Conservation, Wildlife, and Animal Welfare

As Greens, how we treat our planet and its inhabitants reflect our fundamental values. 
As a Green MLA, I will fight to push those values into provincial decisions and lend my voice to those who have none.

An Endangered Species Act for B.C.
Currently, our conservation efforts here in B.C. are woefully inadequate, and reflect a last-century mindset towards resource extraction and the environment. Our current provincial Wildlife Act is too weak — B.C. has the greatest biodiversity in the country, yet we have no stand-alone law to protect endangered wildlife. Along with Alberta, B.C. stands alone as the only province without an Endangered Species Act. Limited federal protection applies to only 210 of the approximately 1900 species of flora and fauna at risk in our province. As MLA I will join biologists, ecologists, and environmentalists in calling for an Endangered Species Act for B.C.

In our province, interference from industry has weakened protection for species at risk, while habitat destruction and irresponsible resource extraction has led us to the point that we are struggling to protect critically threatened populations like the Southern Selkirk caribou herd.

The price for our mismanagement of the South Selkirk? Wolf packs in the area will be slaughtered by aerial gunning, neck snares and poison. The caribou survival is far from guaranteed though, as their herbivorous diet destroyed by logging won’t recover anytime soon. A failure on all counts, that deserves a more proactive method of wildlife management and environmental stewardship.

Compassionate Conservation
As MLA, I will champion the emerging school of wildlife and habitat management known as Compassionate Conservation — ostensibly a program that offers less cruelty and more protection to wildlife than our practices currently afford. Compassionate Conservation recognizes the value of animals beyond just resources to exploit or control, as well as our own role in climate change and habitat destruction.

In British Columbia, eco-tourism has far greater revenue generating potential than trophy hunting, yet the latter continues in the form of the annual grizzly bear hunt despite its relatively negligible economic benefits. There exists a reasonable economic argument to support enhancing our conservation efforts in support of the billion-dollar eco-tourism. Rather than our current direction of decreasing the number of conservation officers, an updated conservation service could provide good opportunities for stewardship employment, particularly in First Nations communities.

Environmental protection must include wildlife
British Columbians might be shocked to learn that when we talk about “made-in-BC-solutions” and “world class spill response” in the context of proposed pipelines, oiled wildlife aren’t considered. In fact, there is no clearly defined legal fiscal responsibility for oiled wildlife response in British Columbia. Furthermore, we don’t have the response capacity, funding or facilities. Any oiled wildlife rescue would be completely downloaded to private rehabilitators. Resource extractors must consider wildlife in any official disaster response planning.

Mounting evidence is pointing to the indiscriminate use of pesticides in agriculture as the cause for massive bee colony collapse. I believe that B.C. needs to follow Ontario’s example and take a much more proactive approach to the issue of neonicotinoids impact on wild bee and pollinator populations.

The Five Freedoms
British Columbia has done a reasonably good job of updating its Animal Cruelty legislation in recent years (The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) — we still have a ways to go, and these things do take time. As MLA I will offer support to industry and animal welfare advocates in continuing to update and improve the National Farm Animal Care Council codes.

Concerning animal welfare, I fundamentally support the “Five Freedoms” as a foundation for care of animals under human control.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
3. Freedom from distress
4. Freedom from discomfort
5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.

 

Photo: iStock