Green Party of Canada Platform: 3.3 National Parks

A continuing review of  the Green Party of Canada’s Platform:

3.3 National Parks

Every Prime Minister of Canada for the last twenty years has committed to the completion of the national parks system and the creation of Marine Protected Areas sufficient to protect marine ecosystems − except the current Prime Minister. The 2005 Liberal Budget committed $209 million over five years to capital maintenance and acquisition in existing parks, but did not increase funding to create new parks. Key ecological areas are under assault. Unless government acts soon, areas like the South Okanagan (Canada’s only area of true desert) in British Columbia, the wilderness in Labrador, or the Flathead region in southeast British Columbia, will no longer be available for protection. They will be lost due to development pressures.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has warned Canada that we are allowing dangerous erosion of existing parks that are designated as World Heritage Sites, particularly Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, as well as several provincial reserves. The UNESCO Committee pointed to the risk of “adverse impacts of the operation of the Cheviot mine on the integrity” of Jasper, in particular.

UNESCO also warned that Canada was not doing enough to ensure that “various mining, mineral, oil and gas explorations activities” around Nahanni National Park, located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories, not be allowed to erode the ecological integrity of the park.

The progress on Marine Protected Areas is even worse. While Canada has protected less than 1% of its marine areas, Australia has protected 7.5%.

Yet, Canadians do care. Polls reveal that 90 % of Canadians consider time spent in natural areas as children very important; 85 % participate regularly in nature-related activities; 98 % view nature as essential to human survival.

We are committed to reversing the disappointing recent trend of the federal government to devalue park protection, with firm and unwavering action to protect existing parks and expand our terrestrial and marine park systems. We must rapidly establish “no-take” marine parks as a last chance to save our vast tracts of critically-threatened and over-fished coastlines.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Re-commit to the completion of the National Parks system that consists of a representative network of Canada’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems, setting a target date of 2020 with emphasis on:Establish a National Parks Completion Budget of $500 million annually to meet the goal of completing our National Parks and Marine Protected Areas Systems by 2020.

    • Fast-tracking the establishment of “no-take” marine protected areas: consultation with fisheries communities and sectors is essential, drawing on experience from New Zealand and elsewhere where “no-take” areas have actually improved the economically viable fisheries.
    • Extending, in partnership with provinces, territories, and Aboriginal peoples, Canada’s network of land, freshwater and marine protected areas and linking them up with provincial and territorial protected areas wherever possible, and establishing compatible-use buffer zones around national parks for the maintenance of natural biological diversity and ecosystem health.
    • Providing Parks Canada with the funding necessary to protect the ecological integrity of Canada’s National Parks.
  • Implement the recommendations of conservation scientists for effective action to preserve:Advocate the purchase of private land, where necessary, to help protect critical habitats, especially of endangered species.

    • Critically threatened habitats.
    • Keystone species, endangered species, and species of commercial or cultural value, especially those of value to First Nations communities.
    • Habitats specifically threatened by climate change.
    • Continuous interconnected tracts of habitat for wide-range migrating species sufficient to maintain viable populations.
  • Increase monitoring and protection efforts, including an increase in the number of park rangers and guides with interpretation skills to educate Canadians and visitors on the vast beauty and value of our National Parks.

  • Work with provincial and territorial governments to end all trophy hunting in Canada while supporting subsistence hunting by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians of wild animals that are not threatened or endangered.

3.4 Species at risk

Globally our wealth of species is being lost at an astounding rate. Canada’s rich heritage of wildlife is disappearing. While Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), proclaimed in 2003, has some redeeming qualities, overall its flaws make it ineffective in protecting Canada’s threatened species. It provides basic protection only for species on federal lands – about 5 % of the lands in Canada. It lets the federal cabinet rather than the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) scientists decide which species are on the “species at risk” list. Habitat protection and recovery plans are voluntary.

The legal listing of species at risk has become more political and less scientific each year. Cultus Lake sockeye salmon were not listed to avoid “significant socio-economic impacts on sockeye fishermen and coastal communities.” Eight aquatic species recommended by COSEWIC were not listed by federal cabinet in 2006. Former Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said it was “to ensure that we don’t negatively affect the fishing industry.”

In the last few years, despite rhetoric about “safety nets”, the federal government has refused to issue emergency orders to protect critical habitat on non-federal lands. Ottawa has looked the other way as the B.C. government has permitted logging in Northern spotted owl habitat, condemning the species, with only a few pairs left, to extinction in Canada.

The Greens know that the conservation of species diversity is essential part to a healthy environment. To conserve species we must strengthen Canada’s SARA and make it an effective tool that actually protects endangered species and their habitats everywhere in Canada including all federal, provincial, territorial, First Nations and private lands. We envision an Act that includes powers to enforce prescribed measures to protect species at risk and stop acts of non-compliance. We believe the COSEWIC scientists should have the final say on the designation of threatened species and not have its recommendations subject to Cabinet approval, a condition that greatly weakens COSEWIC’s power and ability to protect species at risk.

Green Party MPs will amend Canada’s SARA to:

  • Ensure that listing under this Act is based on scientific, and not political, processes. COSEWIC’s determination will be the actual legal listing. Cabinet approval will be removed.
  • Ensure that recovery-planning efforts identify and then appropriately manage, protect and/or restore the habitat that species need to recover, through consultative, collaborative efforts with stakeholders, land-owners, provinces, municipalities, and First Nations governments.
  • Make it a criminal offence, made punishable as a mens rea offence, to kill a listed species, regardless of whether the offence occurred on federal or provincial land.
  • Identify ecologically significant areas and establish a Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan for Canada, working with the provinces to establish and protect wildlife corridors through land use management plans at the regional and provincial level.

Comments and discussion are welcomed.  I am examining this as I go to gain a better grasp of their platform and invite all who are interested to do the same with comments and discussion.

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