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2008 Election Primer

UPDATE, October 6:  All but one party has submitted responses to our primer.  Read their answers here.

Where do candidates stand on wilderness conservation?

Environment is a top election issue. Protecting Canada’s wilderness is one of the most important steps government can take to safeguard the world’s biodiversity and shield against the impacts of global warming.  

So far, less than 10% of Canada’s land and less than 1% of our waters are protected from industrial development. That’s not nearly enough!

If you’re concerned, ask the candidates:
Will YOU commit to protecting more of Canada’s wilderness?
Will YOU take steps to …

  • Protect at least half of Canada’s land and water?
  • Conserve our Boreal forests?
  • Save our oceans and great freshwater lakes? 

Here’s how the federal government can become a world leader in wilderness conservation:

Endorse the vision of protecting at least half of Canada’s wilderness

The federal government can set the goal that Canada will protect at least half of our wild lands and waters, and work with other levels of government to make that happen.

The need to protect at least half of Canada’s wilderness is endorsed by a growing number of organizations, businesses and citizens. More than 1,500 international scientists have called on Canada to protect at least half of our Boreal forest. Ontario has committed to protecting at least half of its northern Boreal forest because of its importance in responding to climate change. 

A public invitation to endorse The Big Wild vision of protecting at least half of Canada’s wilderness was launched on,  co-founded by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and Mountain Equipment Co-op, in May 2008. Over 10,000 people have already added their voices in support of it. Governments need to sign on too.


  • Do you support the vision of protecting at least half of Canada’s public land and water?

Protect endangered species in the Boreal Forest

Woodland caribou are listed as “at risk” of extinction across Canada’s Boreal forest under the federal Species At Risk Act. By protecting their Boreal habitat, we’ll also save at least half of the world’s greatest remaining forest, and one of its most important stores of carbon. 

The federal government is responsible for creating a strategy to protect the irreplaceable stretches of Boreal forest where woodland caribou still thrive. In fact, according to the Species At Risk Act’s requirements, the Boreal caribou recovery strategy is long overdue. The federal government has drafted a strategy. It’s time to get it out for public review. 


  • Will you commit to protecting the Boreal caribou’s habitat as required under the Species At Risk Act?

Protect the carbon stored in Canada’s forests

Vast amounts of carbon are stored in Canada’s forests and wetlands.  Protecting these areas keeps carbon locked up.  Logging and burning natural forests to produce “bio-energy” releases stored carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. 

Protecting forests is an important way to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.  

The Federal government can do its part by saying no to large-scale forest bio-energy projects. It can also agree that Canada will count emissions from industrial activities in forests and wetlands under the new rules for the Kyoto Protocol.


  • Will you commit to taking measures to protect wilderness as part Canada’s climate change strategy? For example, Will you say no to logging forests for energy?
  • Will you ensure that Canada is accountable internationally for  emissions from the destruction of our forests?

Pick up the pace on national parks creation

Canada’s national parks protect some of our most spectacular wilderness areas.  The federal government has identified prime locations to establish new national parks from coast to coast to coast, but decades later, many of these areas remain unprotected. 

It’s time to pick up the pace on establishing national parks. To start, the federal government can move immediately to finalize the expanded boundaries of Nahanni National Park Reserve – a threatened World Heritage Site – to protect the whole watershed. 


  • Will you make new parks establishment a priority, starting by completing the expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve? 

Create a network of marine conservation areas

Canada has a rich marine natural heritage that spans the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling are threatening these natural riches, including colourful groves of deep sea corals. 

The federal government has powerful legal tools to create marine protected areas (MPAs). It has committed under the Convention on Biological Diversity to establishing a MPA network by 2012.  By 2008 only seven MPAs have been created.  The federal government needs an accelerated timetable to get a full MPA network in place.

There are areas that are ripe for establishing marine conservation areas but little action has been taken. These areas include the southwest coast of Newfoundland, the waters of Gwaii Haanas off British Columbia, Northern Lake Superior, and the Southern Strait of Georgia.


  • Will you accelerate progress in establishing a marine protected areas network?

The North

Canada’s North has some of the world’s largest remaining stretches of wilderness.  Yet it is the part of Canada that will change most dramatically as the climate warms – putting native species that have survived for millennia under growing duress. Meanwhile the pressure to start new mega-size industrial projects like the Mackenzie Gas Project is mounting.  

The federal government has a huge opportunity in the Northwest Territories to work with local First Nations to protect large wilderness areas – critical to help wildlife and humans respond to climate change – before industrial projects are allowed to proceed.


  • Will you work with other organizations in the Northwest Territories to fully implement a plan for land use, including protected area, before allowing major industrial developments like the Mackenzie Gas Project to proceed?


Created by CPAWS
Canada’s voice for wilderness protection
506-250 City Centre Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
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