By Amber Cowie

Cynics may describe the months leading up to an election as the “silly season” but it is also the ideal time to push political parties to clarify their position on the environment.

As in the past, the Green Prosperity Initiative, a coalition of leading conservation organizations that includes Ontario Nature, released its green priorities for political parties to respond to. The coalition is calling on the Progressive Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties to protect Ontario’s ecological assets and work toward building a robust, green economy in which environmental protection becomes a competitive advantage in the domestic and international marketplace.

Created in 2008, the Green Prosperity Initiative meets once a year to identify and refine priorities that the 21 member groups share. After careful deliberation, those conservation concerns are presented to each political party to reinforce the importance of protecting Ontario’s waterways, reducing pollutants in the air, conserving forests, wetlands and watersheds, encouraging the production and distribution of local food, and protecting and rehabilitating significant habitat and ecosystems.

Says Anne Bell, Ontario Nature’s senior director of conservation and education, “Through the Green Prosperity Initiative, environmental groups across the province have identified seven priority issues. In anticipation of the 2011 election, we are asking all political parties to commit to taking action on these issues. We will also be reaching out to voters to raise awareness of what is at stake.”

The green priorities of the initiative focus on seven key targets:

  1. Remove the cap on the production of renewable energy, which currently limits green energy to 13 percent of the overall energy supply; 50 percent of our energy comes from nuclear power.
  2. Promote clean manufacturing to reduce pollution.
  3. Reduce traffic congestion by supporting public transit and other transportation options.
  4. Create a Great Lakes Act that recognizes the ecological importance of the Great Lakes.
  5. Strengthen and protect the provincial government’s Greenbelt and Foodland initiatives for southern Ontario
  6. Protect Ontario’s boreal forests through planning that reduces industrial encroachment.
  7. Help farmers and landowners safeguard and expand habitat for Ontario’s endangered plants and animals.

The other members of the Green Prosperity Initiative are the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, the Citizens Environment Alliance, the Conservation Council of Ontario, the David Suzuki Foundation, Earthroots, Ecojustice, Environment North, Environmental Defence, Forest Ethics, Great Lakes United, Greenpeace, Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), Local Food Plus, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, the Pembina Institute, the Sierra Club Ontario, the Toronto Environmental Alliance, and the Wildlands League.