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NDP, Libs 'ignoring BC's water crisis': report

The NDP scored just slightly better than the BC Liberals on a recent survey asking how each would protect the province's fresh water supply.

Eight environmental organizations asked each of the parties to respond to six questions on drinking water, fish habitat, water allocation rights, conservation and independent power production. The two main parties addressed only some of these concerns, said the survey's authors.

"We have real questions about whether BC's leading political parties are ready to manage our most valuable resource. By their own words, they have shown us that in many ways they don't understand the urgency of the problems we face," stated Ecojustice lawyer Randy Christensen in a press release.

The Green Party firmly supported several points that the Liberals and NDP did not; it promised to make Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines legally binding, legislate "environmental water" allocations (giving salmon and other aquatic life priority over individual water extraction licenses) and create an independent oversight body to report on watershed health.

The questions and responses can be found here. A press release summed up the parties' responses on a few key points:

BC has the worst rate of water-borne diseases in Canada, yet the Liberals do not plan to make drinking water quality standards legally binding as recommended by the World Health Organization. The NDP have made this policy change a possibility.

Neither of the two major parties committed to ensuring adequate water flows for fish and the environment through legally binding water allocations. The Green Party committed to this step.

Though BC is the only province in Canada that does not require a government license for groundwater extraction, the NDP did not commit to regulating groundwater withdrawals, while the BC Liberals did.

The report also noted that the Liberal Party does not plan to slow private power development to allow outstanding issues, while the Greens and NDP have both promised a moratorium on development until outstanding concerns - namely, a lack of public input and an inadequate environmental assessment process – are resolved.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Hook.

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