Sierra Club gives N.S. failing grades |
Province's environmental record one of worst in country, group says
By Brian Underhill / Ottawa Bureau
Ottawa - The Hamm government can shed its image as an environmental failure by
releasing a strong pre-election green plan as previously promised, Sierra Club
of Canada executive director Elizabeth May said Wednesday.
Nova Scotia's environmental record is being deemed one of the worst in Canada
after the province received an F for its commitment to biodiversity, an F for
toxic waste pollution and a C for climate change.
Only Alberta and B.C., which got all Fs, were ranked lower.
The failing marks were outlined in the Sierra Club's 11th annual Rio Report
Card, which rates the performance of federal and provincial governments using
data gathered in conjunction with 30 other organizations.
Nationally, the federal government was given credit for ratifying the Kyoto
accord and creating 10 new national parks, and some provinces, like Quebec and
New Brunswick, were applauded for gains in wilderness protection.
However, Nova Scotia is singled out for its "appalling" record on marine
environment issues, issuing permits for a massive basalt quarry on Digby Neck,
and stonewalling on the health risks to Cape Breton communities surrounding
toxic waste sites.
May said the grade is "provisional" and could be changed to a passing mark if
the province cleans up its act by tabling its promised economic blueprint.
"If that green plan includes significant interim protection . . . to the key
protected areas we mention in the report card . . . that would improve Mr.
Hamm's grade and we would reissue the report card," she said.
Those areas include a ban on oil and gas exploration within 100 kilometres of
the Nova Scotia shoreline, the proper cleanup of toxic sites and the creation
of a buffer zone around the Gully - a subsea canyon off Sable Island that
contains rare marine life.
Ms. May is cautiously optimistic because a number of other premiers have
recently "spruced up their records" as they headed into an election campaign.
"In looking for trends, it appears that death-bed conversions are good for the
environment," she said. "Let's hope the same phenomenon strikes soon for . . .
The F for biodiversity is because the Hamm government has not created any new
protected wilderness areas on public lands and for its failure to bring forward
nature reserves legislation, the reports states.
To reverse this failing grade would require action on demands for new protected
areas including Eigg Mountain-James River, Gully Lake, Herring Cove Backlands,
Five Bridge Lakes, Ship Harbour Long Lake, Nictaux River, Humes River and
The report is also critical of the growing use of off-road ATVs, which are
described as a menace to their users, a waste of fossil fuel and damaging to
On the pollution front (where the province got an F for the third year in a
row), the report says things have gone from bad to worse. The Hamm government
is criticized for refusing to acknowledge health risks to communities
surrounding the toxic waste sites and dismissing studies that document
extremely elevated cancer risks in these neighbourhoods.
The only positive seen in terms of toxic substances was Halifax's pesticide
The province's best grade was the C for climate change. The government is given
credit for supporting the Kyoto accord as well as Clean Nova Scotia's energy
The report also points out that the provincial utility has brought two wind
generators on line and converted some electricity production to natural gas.
However, the province is slammed for continuing to burn coal in its electricity
plants, while shipping cleaner-burning natural gas to the U.S.