NDP governments in Nova Scotia and Manitoba lag behind other provinces in environmental indicators
Troy Media – by Garrit Theule
A new report from the Toronto-based Corporate Knights released this month has given environmentally-minded voters a chance to see if those they have elected have fulfilled the promises made in the last provincial elections.
The provincial rankings, based on indicators such as air, climate, and innovation, seem to give pause, though, to those who went to the polls and selected traditionally environmentally progressive governments. Despite the rankings splitting the provinces directly down political party lines, they are not split in the way expected.
Provinces governed by Conservative, or by Saskatchewan’s small “c” conservative Saskatchewan Party, not unpredictably, fill out the bottom of the rankings, finishing tied for last or second last. The surprise comes in that the four provincial Liberal governments fill out the top four spots in the rankings with the two NDP lead provinces finishing right in the middle of the pack (Nova Scotia,) and tied with conservative governments in second last (Manitoba).
How are voters to reconcile traditional NDP roles and recent election promises with what the rankings seem to say? Manitoba and Nova Scotia’s NDP parties certainly pay lip service to being progressive on the environmental front: 10 per cent of the Nova Scotia NDP’s “Top 30 Accomplishments” from their first three years in power are environmentally focused and the theme of “Clean air, parks, and water” was a cornerstone of last year’s Manitoba NDP election campaign.
A more in depth look at the make-up of the rankings show Manitoba ranking 6th and Nova Scotia 8th on the subject of “Air,” and on “Nature” Nova Scotia ranks 5th and Manitoba comes in at a depressing 10 out of 10. These topical breakdowns would seem to fly in the face of government claims.
It can be argued that Nova Scotia’s government can be seen as a first-term progressive government following years of Conservative rule. But when it comes to the worst-performing province of Manitoba, the NDP has been in power since 1999 and has had ample time to make policy changes to reflect an honest attempt to further environmental goals.
The multiple environmental resolutions tabled and passed at this month’s Manitoba NDP convention speak to the party’s rank and file desire to engage on the environment and so it must be asked squarely of Manitoba’s Premier Greg Selinger why the province remains environmentally on par with entrenched Conservative governments in provinces like Newfoundland?
Just as interesting is the four provinces with Liberal governments occupying the top four spots on the list. For a party traditionally concerned with maintaining the status quo and attempting to balance environmental and big business concerns this would, at first glance, appear to put the Liberals at the forefront of governmental environmental activism.
This doesn’t, however, appear to be true either. With half of all Canadians ranking the environment as a very important issue facing Canadians, over a quarter of Canadians reporting that they are “very concerned” about the environment, and with Canadians ranking environment issues as the “most serious challenges facing the world today”, it would seem that the provincial Liberal governments are, as they have been in the past, right in the middle of public opinion on the matter.
It is the NDP governments of the country that seem to be the moderates and are leaving Canadians to wonder when the “progressive” parties are going to start being progressive again.
Gerrit Theule is political commentator and activist and law student from Winnipeg.