Candidates, Media Miss The Mark On Environmental Issues In Election

Alberta Wilderness Association

News Release: November 18, 2004

Despite recent surveys indicating Albertans rank the environment among the highest of priorities,
neither the candidates themselves nor the media have addressed environmental issues in the current provincial election. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) says the inadequacy of election coverage
and candidate unwillingness or inability to respond to a recent AWA environmental survey is indicative of how an issue of central importance to Albertans is being ignored.

"As the provincial election rolls on, the environment seems to be a taboo issue," says Jason Unger, AWA Conservation Specialist. "It appears that election topics have been dictated from above and the media and the candidates can do little to change them. With little to no environmental discourse taking place this election, Albertans are heading to the polls in an environmental black hole."

AWA draws this conclusion after canvassing provincial candidates about their views on various environmental and wilderness protection issues. A 12 question survey was sent to more than 300
candidates, only 38 of whom responded. The highest number of survey returns came from the Alberta
Liberals, the Alberta Alliance and the Alberta Greens (when party-wide responses were discarded). "The large majority of candidates that did respond to the survey were in agreement with, or were neutral to, significant wilderness and environmental protection initiatives," says Vivian Pharis, of AWA's Board of Directors. "But the limited return of the survey suggests that the environment isn't being given the political attention it deserves or that Albertans expect."

Past surveys of Albertans, including the recent It's Your Future survey, have repeatedly indicated the high ranking given to environmental issues. An AWA survey conducted early in 2004 by the University of Alberta's Population Research Laboratory indicated that a majority of people would be more likely to support a party that promised additional wilderness protection (51%; with only 9% saying they would be less likely to give support).

"Environmental and wilderness issues are no longer the sole realm of the traditional environmental
non-government organization," says Unger. "The Canada West Foundation and Preston Manning, among others, have cited the environment as the next big issue. The media needs to take the bull by the horns and start discussing the environment as well."

AWA says a final push by the candidates, the public and the media may still bring attention to an important issue that underlies our quality of life as Albertans. "We'd be ecstatic if health care was discussed in a more substantive manner, in a manner that acknowledges the importance of a clean healthy environment," says Pharis. "Its up to every one of us to ensure that this discussion occurs."

For Further Information contact:

Jason Unger, AWA Conservation Specialist
Ph: (403)-283-2025

Vivian Pharis, AWA Director
Ph: (403) 932-2124