A newly elected Manitoba NDP government doesn’t necessarily mean good outcomes for the environment, an Indigenous climate advocate says.

Continued pressure will be needed to keep the NDP honest and accountable with their environmental platforms, said Daniel Gladu Kanu, director of the Lake Winnipeg Indigenous Collective, an organization working to restore Lake Winnipeg through an Indigenous framework.

Kanu is pushing for the party to refine its 15-point environmental platform, which he says lacks detail, specifically on climate policies. The Progressive Conservatives had run a negative campaign that ceded both the environment and reconciliation to the NDP, “so much so that the NDP didn’t really have to speak to it,” he explained.

“They really could just run on the fact that people assumed they would do a better job on the environment and reconciliation,” he added.

Ultimately, the NDP’s campaign centred on health care and affordability, leaving unanswered questions about climate.

Health care, one of the key campaign messages in the election for the NDP, had over 50 bullet points with precise details about the government’s plans. For example, the NDP promised to build three new emergency rooms in Winnipeg and rehire 300 nurses who had lost their jobs under the previous government.

In comparison, some key NDP environment pledges include:

  • Working towards net-zero commitments.
  • Building more EV charging stations.
  • Providing rebates for new and used EVs and plug-in hybrids. 
  • Improving Lake Winnipeg’s health and protecting it for future generations.
  • Partnering with Indigenous communities to conserve at least 30 per cent of Manitoba’s lands and waters by 2030.
  • Restoring funding to environmental organizations cut by the PCs in 2020 and working with them to fight climate change.

Kanu said there are also indications the party is not prepared to sacrifice business interests for climate and conservation. For example, the NDP said they would push through with the province’s Critical Minerals Strategy. They also promised to temporarily freeze utility rates and pause a 14-cent-per-litre fee at the pumps as part of their affordability measure.

This was part of their strategy to court the centrist voters in the province who had constantly criticized previous NDP governments, Kanu said.

Kanu said he hopes the province is also willing to work with Indigenous communities to repair the trust that was broken after seven years under Progressive Conservative leadership. Engagement was absent during those years, Kanu said, and he hopes Indigenous Nations can be more involved in resource development, developing protected areas and implementing the Path to Reconciliation Act. The provincial auditor general had slammed the previous government for inaction on the latter last year.

He acknowledged this will be even more difficult given that Kinew is the first-ever First Nations premier of a province.

“I think it’s also going to be a challenge of appearing to be fair while people expect him to do more for Indigenous Peoples,” he said.

However, Kanu is optimistic the NDP will work in good faith to restore Lake Winnipeg, which has been plagued by algae blooms caused by increased phosphorus levels.

He also expects Kinew’s government to pursue legislation to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, similar to what the NDP government in British Columbia passed in 2019.

Engagement on climate and development should be a priority, he said. Departments can begin that work without legislation, and citizens and nations can apply pressure for change.

“People do have to just keep holding governments accountable,” Kanu said.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing a government that will be more friendly to the environment not being held to that standard.”

Matteo Cimellaro / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer 

By Matteo Cimellaro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 10, 2023 at 16:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Canada's National Observer   Ottawa, Ontario
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