Election 2020: Kootenay East


Our climate crisis needs immediate action. BC can be a leader in climate action with our vast renewable resources, but so far our actions haven’t reduced carbon emissions at all over nearly two decades.

Question: What concrete steps would you and your party take to reduce carbon emissions in British Columbia within your term in government?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – no response provided

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

In addition to the important work underway by the party I have been involved in the fight against climate change for many years. 

As Regional Manager for BC Environment for the Kootenays I worked with Alberta and Montana as part of the Crown Manager’s Partnership to include the Climate Crisis in our International Workshops. 

As Mayor of Cranbrook we began replacing our street lighting with LEDs and worked on upgrading the energy efficiency of our buildings. 

As Member of Parliament for Kootenay Columbia, I participated in Youth – organized (so proud of our youth!) Climate Action marches in Cranbrook, Golden and Nelson. As Vice-Chair of Canada’s House of Common’s Environment and Sustainable Development Committee we held hearings, called witnesses , and prepared two reports related to the climate crisis: Clean Growth and Climate Change: How Canada Can Lead Internationally and Clean Growth and Climate Change in Canada: Forestry, Agriculture and Waste. These reports were tabled in Parliament for government’s response. 

Fighting Climate Change means moving to a green economy, which means thousands of new jobs making buildings more efficient and increasing the % of renewable resources in electricity, heat and transportation ( Solar energy, Geo-thermal energy and Bio-fuels particularly for Kootenay East ) through local ownership and initiatives. First Nations are leaders in this area – in 2018, 125 out of 203 First Nations in BC were involved in local energy projects including the Ktunaxa, who were using waste wood to create energy at aq’am. 

Whenever I made speeches on Climate Change I always emphasized that while government must take a leadership role we all have a part to play. We need to ask ourselves how we can change our behaviours to reduce our carbon footprint, including our youth. Families should have discussions about what they can do and every business should sit down with their employees and talk about what they can do. It will take all of us working together to make a difference for climate. 

Incidentally, the last report we tabled in Parliament was: The Last Straw: Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution in Canada which helped lead to the ban on single use plastics announced this week by the Liberal government.

If re-elected, the BC NDP commits to the following actions in our platform to reduce emissions: 

● CleanBC, launched in 2018, is our plan to move British Columbia towards a clean-energy economy and future that drastically cuts the harmful emissions causing climate change. CleanBC was created by our BC NDP government in partnership with Dr. Andrew Weaver and is the leading climate action plan in North America. As part of – and adding to – CleanBC, John Horgan and the NDP will: 

● Commit BC to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050: CleanBC currently sets a target of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030. To complete the task, we will pass legislation requiring BC to reach net-zero by 2050 – meaning there are either no harmful carbon emissions or they are offset by natural carbon sinks, carbon capture or other technologies. 

● Require greener buildings: We are already requiring new buildings and retrofits to be more energy efficient and cleaner – every new building constructed in BC must be net-zero ready by 2032. We will take the next step by empowering local governments to set their own carbon pollution performance standards for new buildings. And we will require realtors to provide energy efficiency information on listed homes to incent energy-saving upgrades and let purchasers know what energy bills they will face. 

● We will spur more energy-efficiency upgrades with programs and incentives for both residential and commercial buildings – including PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing that allows homeowners to take out loans for efficiency upgrades and pay them back over time through annual property taxes. 

● With heavy vehicles being a large and growing source of harmful emissions, it’s essential we move now to green-up BC industrial transportation. We will expand CleanBC’s SUVI program to get more trucks, buses, ports, airports, and marine vessels off fossil fuels. And we will accelerate the move towards a provincial fleet powered by electrification, hydrogen fuel cell technologies, and other zero-emissions technologies.. 

● Ramp up CleanBC’s industrial emissions strategy: We’ll provide additional funding for our CleanBC industrial emissions strategy so that more mines, pulp mills, oil and gas processing plants, and other industrial facilities can reduce harmful emissions and move to cleaner operations. 

● We will make electric vehicles more affordable for more people: We’ll provide a new income-tested incentive on new and used zero-emission vehicles to get more people into the electric vehicle rebate program, regardless of their income. 

● Increasing public vehicle charging availability: We will expand home and workplace charging through increased incentives and ‘right-to-charge’ legislation that gets charging infrastructure into more strata and apartment buildings. 

● Making e-bikes more affordable: To help more people make the switch to active transportation, we will remove the PST on e-bikes 

● Employ best-in-the-world emission detection: To make sure our reduction goals are being met, we’ll employ world-leading regulations and technologies to detect and reduce harmful methane emissions

Greens: Kerri Wall

The BC Greens know the science is clear: without massive and immediate changes to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, we are committing to a terrifying future for our children and future generations. The Greens plan includes committing to be carbon neutral by 2045 (matching California’s target), setting sectoral targets to make sure industry is contributing their fair share to emissions reductions, and immediately ending oil and gas subsidies and re-directing that money towards spurring innovation & helping us meet our climate commitments. 


Old growth forests in British Columbia are vital to maintaining healthy ecosystems and protecting threatened and endangered wildlife populations, including mountain caribou. After months of consultation with the public and professional foresters and biologists, the recent old growth report, A New Future for Old Forests, made 14 recommendations for recovering old growth forests across British Columbia.

A recent poll shows British Columbians are strongly in favour of stopping old growth logging, including setting aside old growth logging in forests where biological diversity is at high risk, strengthen laws and policies to protect old growth, and establish ecosystem health as the top priority in forestry planning. 

Question: According to the recently released independent report A New Future for Old Forests, old growth forests in British Columbia are disappearing at an alarming rate. How would you suggest that the Province take action to maintain and recover old growth forests?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – no response provided

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

I am very pleased to see the inclusion of the Incomappleux Valley (40,194 ha) included in the announcement for deferral, a spectacular area just south of Glacier National Park, and want to thank the many people in the environmental community who helped shine a spotlight on its significance. 

There are other areas of old growth in the Kootenays that need protection, and as your MLA I would immediately ask for public input into recommendations under the Special Tree Protection Regulation. 

We need both healthy old growth forests and a healthy timber industry in Kootenay East. 

A re-elected BC NDP government is committed to working in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, labour, industry, and environmental groups and we will implement recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review to protect further old-growth stands – in addition to the 353,000 hectares we protected in September. 

With nearly 300 million trees planted in 2020 – more than in any other year in BC’s history – we’ll continue to make significant investments in forest health, wildfire protection, silviculture, and revitalizing our forests. 

Greens: Kerri Wall

The BC Greens plan for forestry includes protecting our remaining high-value old growth forests forever. This needs to be a legislated commitment. This proposed legislation must establish the conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of BC’s forests as an overarching priority. We need to commit ongoing funding to support the preservation of our old growth forests. We also need to quickly shift to managing our forests holistically, taking into account ALL of the values they hold in terms of watersheds, habitat for biodiversity, Indigenous unceded territories, etc. Forests are a public resource; we can’t let private corporations determine the future of this essential service. 


B.C. currently does not have legislation which protects fish, wildlife and habitat on a meaningful scale. While industry has some certainty on the landscape, fish, wildlife and habitat values remain at best a patchwork across British Columbia which has resulted in broad scale declines. BC needs legislated objectives to ensure equal footing for our mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, fish and wildlife. While species are going extinct across the world and we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, British Columbia is still without Endangered Species legislation. 

The East Kootenay is one of the most important corridors on the continent for the health and survival of wildlife populations on an international scale. The present government has begun implementing recent recommendations regarding wildlife crossings and the Hwy 3 corridor, yet more needs to be done. 


In order to recover BC’s Wildlife populations, would you support new, dedicated legislation that will protect fish, wildlife, and habitat and provide funding for recovery for species in decline? Would you support Endangered Species legislation for British Columbia?

Would you support and advocate for the completion of the recommendations in the Hwy 3 Wildlife and Transportation report within the coming five years?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – same answer provided by BC Liberals on behalf of all four Liberal candidates in Kootenay East, Kootenay West, Nelson-Creston, and Columbia River-Revelstoke

British Columbia is home to an exceedingly diverse range of species and habitats – some of the most incredible in Canada and the world. BC Liberals understand that our wildlife and their natural environments must be protected for future generations – we owe it to our kids to make sure that we leave B.C. better than we found it. We must act to enhance fish and wildlife populations, for the benefit of our ecosystem and all British Columbians who love and depend on our great outdoors. 

Earlier this year John Horgan and the NDP cut the Ministry of Environment budget by $4.6 million. This comes at a time when we face significant challenges: invasive species, the protection of wetlands, conservation challenges, and more. These challenges can and will be met by the BC Liberals. 

That’s why our platform contains several priority measures to address these complex issues. If elected, our government will implement wetland protection, and expansion where feasible, to ensure no net loss of wetlands in B.C. and take more aggressive control of invasive species in B.C. lakes and habitat. We will also ensure hunting and other wildlife fees are used to fund enhancement of our wild spaces and wildlife populations. In addition, we will adopt robust salmon and steelhead conservation measures before it’s too late to save these iconic species and accelerate reforestation programs with priority to high-value fish-impact watershed reclamation. 

Our approach involves working with federal, municipal and First Nations partners, as well as outdoor recreation and conservancy organizations, to ensure the ongoing restoration of wildlife populations.

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

This is an interesting question that requires much more discussion. As a former Regional Manager responsible for Fish, Wildlife, Ecosystems and BC Parks for the Kootenays I know that we have a lot of work to do to bring wildlife populations back to where they were when I was Manager. This includes improvement of Ungulate Winter Ranges, a program with incentives to remove wildlife exclusion fencing, ensuring that the predator population is healthy but not excessive in numbers, and having as much control as possible at the local level for hunting and fishing regulations. 

As Member of Parliament and Vice Chair of the House of Commons Environment and Sustainable Development Committee I looked at bringing the Federal Endangered Species legislation before the Committee with the intention of improving it. The challenge was that HoC Committees are made up of MPS from the 3 “recognized parties” and there were some MPs who would like to see the Federal Act weakened. 

We would need to look closely at what is the best way forward to protect fish, wildlife and habitat and recover endangered species in BC, a new provincial act or a better federal act? I also believe that, because the environment is so important to who we are, we should look at legislation that guarantees British Columbians the right to a healthy environment modelled on legislation that is already in place in some countries around the world. We also need to look closely at Hwy #3 to establish fencing and overpasses/underpasses for wildlife in key areas to ensure the safe movement of both animals and people. 

While in government, the BC NDP also took significant steps to protect the natural heritage British Columbians are so proud of. We responded to immediate priorities including the protection of grizzly bears, old-growth trees, and critical salmon populations. 

John Horgan and the BC NDP is proud that BC is the most biologically diverse province in Canada. We are dedicated to protecting and recovering endangered species. The BC NDP government welcomed the announcement from Canada that they are evaluating the federal Species at Risk legislation. Prior to the election, the BC NDP government was working collaboratively with Canada to inform this review, and ensure it aligned with BC’s efforts to protect and recover species at risk and biodiversity. A re-elected BC NDP government will continue this important work.

Greens: Kerri Wall

I absolutely support, and will continue to support, new & dedicated legislation that will protect fish, wildlife, and habitat and provide funding for the recovery of species in decline. Additionally, I fully support a BC Endangered Species Act as well as the completion of the recommendations in the Hwy 3 Wildlife & Transportation Report within the coming five years. One of the 6 core principles of the international Green Parties is ‘Respect for Diversity’. Another one is ‘Ecological Wisdom’. These principles mean a lot to me and help guide my work as a Green Party member because humans are an integral part of the global earth system we rely on, and despite our advanced brains we do not have any more inherent value than any other species. Our problem is that we think we do and we act with entitled superiority. Let’s shift that.

Garth Lenz / ILCp


The Elk Valley coal mines are responsible for a water pollution problem that stretches for hundreds of kilometres downstream, though B.C., Montana, Idaho and even back into B.C. at Creston. While the mines themselves are major direct carbon emitters, the total carbon emissions from Elk Valley coal, including end use in steelmaking, are more than all of the rest of the emissions from across the province. Steelmaking without coal is already possible and we can’t afford to keep burning coal for steel if we want to avoid the worst of climate change. 

Question: How would you and your party support the Elk Valley in making the transition from coal mining to a sustainable economy that isn’t based on fossil fuel export, i.e. sending coal overseas? How would you deal with the growing legacy of water pollution from coal mining that is expected to flow for many centuries?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – same answer provided by BC Liberals on behalf of all four Liberal candidates in Kootenay East, Kootenay West, Nelson-Creston, and Columbia River-Revelstoke

The BC Liberals are committed to world-leading environmental protection. Clean water is a vital to maintaining a healthy province and rebuilding B.C.’s economy. BC Liberals have a long and deep commitment to promoting healthy watersheds, sustainable ecosystems, and thriving communities supported by responsible resource development. As a cabinet minister, Andrew Wilkinson helped pass B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act and supported hundreds of millions of funding for initiatives to protect B.C.’s water. As well, in 2016, under our BC Liberal government we introduced amendments to the Environmental Management Act that enshrined the polluter pay principle into legislation. 

With the responsibility of environmental protection comes the opportunity to sustainably develop natural resources such as liquefied natural gas, mining and forestry. British Columbians across our province depend on our natural environment for not only their recreation, but also their jobs. In order to ensure B.C. continues to benefit from this industry, we are committed to continuing to ensuring regulations are efficient while maintaining high health, safety and environmental standards.

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

We certainly can’t go back to some of the disasters we saw under former BC Liberal governments where we, the taxpayers, ended up paying for trying to contain or mitigate the environmental impacts. The principle of polluter’s pay must be enshrined in our legislation, and financial bonds can be an important part of meeting that principle. 

Even more important though, is ensuring that our mining regulations encourage mining while respecting the environment. This means on-going restoration of disturbed sites, not leaving it to the mine’s end-of-life. It means the companies investing in clean water today, as we see with Teck’s initiatives to reduce (eliminate) the amount of selenium going ultimately into our world – class Elk River. 

When I was Regional Manager for the Kootenays with BC Environment one of the roles of my Ecosystem staff was to work with mining companies to ensure that their mining practices were as environmentally responsible as possible. I think government needs to help mining companies know what to do from an environmental perspective and then ensure that they follow through on doing it. 

The BC NDP and I are committed to making polluters pay for clean-up of abandoned projects. We’ll make sure owners of large industrial projects are bonded moving forward, so that they – and not BC taxpayers – pay the full cost of environmental cleanup if their projects are abandoned. 

Greens: Kerri Wall

We need to immediately shift to provide options for workers to take on meaningful, well-paying jobs that are clean and sustainable. A low-carbon economy can create countless opportunities for good jobs; we just haven’t yet had the urgency or the imagination to develop them. Our society is currently based on people trading their time & energy for money in an economy based on jobs. When some of those jobs are in industries that are destroying humanity’s future, it’s time to re-think the job economy. The Green Party has long advocated for a basic income, and now that we are in a pandemic, interest in UBI is increasing. A UBI could be necessary during a worker transition, because we need a just transition where nobody is left behind. The BC Greens plan for clean, sustainable jobs includes establishing a $500 million fund to support sustainable jobs.

With regard to our selenium-poisoned rivers, Teck is working on water treatment plants as we speak. I think corporate polluters like Teck need to be held accountable for the damage they have done to ecosystems and they need to commit to restoration and remediation efforts. Additionally, the government is also at fault for this situation because legislation and enforcement have been weak and lacking, so the government must also take responsibility for supporting ongoing clean up efforts. The clean up must continue and cannot be dependent on elections or political cycles.

Protected areas

Given the urgency to stem a global biodiversity crisis, the federal government has committed to protecting 25% of Canada’s lands and waters by 2025 and 30% by 2030. BC needs to increase its protected areas to help with threatened ecosystems and wildlife populations under threat of extirpation or even extinction. 

Question: Do you agree with the need for additional protected areas to maintain healthy ecosystems? Are there specific areas in your riding that you will work to protect to help meet nationally-set targets for the protection of nature?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – same answer provided by BC Liberals on behalf of all four Liberal candidates in Kootenay East, Kootenay West, Nelson-Creston, and Columbia River-Revelstoke

British Columbia is world renowned for its unique and diverse environmental features. An essential part of that is B.C.’s vast parks and protected areas system. As British Columbians learned this summer during the pandemic – our parks and protected areas are critically important as we navigate our new normal and stay close to home. 

Earlier this year John Horgan’s NDP Budget cut the funding of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy by $4.6 million, including significant cuts to the Environmental Protection, Environmental Sustainability, BC Parks, and Conservative Officer Services. By comparison, Andrew Wilkinson supported millions of dollars of investment for campsite and park expansion. Under the BC Liberals, 84 new parks were established as well 156 new conservancies, two new ecological reserves, and 13 new protected areas. We also expanded more than 75 parks, six ecological reserves, and four protected areas. 

Parks, protected areas and public access to the backcountry will be prioritized under BC Liberal government. We are excited to share our commitments with you soon. 

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

I managed the Provincial Parks of the Kootenays for almost two decades. As Member of Parliament I helped author a report through the Environment and Sustainable Development Committee called Taking Action Today: Establishing Protected Areas for Canada’s Future, and I was the NDP Critic for National Parks. I believe in protected areas and the important role that they play in protecting our ecosystems, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation and tourism and contributing to our economy. 

There are a number of different ways of moving the 25 by 25 and 30 by 30 protection objective forward, as there are a number of ways to achieve protection including: national parks, provincial parks, municipal parks, protection of private land, habitat protection areas, Indigenous protected areas (it was great to see that Jumbo will finally be protected as Qat’ muk, an Indigenous protected area, an initiative that I worked on with the Federal Minister of Environment) and other special designations. I am very interested in hearing from the people of Kootenay East on their views on what additional areas should be considered for protection and what form that protection should take. 

As MLA for Kootenay East, I would like to hold discussions with my constituents to see what additional areas in Kootenay East should be protected and how best to do that. We live in one of the most amazing areas in the world and we all have an interest and a personal investment in ensuring that continues. 

We agree with the need for additional protected areas to maintain a healthy ecosystem and a re-elected BC NDP government will expand BC’s popular provincial parks by creating new campgrounds, trails, and protected areas while increasing funding to improve infrastructure and protect park ecosystems. 

Greens: Kerri Wall

Yes, I absolutely agree with the need for additional protected areas to maintain healthy ecosystems. As a public health professional, my areas of expertise lie outside of the natural sciences, so I cannot pin-point specific areas of Kootenay East that I will work to protect but I value and depend on the views and data of scientists and experts like those at Wildsight and elsewhere to guide evidence-based decision making in this area. 

Sustainable communities

With communities in crisis from the effects of climate change, we need to position British Columbia for a future facing greater ecological threats than ever before. We need to proactively plan for the impacts of climate change, while implementing sustainable practices within our province to lessen the harm we are doing to our planet, including an economic transition from unsustainable industry practices.

Question: What actions will you take to ensure our province is resilient moving forward, and enacts policies critical to the health of our ecosystems? How would you help our resource industry communities transition to find sustainable economic futures?

Liberals: Tom Shypitka – same answer provided by BC Liberals on behalf of all four Liberal candidates in Kootenay East, Kootenay West, Nelson-Creston, and Columbia River-Revelstoke

Climate change represents an immense challenge to our planet. That is why the BC Liberals were the first party in Canada to introduce a price on carbon. Andrew and our party have long and deep commitments to fighting climate change and healthy ecosystems. A BC Liberal government led by Andrew Wilkinson will re-establish BC as a global climate leader as we work to revitalize the natural resource sector. 

On October 2, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced our plan to bring jobs and confidence back to rural communities. Some of our key commitments include reviewing critical natural resource laws and policies to eliminate uncertainty, provide clarity on processes and decision-making criteria, and adopt outcome-based performance measures. We will also pursue resource benefit-sharing to support small and rural communities. Furthermore, we will ensure certainty on the land base for industries, municipalities, and Indigenous peoples by working with Indigenous communities and other key groups to review land use plans for gaps and conflict-points, with the intent to update, modernize, and create certainty for all in a sustainable resource management framework. 

NDP: Wayne Stetski 

The Kootenay East Riding is the sunniest area of British Columbia and we are well-positioned to grow the solar energy industry. We also have a real opportunity to invest in geo-thermal energy production. Local production of renewable energy is climate friendly and creates local jobs. 

When I was Mayor of Cranbrook I had preliminary discussions with Darrel Jones, BC President of Save-on-foods, to discuss the possibility of expanding greenhouse operations in Kootenay East and selling produce directly to their stores. He was very interested. Growing more food locally is carbon friendly, creates jobs (just look at the success of our local Farmer’s Markets!), and is essential to our long-term food security. 

As I stated earlier, retrofitting older buildings and building new energy efficient buildings creates jobs, as does building bio-energy plants that utilize waste products and turns them into energy. 

Ensuring all of Kootenay East has access to high speed internet to encourage home business development is carbon friendly and provides safe, secure work environments which are important now, with the Covid pandemic, and into the future. 

The College of the Rockies is already a leader in providing training for the trades and some university credited courses and degrees. It can help in the transition of skills towards a green economy future. 

The key to transitioning to a new economy is that it is a planned transition over time, with the objective being good paying jobs and a well trained workforce to meet the needs of the future. 

CleanBC is our road map to a sustainable future. The shift we’re making to an economy that puts the public good first will benefit all parts of the province. Working together with communities, resource industries, First Nations, and workers, we can revitalize resource communities, get more value from our resources, and create a path to a better future. Some measures we are taking to transition communities include: 

Maximizing government support for workers and communities: We will establish a new Worker Training & Job Opportunity Office to maximize the impact of our Economic Recovery Plan for workers and communities during COVID-19 and beyond – with a focus on retraining workers, supporting resource communities facing job loss, developing higher value goods, and accessing new global markets and opportunities for BC products. 

Public projects should benefit local workers and their communities. So wherever possible, we will attach our Community Benefits Agreement (CBAs) to projects launched through the Recovery Investment Fund. Through CBAs, we’re providing good jobs, fair wages, and skills training to qualified local workers –particularly those who have traditionally been under-represented in the workforce.

Through the strategic investment fund announced as part of our recovery plan, we will make targeted investments in high-potential, innovative businesses based in BC.

Greens: Kerri Wall

I have answered part of this question above, about transitioning resource industries in the mining question. People have a hard time thinking about climate change, taking actions to fight climate change, and otherwise taking action for a better future when they are mired in the problems of making ends meet today. By looking at the current linked crises related to housing, poverty, the climate emergency, COVID-19, racism, and equity all together, we see that an intersectional approach is useful. When people are better connected to their communities, have accessible and affordable childcare & housing, and have a secure income, they are healthier and more resilient and able to think beyond their own survival needs. We will be able to meet the global challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity when we are able to meet our real human needs for security and connection. I commit to using a wide perspective that takes into account the inter-locked challenges and using a multi-solving approach. 

Header image: Lyle Grisedale