Where do the five major Canadian political parties stand when it comes to the environment?

I consider myself an environmentalist, but no matter how hard I try, I am at a complete loss on who to vote for in this federal election. I can tell you who I will not vote for, or who I might vote for, but I am totally undecided.

If you are undecided as well, and the environment is an important factor for you in this election, here are some key environmental points for each party. (If you need detailed information on what a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system is and how it works, please see www.sierraclub.ca)

The Conservative Party

According to the Sierra Club, the Conservatives got a grade of F+ for their environmental policy. First, they do not plan to adopt a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.

This may sound good to many Canadians, who wants to pay more taxes?

The Conservatives plan to reduce emissions to 3% of 1990 levels by 2020, or 20% below 2006 levels by 2020. They plan to regulate industry, build greener facilities, and contribute to a Technology Fund that aims to develop emissions reduction technology. There is no certainty, with their plan, that emissions from industry will decrease.

The New Democratic Party

According to the Sierra Club, the NDP gets a B. They plan to reduce emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Their proposal also introduces Canada Environment Action Bonds to raise capital for the plan’s goals. They’ll make polluters pay for the real costs of pollution through a cap-and-trade system that rewards big polluters who reduce emissions, and punishes those who don’t. This would reduce emissions from industry 50% below current levels by 2030. They do not plan to introduce a carbon tax.

They plan to help families make the transition to a sustainable economy with a $750 million green-collar jobs fund. They plan to ensure greener homes and cities with an average of almost $1 billion a year for public transport and an energy-efficiency retrofit program.

They will also continue to fight to halt new tar-sands development until emissions are capped.

In this election, the NDP have pledged $8 billion over four years to create “green-collar” jobs and industries that includes help for the auto industry to design and produce environmentally friendly cars and trucks. Their plan would also retrain workers for “green-collar” jobs in the environmental industry and invest in research and development tax credits.

The Liberal Party

For their environmental plan, the Sierra Gub gives the Liberals a B+. They plan to reduce emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The plan is simple. They will cut taxes on income, investment and innovation, and shift those taxes to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and waste. The carbon tax will be 100% revenue-neutral. It will be monitored by the Auditor General every year to make sure that the money taken from Canadians goes towards the environment.

They will also introduce a cap-and-trade system. They plan to create new, well-paying, green jobs to boost the economy.

They also plan to have a fairer and more progressive tax system so that they can help all Canadians become part of the solution to the climate change crisis while protecting lower- and middle-income Canadians and more vulnerable Canadians from rising energy costs.

The Green Party

The Greens have the best environmental plan. According to the Sierra Club, they get an A-. They plan to lower emissions by 30% below 1990 levels by 2020.

They plan to implement a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system. The carbon tax will be applied throughout the entire economy, and will be a lot steeper than that of any other party. The cap-and-trade system plans to reduce emissions from industry to 47% from today’s levels by 2020.

They also plan to work on air quality, water protection and conservation, national parks, species at risk, toxic chemicals, zero waste, the commercial seal hunt, animal welfare, the Green Arctic strategy, and measuring and protecting Canada’s natural accounts.

The problem with the Green Party is that they don’t have much of a platform besides the environment, but if they get seats, they can make a bigger difference.

The Bloc Quebecois

According to the Sierra Club, the Bloc Quebecois gets a B. They plan to reduce emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

They do not plan to introduce a carbon tax but will introduce a cap-and-trade system. It will not be done on a national scale but instead, they will allow each province to develop its own system to meet Canada’s emissions reduction target. In this plan, provinces will be able to trade emission targets and there will be severe fines for those who don’t comply with their cap.

The Bloc also wants to abolish subsidies for the oil and gas industries.

This is how David Suzuki put it in his last newsletter: “I can’t tell you which party to vote for; I’m not even sure which one I’ll vote for! But I can say that it’s vitally important for all Canadians to put the environment at the top of the agenda in this election. That means becoming informed about the issues and the various party positions on those issues and asking the candidates some direct questions.”

It might seem like it will cost money to fix the environment, and that some of us would have to sacrifice our way of life, but that is not the case. Other countries have used carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems with great success. We would not be the first. And by setting that example for the rest of the world, we would hopefully not be the last.

If we don’t do anything for the environment now, the problems will increase to a point where we will have to do something if we want to survive, and because of the extent of the damage, by then, it will cost a lot.

A party gets $1.75 for each vote they get. If the party you vote for this time doesn’t win, it’ll get more money to finance a better campaign and have a better chance at winning next time around.

Voting for a party that’ll do something for the environment is important, because something needs to be done before it’s too late. Find out as much as you can, talk to your representatives, and always remember, every single vote counts, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. You can help make a change for a better environment, and a better world.