 polling, only 61 per cent supported a similar objective.
In addition, 88 per cent of Yukoners agree the government should act to protect key portions of the Porcupine caribou herd’s winter habitat.
And 93 per cent agree the government should implement a climate change action plan, with strategy to promote renewable energy sources and conservation.
A variety of different environmental issues have certainly been in the public eye, said Hislop.
There’s apprehension over the Porcupine caribou herd and there has also been a lot of unease about land use planning in the Whitehorse area, he said.
“And with those big issues in the forefront, other issues haven’t really had the same attention drawn to them,” said Hislop.
“So, it was neat to learn from the poll that stuff we worked on for a long time — protected areas and conservation, also resonate strongly with the public.
“The pollster told us the level of concern for the environment is lower in some jurisdictions, like BC, so in that sense it was a surprise to see Yukoners are so concerned.”
When asked in the poll what issue is deemed most important when choosing how to vote, a strong environmental platform came second only to economy and spending.
Yukoners want to see government action on environmental and conservation issues, said Hislop.
“And we certainly hope political parties will consider this when creating their platforms.
“It’s up to Yukoners to make decisions about which political parties and platforms best align with their values.
“And we hope environmental considerations will be important to the public and they will look for the candidate that best reflects these values and best address their environmental concerns.”
The poll was conducted by Strategic Communications from June 20th through 25th, 2006.
The poll results are accurate to + 4.8 per cent, or 19 times out of 20.