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A blueprint for turning green

Province wants public's thoughts on environmental plan

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Perhaps you bike to work, make a practice of lowering the thermostat and always remember to bag your groceries in cloth reusable bags. Perhaps you fear our lakes aren't so pristine. Perhaps you think the economy trumps the environment every time.

Wherever you sit on the issue, this is a crucial time for Manitoba.

That's the message Premier Greg Selinger's NDP government wants to drive home in a new green plan for the province. Right now, it's short on specifics. It's intended to be a wish list to trigger public feedback.

Entitled Tomorrow Now, the 54-page strategic environmental plan was released in June. The deadline for comment is Oct. 31.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh led a forum earlier this week to outline the highlights of a plan designed to turn the province's economy into a lean green machine.

"The goal is to make Manitoba one of the most sustainable places to live on earth," he told a packed room of environmental critics.

Reviews were generally positive, with critics urging public response.

"As the deadline for public (comment) to the green plan draws near, it's a pivotal moment for Manitobans to express themselves on how to create a healthy future for our province," Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said in a statement before the forum.

The province's leading environmental umbrella group, the Manitoba Eco-Network, mounted a co-ordinated response to the plan, a measure of the gravity of the issue, executive director Kristine Koster said.

The network created five working groups, one for each of the plan's priorities. Volunteers logged hundreds of hours, giving up weekends and evenings to craft responses.

To cap off their efforts, the environmental network hosted this week's forum.

The plan's overall goal is to protect the environment, restore damaged ecosystems such as Lake Winnipeg and launch the province on a new course with a green economy.

Probably the most concrete concept is a new environmental act, likely to roll out before the end of this year.

"It really sets the foundation of where we have to go... in our province," Mackintosh said. The province is coy about details, but there's a lot to be gleaned from a look at the document.

Don't expect carbon taxes or carbon tax credits right away. Do expect a law to make polluters pay. That includes greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases for Manitoba is where we're going," Mackintosh said. "We're going to usher that in as the foundation for building a strategy for our climate-change policy."

Mackintosh said putting the province into the green will take time -- it's an eight-year plan. And it will take co-ordination -- among municipalities, the province, Ottawa, not to mention the private sector, the north, aboriginal, urban and rural populations.

That's not even looking at turning political polar opposites -- the environment and the economy -- into loyal partners.

 

 

See the plan here.

Also, an environmental petition that takes Ottawa to task for not doing more to protect national endangered species such as polar bears, woodland caribou and humpback whales can be found at ecojustice.ca .

 

Environmental advocates react to the province's Green Plan at a Manitoba Eco-Network forum in Winnipeg earlier this week:

"It wouldn't destroy the economy to remove the payroll tax and put in a carbon tax."

-- Peter Miller

 

 

"You guys want to protect the environment? Well, that's us and a lot of the time, we're excluded. I'm an aboriginal woman and I want ensure the grassroots people have a voice."

-- Shavon Sinclair, Hollow Water Kookums

 

"Not only should you be consulted, it's the law. This plan will only proceed with success if we have aboriginal engagement... We have to recognize and I don't think people have grasped this yet, the impact (on government) with First Nations. We're looking at partnerships like we've never seen before."

-- Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh

 

"We're looking at the plan and there's some skepticism... The way to eliminate that is to put in timelines. There are zero timelines in this document."

-- Eric Reder, Wilderness Committee

 

"They're talking about Lake Winnipeg being at a tipping point and we get it, most of us who have been volunteering our time. But we're getting to the age where there's not much left in us. They're literally burning us out and the knowledge we have can't be replaced. We know that the artificial way we manage our surface-water drainage has reached the point of no return. We're flushing our fields into the lake."

-- Cheryl Kennedy Courcelles

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2012 ??65520

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Updated on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM CDT: adds fact box

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