Grades handed out by environmental group

By Brian Flinn - Transcontinental Media
Cape Breton Post
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

HALIFAX - The Hamm government's green record took a beating and its green plan did little better Monday when the Nova Scotia Environmental Network released its pre-election survey.

The Tories scored a D-minus, the NDP got an A and the Liberals passed with a C in a report card on how the parties plan to handle 16 issues heading into the Aug. 5 vote.

Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada said John Hamm's Conservatives have paid little attention to the wishes of local communities when it it came to issues like the Digby Neck quarry and the Sydney Tar Ponds.

"The last four years have ben appalling, and without question, the worst we have ever experienced," she told more than 100 environmentalists gathered at a Halifax hotel.

Premier John Hamm said the government has tried to balance environmental interests against jobs.

Hamm did not show up himself at the report-card announcement, sending Dartmouth North candidate Jane MacKay to speak for the Tories. MacKay said the government hasn't made everyone happy in the last four years, but has made progress, such as putting solar panels on new schools.

"Would I say it's appalling? Personally no, but am I as informed as Elizabeth May? No," she said. MacKay said she hopes environmental issues will move up the Conservative priority list in a second term.

Halifax Atlantic Liberal candidate Ian MacKinnon said he was disappointed his party only got a C. He said the Liberals should get extra points for credibility, because they wrote the Environment Act and designated the province's 31 protected areas in the 1990s. He noted the province is committed to protecting 80 representative ecological zones, but the Tories did nothing to protect additional areas until a few days before calling the election, when they promised to add two more to the list. The Liberals got high marks on protected areas, but fared worse on forestry, transportation and aquaculture.

Halifax Chebucto NDP candidate Howard Epstein called both Liberal and Tory records "disgraceful." He said the best way to protect jobs is to ensure industries like the forestry and fisheries are sustainable. An NDP government would hold more full-scale environmental reviews of controversial projects.

Epstein said his party can still improve its environmental record. "I vow to you that we can and will do better," he said. MacKinnon noted that the environment was not mentioned in the NDP's seven key promises.

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