Neither leader has it right

If you’re looking for a measuring stick as the provincial election nears, you might want to examine environmental policies — although neither of the front-runners offers much comfort.

If you’re looking for a measuring stick as the provincial election nears, you might want to examine environmental policies — although neither of the front-runners offers much comfort.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith’s views on global warming, as expressed this week, put the party’s environmental credibility in doubt.

To reverse the fallout, she would need to acknowledge that global warming is scientifically proven. Then, if elected a Wildrose government would need to set about cleaning up the environmental missteps of 41 years of Conservative government.

The Conservatives have long been reluctant to aggressively address environmental issues. We have paid a heavy price.

In a recent report by the David Suzuki Foundation, Alberta was rated as one of the worst offenders in greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

This week, Smith said her party “has always said the science (in global warming) isn’t settled and we need to continue to monitor the debate.”

In all fairness, at no point did she dismiss global warming.

“We recognize the world is in a long-term transition away from hydrocarbon fuels,” she said. “We believe the best way to reduce emissions is through consumer rebates for energy audits, micro generation and home renovations, as well as broad-based tax breaks for investments in . . . new environmental technologies.”

But unless Smith is able to publicly acknowledge that global warming is seriously eroding the ecosystem, any measures a Wildrose government takes will be less than successful.

Of course, she has plenty of company. Conservative Premier Alison Redford was non-committal this week on the science of global warming, saying: “Climate change is a real issue on the international stage with respect to energy production, our reputation and ability to export.” Nor did her pale response offer any observations on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Redford seems more intent on repairing Alberta’s global reputation over oilsands extraction than getting to the root cause: the processes, though improving, remain flawed.

Although the Tories acknowledged the harm of greenhouse gas emissions, their relative inaction on the problem suggests they don’t take global warming seriously.

Alberta’s negative rating, said the Suzuki Foundation’s report All Over The Map 2012, results from its rush to exploit oil and gas resources as quickly as possible — and a lack of progress on reversing emissions from road transportation.

The foundation added that the province’s “poorly implemented” anti-pollution measures will likely achieve only one-third of its pollution reduction target for 2020.

It said that “stronger leadership from the provinces is crucial given the lack of effort by the federal government on reducing global warming emissions.”

The onus is on Redford or Smith to carry out this strong commitment to the environment.

Whatever the outcome of Monday’s election, the successful party must take an aggressive stand and demonstrate to Albertans that it is serious about addressing global warming.

Smith’s fudging on the realities of global warming won’t cut it. Redford’s misplaced focus is equally unacceptable.

Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.

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