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Wetlands Stewardship and Climate Change

On Tuesday April 3, I spoke on a resolution addressing wetlands to discuss the role of our stewardship of wetlands in addressing climate change and the need for a great deal more research to be able to validate claims related to climate storage in wetlands. My comments are below.  Beneath my comments is a copy of the original resolution.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, just a few comments on this resolution.
      First of all, I'm pleased to note that there is strong support for looking at wetlands for plans for wetlands, that there's a recognition in this resolution, for example, that Manitoba has lost up to 70 per cent of its wetlands in southern–I think that would apply to southwestern as well as southeastern Manitoba. I think there's areas where those numbers are probably low and it may be higher, but the direct consequence of that loss of wetlands has been increased flooding, has been flooding not only of farmland but flooding of communities, flooding in many parts of Manitoba. So it is important that we are paying attention to this.
      I note that the resolution includes a recognition that there is a continuing loss of wetlands at the rate of nine acres per day, and it would seem to me that this government has been in power now for two years, that we have not seen as high a priority as we should have in this area. We have not seen the action. There's no evidence that the rate of loss of wetlands has decreased at all, and so I'm pleased that we have this resolution but I'm disappointed in the performance so far of the current government.
      I think it is important this resolution recognizes that we need to be considering agricultural areas, the prairie wetlands and we need to be considering the boreal forest. And the two are different enough that we're going to need different approaches, one in the agricultural area and a separate approach in the boreal forest. I think there is a significant potential with the right sort of planning to store significant amounts of carbon. I note that the member, in his resolution, talks about implementing a three-to-one ratio replacement policy for lost wetlands; I presume that's three acres of wetlands for every one that is lost. The member is nodding his head. And that is important that we have a plan that can actually achieve that because that is a significant goal, it's important, and we will support this resolution because it speaks to the importance of wetlands and doing a lot better stewardship than we have in the past.
      I want to note as well that being able to start counting the storage of carbon in wetlands, there are, as in other areas, there are positive effects in storing and there are negative things which could lead to loss of those stores in wetlands. And so one of the things that we need is much more activity than we have at the moment, in research, on the storage of carbons in Manitoba-based wetlands so that we can validate any claims that we have for carbon storage in moving forward.
      We also need significant research in our boreal forest because, once again, it is not just a question of storage but also of loss in terms of carbon. You know, for example, as we're all too aware that we have fires in our boreal forest, and so, on one hand, we have carbon stored in trees, and the other hand, we have carbon going up in the atmosphere with fires. And we need to know how the balance worked; we need to know how to exert proper stewardship of peat bogs and wetlands of all courses.
      And so it is vital that we have very substantial investments in research to be able to validate the approach that we're taking in terms of storage of carbon, and that validation then can then be used in whether it's getting carbon credits or offsetting. Right now, the current way we have of accounting for carbon dioxide and other nitrous oxide and methane generation doesn't adequately allow us to capture the storage of carbon. And so we need to make sure that we're moving forward in our accounting process for carbon, and so that in fact we can, if we were able to move to being carbon neutral, get credit for that and make sure that we have all the evidence to back that up.
      So, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down now so that hopefully we can have a vote on this resolution, which I think we should move forward.
      Tank you.
The Original Resolution put forward by Alan Lagimodiere
Mr. Alan Lagimodiere (Selkirk): I move, seconded by the member from Dauphin,
WHEREAS wetlands help to prevent flooding, store carbon and remove sediment, nutrients and contam­inants from waterways; and
WHEREAS wetlands contribute to safe water supplies for shallows and deep wells; and
WHEREAS wetland areas promote healthy eco­systems and biodiversity by supporting many forms of plant and animal life; and
WHEREAS Manitoba has lost up to 70% of wetlands in southern Manitoba and continues to lose wetlands at a rate of nine acres per day; and
WHEREAS other jurisdictions in North America have implemented a three to one ratio replacement policy for lost wetland areas; and
WHEREAS the Provincial Government has fully committed to reducing flooding and improving water quality and nutrient management through the Grow program; and
WHEREAS prairie wetlands in Manitoba store approximately 67 million tonnes of carbon; and
WHEREAS Manitoba's boreal region is rich in wetlands, store as much as 27.9 billion tonnes of carbon, and provide a critical habitat for species at risk such as boreal woodland caribou.
      That the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba urge the provincial government to continue to acknowl­edge the need to protect wetlands and to strive to replace damaged or lost wetland areas in order to halt their depletion and ensure the ongoing health of one of Manitoba's most essential ecosystems.

The resolution was debated for an hour.   At the end of the hour, the NDP chose to continue the debate rather than allowing a vote on the resolution.  The tradition is that if the opposition NDP supported the resolution, they would let it come to a vote.  They did not and so the presumption is that the NDP did not support it.   


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