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Federal Election

Political animals in Canada

Thursday, October 03, 2019 @ 2:00 PM | By Victoria Shroff


Victoria Shroff %>
Victoria Shroff
By special request from an animal law superfan, I was asked to take a wide-angle lens to the upcoming federal election in relation to needs of animals. With the Oct. 21 voting day looming, my conclusion is that concerns of animals do not appear to be a juggernaut issue or priority for any of the big four political parties, but that said, some parties do have some animal-centred policies that they have in their contemplation.

Readers of my animal law articles are well acquainted with the fact that animals are family at home and property in court, but how does this tension play out in the political system? (Please see Animals: Family at home, property at court.)

What are the animal policies of the political parties? If animals themselves could cast votes, what party would they favour to best protect and advocate for them?

Elizabeth May and the Greens have some specific promises relating to animals in their published platform. Greens would, “Adopt animal welfare legislation to prevent inhumane treatment of farm animals including in intensive factory farming operations. This will set minimum standards of treatment and have a timetable for phasing out intensive factory farming and other inhumane animal husbandry practices. It will set standards for distances live animals can be transported, and conditions for animals in slaughterhouses and auctions … to reduce and mitigate plastic waste from fishing gear that entangles and kills marine animals, by January 2021...” (Green Party website)
 
The Green Party plans to increase funding to Parks Canada, to hasten the creation of marine protected areas and new parks and to do so by 2030. It plans to bring a halt to trophy hunting throughout Canada, but will still support Indigenous subsistence hunting and hunting of other non-threatened species. It also plans to utilize scientists to implement the Species at Risk Act while increasing budgets for endangered wildlife and to up the ante on penalties for killing protected species. The Greens also promise to restore damaged ecosystems by tabulating an inventory of contaminated bodies of water and cleaning them up.
 
The Liberals’ platform lists its top three priorities as more money for the middle class, action on the climate crisis and stronger gun control. Hopefully, Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith, who has a strong track record of helping animals, will step up along with MPs Hedy Fry and Mark Holland who have also spoken up for animals in the past. But, and it’s a big but, how much do the Liberals care about animals and habitat in the face of approving projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which will disturb if not devastate local flora, fauna and people where the pipe is laid down?

The Liberal government has gained some momentum in meeting its Aichi Biodiversity targets: it pledged to protect just under 20 per cent of terrestrial area and inland waters, and 10 per cent of oceans, by next year. To their credit in the past year, we have seen some animal law strides taken by the Liberals following passage of three important bills in spring 2019 relating to cetaceans in captivity, banning of shark finning and closing bestiality loopholes. (Please see Bill C-84 win for animals, but more is needed.)

The NDP has a strong focus in its platform for the environment and it seems to subsume animal protection within that greater umbrella. Should also be noted that in the past, MPs from the NDP, Don Davies and Fin Donnelly, have worked on whale meat shipment and shark finning. MPs Peter Julian and Irene Mathyssen have also raised animal issues. MP Brian Masse assisted in dog and cat fur labeling laws. The NDP frames its environmental conservation plan through its self-styled Environmental Bill of Rights guaranteeing clean land, water and air.

These are laudable goals. The NDP is claiming it will be able to protect animals via the Species At Risk Act, without the need for amendments to the legislation. It plans to increase the Aichi targets to 2030 and to protect 30 per cent of land, oceans and freshwater.

Conservatives are apparently planning to protect fisheries and forests but they are focusing on invasive species that they think can throw forest and marine bio systems into disarray. My sense is that economic concerns would readily trump environmental or animal protection concerns. The Aichi targets they support for 2020 are the same as the Liberals. To their credit, the Conservatives supported the passing of the Liberal fisheries bill in the spring. The new Fisheries Act is supposed to protect habitat better and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will be directed to more carefully manage fisheries; i.e., fish. (Please see Free Willy bill whale of a win for cetaceans.)

The Animal Protection Party of Canada (APPC) is a minor registered political party focusing on animals and environmental concerns. It has zero seats in the House or the Senate, but has a thoroughly delineated policy about animals. As its name implies, it is about protecting animals and in fact would establish a minister for the animals who would “develop and implement policies and programs that would ultimately end their exploitation. The minister for the animals would hold an independent national inquiry to collect baseline data about animal use, abuse and deaths; bring forward recommendations to improve the status of animals; and develop a schedule to diminish and eliminate their exploitation. The APPC would recognize all ‘life’ in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The APPC would entrench the right of all human and non-human life the right to a clean and healthy environment.

“APPC is currently working on legislation designed to reduce the number of animals exploited for human purposes and to mitigate their suffering with the ultimate goal of ending all animal use and exploitation.” (Animal Protection Party website.)

If you were an animal, how would you vote in this election?

V. Victoria Shroff is one of the first and longest serving animal law practitioners in Canada. She has been practising animal law civil litigation for 20 years in Vancouver at Shroff and Associates (604-891-0209). She is also adjunct professor of law at the Peter Allard School of Law at UBC and has lectured internationally from India to Galiano Island and is frequently interviewed by media. Follow her at @shroffanimallaw or on LinkedInwww.shroffanimallaw.com.

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