To: The Honourable Iain Rankin,
KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – My name is Shanni Bale. I am a resident of Halifax (Armdale), and I hold a master’s degree in landscape ecology from Dalhousie University, where one of my key specializations was habitat connectivity. I have also published peer-reviewed research related to the conservation of endangered bird species in this province. More than that, I am a long-time environmental activist, I stay abreast of local politics, and I am especially attuned to environmental issues in this province. I have been following the current race for Liberal Party Leader and in particular your campaign.
Recently, you made two pledges that were especially noteworthy to me. You stated that you would accelerate the implementation of the Lahey Report, and you promised to establish a provincial emissions reduction target of 80% by 2030 (…presumably from 2005 levels?). While I prefer net zero by 2030, I like your number much better than the currently proposed 53%, and I applaud you for the recent announcements, as neither of your rivals have bothered to give lip-service to any environmental issues at all (that I have seen). Nonetheless, Nova Scotians such as myself, who have paid attention to your record as Minister of Environment and Minister of Lands and Forestry, remain deeply worried that your pledges are just that… lip service.
You have promised to uphold the Lahey Report before, yet for two years this report has collected dust on a shelf. Indeed, clear-cutting adjacent provincial parks, which was one of the key criticisms of the Lahey Report, continues unabated in this province. (As we speak, WestFor is slated to imminently clear-cut a large swathe of crown forest that is adjacent to the Tobeatic and Silver River Wilderness Areas and provides critical connectivity between them.) Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry, with you as minister, also removed Owls Head Provincial Park from the pending protected areas list in order to sell it to an American golf course developer at a bargain-basement price. Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry has another gem of a practice which involves actively promoting open-pit mining projects by paying out grants to corporate mining entities. I could go on. And all of this despite a Supreme Court ruling that decried Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry’s “chronic, systematic failure to implement action required under the Endangered Species Act” and that ordered you and your ministry to abide by this act.
Mr. Rankin, your pledges need to be trustworthy if you want them to translate into votes, and how are voters to trust you with a record like that? More needs to be done to restore credibility, and clearly, much more needs to be done towards a sustainable future in this province. I have three propositions that have the potential to go a good way towards both.
- Commit to buck Nova Scotia Liberal Party tradition and appoint scientists, ecologists, or individuals with a proven record of prioritizing conservation and sustainability to the posts of Minister of Lands and Forestry and Minister of Environment (read: not businessmen and former businessmen.) You, Sir, served as both, and your background is in business and golf club management. Gordon Wilson, the current Environment Minister, has a background in the forest industry and has gone out of his way to assure people he is ‘not an environmentalist’. We have seen the disastrous results. This is no longer acceptable.
- Rather than vague claims about “accelerating” implementation of the Lahey Report, explicitly state when and by how much clearcutting will be curtailed. Commit to firm deadlines for the implementation of various Lahey measures. In addition, please explicitly state the minimum distance between a proposed clear-cut and a protected area that a Rankin government would deem acceptable, ensuring that this threshold is in line with what ecologists cite as necessary to protect against edge effects and maintain ecological processes and flows.
- Similarly, provide a plan (with benchmarks) that details how we will achieve an 80% emissions reduction by 2030. Ensure that this plan targets the worst industrial polluters, not with voluntary measures but with legally binding regulations that have meaningful consequences if they are not met. This 2020 has been the worst year for a litany of natural disasters, breaking or even shattering previous historical records for hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and heatwaves. The time for meaningful action on climate change was 30 years ago.
Mr. Rankin, your pledges caught my eye because I am deeply concerned about habitat fragmentation, climate change, and the impacts that both have on all creatures (both human and non). My concerns are exacerbated because, when I look at the candidates for Liberal leadership, I do not see any environmental champions. I do not see anyone who seems like they truly understand the gravity of the crises that have already been devastating and (the science is clear) are going to get much worse. But I’m not asking you to move any mountains today; I’m just asking that you tell me where you stand with regard to my three propositions. I would be most appreciative if you provide this response in writing, and I will be sure to share your answers with many other concerned citizens, who I know will be interested as well.
BSc, Ecology; MES, Landscape Ecology
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