Environment draws little attention

NNSL (May 19/97) - The planet's health has drawn little attention over the first half of the federal election campaign. The first nationally televised debate, for example, drew only a single question answered by one leader last week.

When the issue does come up, however, the North often figures prominently in the answers. The TV debate saw PC Leader Jean Charest refer to the $100-million DEW Line cleanup deal with the U.S. as an example of the Liberal's disinterest.

And recent climate change studies show the Mackenzie Valley is warming at three times the global rate, while the Hudson Bay region has actually cooled.

Western Arctic Liberal incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew pointed to the DEW Line deal as proof of her government's dedication to environmental concerns, calling it a "decent beginning" but warned that their isn't enough money available to tackle much more.

Her challengers see the same subject in a different light, however. Independent Wally Firth has referred often to the DEW Line deal as a bad one for Canada and has called it the No. 1 environmental concern for Canadians.

For NDPer Mary-Beth Levan, regulation of industry, particularly mines, is a higher priority.

Climate change wasn't high on many Western Arctic candidates' list. Reformer Mike Watt and Tory Bob Dowdall both confessed to little knowledge of the subject and said they suspect more research is needed before action taken.

Nunavut's Reform representative, John Turner, shares the party's common call for more information on climate issues. He added, however, that he is worried about transboundary pollution:

"On summer days up here you can see the pollution," he said.

New Democrat Nunavut candidate Hunter Tootoo offered the most comprehensive understanding of environmental issues, and

agreed with the scientific consensus that the weather has changed in the North.

Nevertheless, he said it is a "secondary issue" to seeing the Nunavut land claim implemented properly.

Tory Okalik Eegeesiak and Liberal Nancy Karetak Lindell did not return requests for interviews.