Clear cutting to coal: Nova Scotia environmental debate covers diverse range of topics

Click to play video: 'Dozens gather for environmental election debate in Halifax'
Dozens gather for environmental election debate in Halifax
Clear-cutting, coal energy and single-use plastic were just some of the issues candidates addressed during an environmental election debate. – May 16, 2017

There were a diverse range of topics covered at an environmental election debate held Tuesday in Halifax.

Everything from concerns over the return of coal-mining to the province with the opening of the Donkin Mine in Cape Breton, to whether or not parties would commit to an environmental bill of rights.

“If we establish a rule of law with processes and the companies follow the processes, well then we can’t just shut it down. Well, you can but if you decide to do that then there are impacts,” said PC candidate Rob Batherson (Halifax Citadel-Sable Island), in response to an audience question asking for the closure of the mine.

READ MORE: Complete Nova Scotia election coverage

The Nova Scotia Green Party was represented by Hammonds Plains-Lucasville candidate and party deputy chief, Jessica Alexander.

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“We can end our practice of burning coal to fuel our unsustainable lifestyles. We can design our communities to be less reliant on cars and roads,” said Alexander, addressing coal energy concerns.

Another hot-topic was the lack of follow-through on clear cutting reduction goals laid out in the 2011 Natural Resources Strategy.

The strategy outlined a five year plan to reduce the clear cutting of all harvests to no more than 50 per cent by 2016.

READ MORE: Expert panel member critical of Nova Scotia’s clear cutting policy

That goal hasn’t been reached and Iain Rankin, Liberal candidate and incumbent for Timberlea-Prospect, said a lot of that has to do with a “lack of consensus.”

“The Natural Resources Strategy referenced had no consensus in it. So, what we’re committed to doing, is hiring an independent person to come in and they will actually review all the forestry practices, including this report,” Rankin said.

Halifax Needham NDP candidate Lisa Roberts was quick to respond with her party’s commitment to adhering by the clear cutting goals laid out in the strategy.

“There is not going to be consensus because change is difficult as we move towards a greener future,” she said. “The Natural Resources Strategy engaged hundreds of Nova Scotians over years, the work that was done was good, we commit to moving forward with it.”

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Despite varying topics and opinions, there was one message that Alexander made sure to communicate.

“One of my favourite quotes is a Cree saying: When the last river has been poisoned and the last tree has been cut and the last fish has been killed – it will only be then that we will understand that we cannot eat money.”

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