Safeguarding Canadian Wilderness: Coastlines, Forests, Freshwater, Grasslands, Oceans & Watersheds
Canada has a duty to its citizens to achieve the highest standards of environmental protection – to reduce discharges of harmful pollutants into the air, ground and water; to enhance wastewater treatment; to restore and improve water and air quality; to stop acid rain and reverse ozone depletion. These are matters of urgency.
We also have a responsibility to achieve excellence in environmental assessment and design – to ensure all construction, economic development and infrastructure projects protect local ecosystems, plants, trees and wildlife, connecting workers, residents and visitors to nature.
But one of our highest duties is to safeguard Canada’s greatest natural asset, our wilderness.
Canada has the longest ocean coastlines in the world, by far, mostly in the Arctic: measuring from 200,000 to 265,000 km in length, they represent about one-sixth of the world’s total. We have maritime zones (territorial waters plus exclusive economic zones) totaling about six million square kilometres – almost two-thirds of the land area of Canada. Canada has seven percent of the world’s freshwater. The Great Lakes represent over 40% of the world’s surface freshwater; fourteen of the world’s largest lakes by surface area are in Canada, or shared with the US.
Canada has over 31,000 lakes that are over three square kilometres in surface area – and millions that are smaller. The Hudson’s Bay drainage basin is the largest in the world located entirely within one country. The Mackenzie, Saskatchewan-Nelson, Great Lakes-St Lawrence and Yukon watersheds are also among the world’s most extensive.
About half of Canada is forested – representing the second largest treed area in the world (after Russia). These forests represent about 10% of the world’s total – and 28% of all boreal forests, in the zone ringing the earth south of the Arctic circle.
All of these areas contain an abundance of flora, fauna, land and sea creatures, vertebrates and invertebrates, birds and other animals, insects and wildlife of all kinds.
In other words, we have an absolutely unique natural endowment to safeguard, enjoy and pass on to future generations.
Today just over ten percent of Canada’s land and freshwater area is protected in national and provincial parks and other areas with environmental safeguards. Less than one percent of our marine territory is so protected. We can and should do better.
A Conservative government led by Chris Alexander would:
(i) strengthen Canada’s reputation for environmental protection in all fields;
(ii) raise federal standards for air and water pollution, and wastewater treatment;
(iii) fund infrastructure to improve Great Lakes-St Lawrence water quality;
(iv) protect 20% of Canada’s total land and freshwater areas, including in unique or sensitive watersheds;
(v) increase Canada’s total protected maritime territory to 10%;
(vi) pursue a new indigenous model for wilderness and maritime protection with First Nations, Métis and Inuit;
(vii) scale up and promote sustainable wilderness experience business models for Canadian and international visitors;
(viii) take a position of global leadership on ocean protection to safeguard fish stocks, end overfishing and reduce pollution discharged into the ocean on the high seas and elsewhere;
(ix) champion reforestation in Canada and throughout the world; and
(x) establish a global centre of excellence for detecting, preventing and regulating new pollutants, including micro-plastics, microbeads and harmful chemicals.