Candidates face-off in debate on environment
Three federal election candidates squared off Wednesday evening during the 100 Debates on the Environment for Simcoe-Grey organized by environmental groups in Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, Town of the Blue Mountains and Alliston.
It has turned out to be the only debate during this campaign period and had more than 200 registrants. Organizers expressed disappointment that incumbent Conservative Terry Dowdall declined to participate, as he did during the 2019 debate.
Local candidates from four parties were invited to participate and three “accepted with enthusiasm” – Liberal Bren Munro, NDP Lucas Gillies and Nick Clayton, with the Green Party.
Organizers were told due to the short notice of the election Dowdall’s schedule did not allow him to attend.
“We tried to encourage him to attend but to no avail,” said host Catherine Daw, with the Collingwood Climate Action Team. “As the sitting member of parliament, it is most unfortunate that Terry Dowdall would choose not to take the time to address the important environmental issues that we, his constituents, care about.”
“We, as the sponsors of this event, believe the need to turn our attention and efforts toward making a sustainable, healthy and viable future for everyone is the essential and urgent issue of our times. The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) has most recently been very definitive that humans are the creators of what we are starting to visibly experience all around us. It means that the time is now and it is only in the hands of us humans to fix,” said Daw. “It is incumbent on us, as citizens and voters to use our voices through the democratic process, to give direction to government and our MP representative.”
The debate, moderated by Penny Skelton, a Collingwood Rogers Cable TV show host and lifelong resident of Collingwood, covered many topics ranging from emissions targets, to greening the economy, toxins and pollutants, protecting fresh water, the housing crisis, and truth and reconciliation. Some questions were crafted by organizers and some were compiled out of the many audience questions submitted in advance.
All parties agreed that climate action should not be considered a partisan issue and that collaboration is needed to shift away from fossil fuels and cool global warming.
Skelton asked candidates, how constituents can help the federal government to be effective in working on climate issues.
“If you believe in political solutions like I do, government intervention is essential to addressing this crisis,” said Clayton.
“I would love to hand my time over to [Dowdall] to have him answer your question but he has declined to participate so, he is not taking this seriously,” said Clayton. “The majority of the voters in this riding voted for either NDP, Liberal and Green in the last election. The majority of the voters did not vote for Conservatives. There is a large portion of the population in this county who want climate action, they want action on the environment and your MP is ignoring them.”
Gillies said, “It’s important to remember that democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box, you do have to continuously engage with your MP, reach out and let him know what you are thinking,”
“Democracy only works if we’re all taking part,” he said. “The number one thing you can do for climate action is to vote for the NDP. If you send me to Ottawa I will shake up the political establishment and tip the scales in favour of people and the planet. So, stay engaged and keep your political leaders accountable.”
Munro encouraged people to organize, saying politicians do listen to special interest groups.
“Many different people can come together and create change it just takes the will of the people,” she said.
To close, Munro said, “We’re talking about our future by protecting our environment, our health. This should not be a partisan issue and I would gladly work across the aisle to make progress. In the transition to net zero we must consider any and all technologies that will cut pollution and create jobs. When you check the facts you will see that the Liberal platform on climate is the strongest of all parties. The people that I speak to in this riding know that I take climate issues very seriously and I will work hard with them on solutions. Only the Liberals know how to do both, protect the environment and grow the economy.”
In his final remarks, Gillies said he is a paramedic and he decided to run so he could stand up for health care workers at a time when they need it the most.
“Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have been incredible advocates for the environment and for First Nations people to the point where two days ago David Suzuki officially endorsed the NDP, and that is saying something,” said Gillies. “If you look at the NDP platform, it is incredibly bold, almost on par with the Green Party,” referencing job creation, home retrofits, carbon-free electricity, protecting land and water… orange is the new green.”
“Respectfully, Lucas, green is the green is always the green,” said Clayton… “And respectfully, the Liberals need to be the ones, if they are going to be serious about it, to develop a no-carbon economy. A climate action plan and growing the economy at the same time is not the same as a Green New Deal, it’s not the same as creating a zero carbon economy.
He said not a single greenhouse gas production target that has been set by the revolving Liberal and Conservative governments has been met, largely due to the oil sands extraction which are the cause of a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
“As a consequence, Canada is the only country in the G7 where emissions have continued to rise since 2016 so I’m not surprised that the [other] parties… are setting targets that are ineffectual… The only party that has always treated the climate crisis as a crisis is the Green Party.”
The debate will be posted on YouTube. Watch for the link on the Collingwood Climate Action Team’s Facebook page.