and Katherine Engqvist
Environmental policy is a topic that could well influence voters in the federal election, and local candidates hoping to win the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford seat on Oct. 19 are staking out their territory on issues that range from renewable energy to pipelines.
NDP candidate and Duncan resident Alistair MacGregor calls climate change “the overarching issue of this century” and points to its effect in the riding.
“We have seen a pretty sharp drop in our river levels and extended drought periods. That is something our federal government will need to take a very serious look at and implement actions to combat.”
MacGregor said he’s been listening to stakeholder concern about the Cowichan River.
“There is a real consensus that we need to hold back more supply at the lake. That involves raising the weir. I’d like to see some action on that file,” he said.
Of the Malahat First Nation’s LNG plans, he said, “That announcement was a surprise for everyone. I have heard from the Tsartlip First Nation (on the Saanich Peninsula) and, in the background, from members of Cowichan Tribes, that there is a lot of uneasiness about this.”
The current push from higher levels of government towards oil and gas development could be seen “as the easy route to quick money” for impoverished First Nations communities, he said. “Bamberton is so beautiful; that specific tract of land could have a whole bunch of different uses outlined for it.”
The Green Party sees the environment in connection with employment, so jobs created must be sustainable and renewable, said Green hopeful Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi.
“We’d like not to have so much resource extraction, per se, but rather to create alternatives,” she said.
“The Cowichan Valley is uniquely poised in this regard because these discussions are far advanced in comparison to the overall riding. With the weather, our water security, our food security, dealing with drought – we need to take some bold stands and take some strong actions to protect the environment and to protect our coastline.”
While backing the Malahat Nation’s move towards economic development, Hunt-Jinnouchi sees the proposed LNG project as short-sighted.
“There hasn’t been collaboration with their neighbouring nations or communities,” she said, adding that pressure could well be brought to bear from both federal and provincial governments.
Conservative Martin Barker sees the Malahat Nation’s proposed LNG facility as a potentially positive step for the First Nation.
“Myself and the Conservative Party will always support the efforts of First Nation people in achieving prosperity and accountable self-governance,” he said. “The Malahat Nation has made prudent use of the First Nation Funding Authority to create opportunity for its people.”
The road to the potential LNG plant and underwater pipeline “will require considerable consultation and study, and then the meeting of very strict safety and environmental standards, as is the practice in Canada,” he added, but chose not to comment further until he has heard the arguments for and against.
That said, Barker said his party understands that tens of thousands of Canadian jobs depend on a thriving energy sector.
“The natural resource sector, directly and indirectly, employs 1.8 million Canadians, many in skilled, quality jobs. Resource development generates $30 billion annually in revenue and is the largest employer of First Nations people.”
While Conservatives try to boost Canada’s clean energy sector, strengthen Canada’s record on conservation and deliver good Canadian jobs, plans for the future must continues to address these concerns, he said.
– Editor’s note: Liberal candidate Luke Krayenhoff was announced Monday as the replacement for Maria Manna, who resigned her candidacy in this riding on Monday. We will endeavour to include him in subsequent issue-based election stories about Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.