Liberal McKay Letter on Environment

Letter to the Editor: Harper government failing to protect our natural heritage
By Hon. John McKay M.P., Liberal Party Environment Critic
February 19, 2014

Canadians in every part of the country take great pride in the awe-inspiring wilderness and landscapes that comprise the Canadian outdoors. For many of us, taking our children camping in a national park or taking them on their first canoe trip is a rite of passage. For many of us, the cottage isnít just a place to unwind from the hassle of work, but a place to get perspective, to spend real time with family and friends.  It is part of who we are as a people and it is a key part of our national identity.

If you agree, then the latest Report by the Canadian Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability, released in the fall, will come as a shock.

In every category Ė forests, lakes & rivers, wetlands, marine ecosystems, coastal ecosystems, grasslands and ice ecosystems Ė the Commissioner says Canadaís natural areas are threatened. The Harper government is ignoring federal laws that protect the places and wildlife Canadians care about. In short, our environment is under threat because of the governmentís apathy.

Weíre not just talking about the real threat posed by climate change, weíre talking about actual species and places in our country that are in jeopardy right now. 70% of wildlife areas and 50% of migratory bird sanctuaries lack proper stewardship. 84% of recovery plans for species at risk are behind legally mandated schedules.

This means, if you are a hunter or an angler, the species you rely on are increasingly under threat. If you are a cottager, you can no longer count on the ecological health and integrity of the natural space where you vacation. If you live in one of Canadaís many rural communities, then your own backyard is at risk.

The saddest part is that there are solutions that have proven successful in the past. For example, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) which was put in place by Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, has resulted in a dramatic recovery of threatened bird species.

According to the Commissionerís assessment of the success of the NAWMP, cooperation among hunters, ranchers, Aboriginal Peoples, conservation groups, and the government is the key to a winning strategy that can be deployed to protect all aspects of wildlife and nature. Groups like Ducks Unlimited have shown that this strategy works.

When it comes to protecting species, wetlands, and the places we care about, all it takes is for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government to step up, take the issue seriously, and do something about it.

I recently was blessed with grandchildren. I want to be able to teach them to fish, to catch frogs at the cottage and to swim in clean rivers and lakes. Itís part of who we are as Canadians.

If you agree, write or call your local Member of Parliament and insist that indifference and laziness toward to environmental protection isnít good enough. Thatís not what we, the citizens, expect of them and itís not what we, the taxpayers, pay them to do.  

John McKay is the Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Guildwood, Ontario, and the Liberal Party Environment Critic

Link to the Environment Commissionerís Report:

Graphic from the Commissionerís report: