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Enviros must watchdog parties and policies: UVic's Weaver

University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said the Liberal government's budget update last week was disappointing, but he doesn't regret opposing the New Democratic Party in the May election.

“It definitely wasn't an environmental budget, that was obvious,” said Weaver. “Is it throwing everything out? No. Is it an environmental budget? No.”

The budget did keep the carbon tax in place, and putting a transparent price on emissions from burning fossil fuels is the single best thing governments can do to fight climate change, Weaver said. During the election Carole James' NDP campaigned against that tax, so Weaver allowed the Liberal candidate running against her in Victoria-Beacon Hill to use a statement from him in phone messages to potential voters.

“I was very, very upset, as were many others in the environmental movement, including Tzeporah Berman, including David Suzuki, about the fact the NDP came out and attacked a policy with nothing to back it up,” said Weaver. “To see this cynical, knee-jerk, disingenuous campaign was deeply offensive to many people.”

He added, “It was not strong leadership. It was just being opportunistic. They were opposing for the sake of opposing and that is wrong.”

After the election the NDP appointed Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming as environment critic, a move Weaver said he hopes signals a new direction. Weaver said Fleming seems to understand climate change and to be committed to fighting it, as does Liberal Environment minister Barry Penner. “If they're working together to put the environment ahead of politics it would be great for B.C..”

The government can do a lot for the environment without spending much money, said Weaver. Environmentalists will be watching closely to see if new coal mines and a proposed pipeline to carry oil from Alberta's tar sands to the Pacific win approvals, he said. If approved, both projects would contribute to global warming.

“The environment is not figuring enough,” Weaver said, but added, “I would be far more concerned if they began to introduce new incentives to explore offshore oil and gas.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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