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This article was published 16/10/2015 (2443 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Greg Selinger says his government will introduce legislation that would "enshrine environmental rights" in all provincial decisions.
With noted Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki at his side Friday, the premier said the government’s goal is to view future development initiatives through an environmental lens.
"You are going to see legislation that will enshrine environmental rights as part of our way of doing business in Manitoba as a provincial government," he told a news conference.
"That will guide all of our policy decisions. That will inform everything we do from infrastructure investments to water and sewer to how we handle greenhouse gas emissions."
Selinger said the proposed legislation — which he promised to table before next April’s general election — is comparable to human rights law. "It becomes a backdrop to everything you do."
The premier also announced that the province would spend $400,000 over the next two years to help establish a new Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg. The centre, announced earlier this year, is a partnership between the university and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Its goal is to provide information to government and the private sector on how to battle climate change and deal with its effects.
Selinger also announced that Manitoba would become the first province to sign on to the Blue Dot Declaration, an effort promoted by the David Suzuki Foundation that seeks to enshrine the rights of Canadians to a healthy environment in the constitution.
So far, 89 communities — including the cities of Montreal and Vancouver — encompassing more than seven million Canadians have signed the declaration.
Suzuki, who received an honourary degree from the University of Winnipeg earlier in the day, joked that he was disappointed Manitoba had beat his native British Columbia in joining the effort.
"If you recognize that our health is dependent on clean air, clean water, clean soil and we enshrine that in the constitution, it means that the burden is no longer on the victim to prove that (industrial) plant is harming my health," he said. "Now the burden is on the developers that want to start a new development to show it doesn’t in any way impinge on the air, the water, the soil that are critical to our health. The proof is on them."
Selinger provided few details about his proposed legislation, saying it has yet to be drafted. He noted that Ontario has had environmental rights legislation since 1993.
The premier said Manitoba will examine best practices there and in other jurisdictions to come up with something that "makes sense for Manitoba."
He said embracing the Blue Dot Declaration gives Manitoba a "clear focus in the future to ensure that present and future generations have access to clean water, clean air, healthy food and an environment that sustains life in this province."
The premier said that while Manitoba already has "strict guidelines on air and water quality and food security, the new legislation he’s touting would ensure that these measures are enshrined in law.
Meanwhile, University of Winnipeg president Annette Trimbee said the new climate centre would become a "one-stop shop" for municipalities, business and others to better prepare for climate change.
"This new centre will provide well-researched maps and models that you can trust, data with real-life climate change projections that people can use," Trimbee said. "There is nothing like it on the Prairies and we need it on the Prairies."