Sustainable Cobourg has solicited responses on sustainability issues from candidates for municipal, provincial and federal office in previous elections, which have been posted on our website and made available to local citizens. Sustainable Cobourg would like to understand the position of the current roster of candidates for the October 19, 2015 federal election on some sustainability issues that face all of us.

The questions were compiled with participation of the committees of Sustainable Cobourg and input from the Suzuki Foundation.

Sustainable Cobourg acknowledges that this is a very busy period for the candidates and is very grateful for their participation, on behalf of our organization and the citizens of Northumberland-Peterborough South. The responses are listed in alphabetical order. The Conservative candidate did not respond to our letters and is therefore not included.

Sustainable Cobourg is a citizens advocacy group, formed in 2008, which seeks to advance the public’s understanding of the environmental and sustainability issues as well as participating in and organizing local environmental projects. For more information about our group, please go to


We recognize that transportation is primarily a provincial responsibility. However, the federal government can influence behaviour in this area using tools such as tax incentives. Would you encourage bicycle commuting by providing tax incentives to employers that provide secure bike parking, change rooms and showers for their employees?

Russ Christianson/NDP: As an avid cyclist, I fully support bicycle commuting, safe bike lanes, and bike racks.  All levels of government and employers can play a role in encouraging more bicycle use.  The NDP does not have your suggested tax incentive in its policy; however, it is a good idea.  It would be worthwhile to work with the municipal and provincial governments (and employers) to implement a comprehensive bicycle commuting strategy.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: I think that is a great idea and something I would absolutely want to explore as MP. I would aim to work with our MPP to look at making this a joint effort.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: I would encourage active transportation by building designated cycling lanes and providing secure bike parking in public places. In addition, I would encourage municipal planning that considers pedestrians as well as cyclists rather than just building large parking lots for cars. Providing tax incentives to employers that provide bike parking, change rooms and showers for employees is a worthwhile initiative that I would support. By the way, I served 5 years on the Steering Committee for the Port Hope Community Health Centre that opened its doors in 2008; that facility was planned with bike parking, a change room and staff shower included to encourage active transportation.


There is a considerable amount of data to show that head injuries are significantly reduced in crashes when cyclists are wearing a helmet. Would your government show its support for cycling safety by eliminating the GST on bicycle helmets?

Russ Christianson/NDP: Wearing a bicycle helmet is an essential safety practice.  Again, the NDP would encourage people to cycle safely, and while we are not offering a tax credit for the purchase of bicycle helmets, it may be considered (matching the Ontario PST deduction), as part of a larger strategy to encourage more people to cycle.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: I would certainly want to follow in the footsteps of my provincial colleagues, who made the push to remove the PST on bike helmets back in 2007. I think we have an obligation to encourage safety wherever possible.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: Eliminating the GST on safety devices such as bicycle helmets is a good idea which I would support. I would also support the wearing of helmets by all cyclists, not just those under 18 years of age.


Do you believe Canada should join more than 110 nations in recognizing the right to live in a healthy environment by amending Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Russ Christianson/NDP: New Democrats believe all Canadians have the right to a clean and healthy environment.
That’s why the NDP has introduced legislation to this effect in last two Parliaments.
An NDP government will re-introduce similar legislation to protect the environment and meet our climate change commitments.  It’s important for all Canadians as it will establish, for the first time, the primacy of basic environmental principles in federal law:

  • Requiring the federal government to take action to protect Canadians’ right to a healthy environment.
  • Ensuring access to environmental information and the right for the public to participate in decisions related to the environment.
  • Expanding the right to compel federal government investigations of environmental offences, and to bring environmental offences to the courts.
  • Ensuring accountability by giving Canadians the right to take the federal government to court for failing to enforce its own environmental laws, and;
  • Provide whistleblower protection for employees.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: I am not against this concept, however it is a major undertaking to open up Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Anything in this vein would have to be done in consort with the full support of the provinces.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: The right to live in a healthy environment should be enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms; this is part of the Green Party platform.


Canadians subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $1.3 billion per year despite the fact that the industry is in a downturn, which has destabilized our economy. Will you end these subsidies and encourage a transition to a clean-tech economy? If so, how?

Russ Christianson/NDP: We have committed to put an end to subsidies for oil and gas.  We’ll use this money to invest in ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Conservatives promised to do this but broke their commitment and invested millions of taxpayer dollars in lobbying for oil companies internationally and at home.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: One of our major platform pieces is the investments in green infrastructure, which would put $600 million over three years into clean technology jobs. It is clear that Canada needs to be making major investments in the “green-tech” sector to secure real, long-term, full-time jobs.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: Fossil fuel subsidies will be ended by the Green Party so that these funds can be used to encourage small business entrepreneurs, researchers and manufacturers to develop and build clean technology, creating good jobs here in Canada.


Federal governments have supported big agribusiness through subsidies to transportation, marketing boards and trade deals thereby favouring trade and profit over biodiversity, sustainability and healthy food, better distributed in Canada. What does your party propose to encourage local, healthy food production, renewed local food processing and secure futures for farm families?

Russ Christianson/NDP: The NDP has a comprehensive food strategy (“Everybody Eats”) that connects Canadians from farm to fork. In co-operation with the provinces and territories, our food strategy will bring an integrated approach to federal policy to connect agriculture, rural development, environment, health and income security. We will improve access to healthy food for every Canadian, ensure sustainable agricultural communities and resources, and promote Canadian food here at home and around the world.
The NDP’s comprehensive food strategy was developed based on extensive consultations that included local food policy councils, farmers, dieticians, food security organizations, Indigenous organizations, and other civil society stakeholders. We will work with these same stakeholders, in addition to provinces and territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities, in implementing our vision from coast to coast to coast.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: My goal will be to support innovative agricultural opportunities such as the Northumberland Agri-Food Venture Centre. I firmly believe such initiatives are the future of local, sustainable agricultural opportunities.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: The Green Party will shift government supported research away from biotechnology and energy-intensive farming towards organic and sustainable food production. Tens of thousands of family farms over the past 20 years have voluntarily adopted more efficient farming practices that are healthier for humans and the environment; these have proven to be successful. A new food processing facility was recently opened in Cobourg; this facility can be rented by small producers on an as-needed basis to create value-added products as crops ripen. The Green Party will also fund community supported agriculture, farmers’ market, small scale farms, wineries and microbreweries.


According to information from Food Secure Canada, 75% of seeds sold commercially in Canada are controlled by 10 companies and are proprietary, meaning farmers are not permitted to save or share seeds and are vulnerable to litigation. Many Canadians think this monopolization of the seed supply is a troubling situation. Would your party propose policies that promote diversity of production and support for small-scale organic farming of fruits and vegetables and humane treatment of farm animals?

Russ Christianson/NDP: We will protect Canada’s agricultural biodiversity by:

  • Ensuring access to timely compensation for farmers complying with the Species at Risk Act.
  • Protect Canada’s heritage seeds and breeds.
  • Ensure that plant varieties remain in the public domain following the expiration of plant breeders’ rights.

We will ensure that risks and rewards throughout the supply chain are spread more fairly:

  • Monitor and prevent anti-competitive behaviour and monopolistic practices in the agri-business supply sector.
  • Support the development of new seed varieties, including through public plant breeding, that provide direct economic benefits to farmers.
  • Put in place a variety registration system that ensures that seed meets farmers’ needs for quality, reliability and agronomic performance under local conditions across Canada.
  • Ensure that economic costs and benefits are included as a factor in new regulatory approvals for GM seeds.

We will make strategic investments to help farmers develop local and regional markets:

  • Work with other levels of government to build farmer and retail networks so Canadian produce makes it to store shelves–such as through local Agricultural Councils working to put local produce in grocery stores by building direct linkages between farmers and major chains.
  • Look at supporting co-operative models for achieving better marketing and producer security, such as renewal of the Cooperative Development Initiative (CDI).
  • Support and promote mechanisms that ensure that more profits reach farmers through direct sales–such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives and other social enterprises, and reducing barriers to farm-gate transactions.
  • Support consumer choice for fresh, seasonal produce Work with regions and municipalities to support initiatives like food hubs to actively manage the aggregation, distribution and marketing of food products from local and regional producers to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.
  • Work with producers to promote a better understanding of food miles and ensure better transparency around the origin of products.
  • Work with municipalities and provinces to understand opportunities and barriers to urban agriculture.

We will promote the welfare of farm animals by:

  • Providing sustained funding to the National Farm Animal Care Council for the development and continued revision of Codes of Practice for animal agriculture industries.
  • Ensuring that industry has the capacity to meet standards of care and to adopt best practices as elaborated in National Farm Animal Care Council Codes of Practice.
  • Working with industry and stakeholders to update the Health of Animals Regulations to align them with welfare standards in other developed countries and provide for improved care and welfare of animals during transportation.

Kim Rudd/Liberal: This is something I would certainly look into with our party’s Minister of Agriculture, should we be successful after October 19th, and I commit to bringing this to their attention within the first 100 days of taking office.

Patricia Sinnott/Green Party: Interference by global corporations in Canada’s economy is a concern for Green MPs. Free trade deals that compromise Canada’s sovereignty need to be reviewed. Proprietary seed control is an example of global control by large multi-national corporations that is unacceptable. The Green Party will promote diversity of production and support small-scale organic farming of fruits and vegetables and humane treatment of farm animals.