Federal candidates face-off on climate
The Collingwood Climate Action Team hosted one of 100 Debates on the Environment Oct. 3 inviting candidates to answer specific questions on the topic of the climate.
It was part of an initiative spearheaded by GreenPAC, a non-partisan, non-profit organization working to elect and support environmental leaders of all major parties running for office. Their mission is to make the environment an issue that no party and no candidate can ignore by organizing more than 100 inclusive, politically neutral, and environment-focused all-candidates debates in communities across Canada, all on the same night.
The debate took a very strict format outlawing displays of partisanship, clapping and jeering.
Conservative candidate Terry Dowdall “respectfully declined to attend,” said moderator Penny Skelton, of Rogers TV. He indicated he would answer questions on the environment at other debates.
In attendance were Liberal Lorne Kenney, Green Sherri Jackson, New Democrat Ilona Matthews, and Richard Sommer, representing the People’s Party of Canada.
Organizers say 105 ridings held debates on Oct. 3 with the cross-Canada stats showing participation from 39 per cent of Conservative candidates, 41 per cent of PPC candidates, 79 per cent of New Democrats, 96 per cent of Liberals and 96 per cent of Greens.
Sommer chose to participate with only an hour to prepare having just filed on the Monday. The rest of the candidates were provided the questions in advance.
There was a capacity crowd of 175 people at the Collingwood Leisure Time Club, with 25 to 30 people being turned away.
The debates are intended to create a forum where voters can hear directly from candidates about their visions for the environment, create accountability for elected leaders and spur meaningful government action towards a sustainable future.
The same four national level questions were asked at each debate, along with four local questions before the candidates fielded questions from the audience, submitted on cards throughout the debate.
The Liberals, Greens and NDP were in agreement of many environmental topics with the exception of the Trans Mountain pipeline and fracking. The latter two candidates, Jackson and Matthews, called into question the Liberals’ choices during their time in office. For the most part they agreed that we are facing a climate crisis and action must be taken, all except the PPC candidate.
It was a tough audience for Sommer who said his party is “respectful of the environment” but stood by his party’s position that climate change is real but that there isn’t sufficient proof it is caused by humans. His party’s platform includes exiting the Paris Accord, and it does not support carbon taxation.
Kenney maintained the Liberals have done more than any other party in history on climate change.
Themes throughout the debate included conservation of farmland and fresh water, transportation and infrastructure for electric vehicles, banning pesticides, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people was also a theme with Jackson saying the Green Party’s approach would be to consult with them on healing the planet, and defer to their knowledge.
Kenney said the Liberals have done more for the Indigenous people than any other party in history and that they have a plan to ensure all communities have safe drinking water by 2021.
Jackson rebutted saying that is unacceptable, that it needs to happen now and there are interim measures that could have been used.
“This debate is a critical step in creating the change we need,” said Skelton in her closing remarks.
She said the debate would be televised on Rogers at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14 and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16
Lorne Kenney, Liberal
In his intro, Kenney said we are in “climate chaos,” and “this kind of conversation is the only way to move forward.”
His party is focusing on adaptive measures and funding for people already being displaced by “planet change.”
Richard Sommer, People’s Party
“We are all here because we love Canada,” said Sommer. He spoke about preserving the country by limiting immigration.
His party is committed to increasing safety by way of vigorous testing before chemicals are used in food production.
“Plastics have been a disaster for our country and worse for developing countries,” he said.
Sherri Jackson, Green Party
“I believe climate change is real. I believe science… We promised to protect [the next generation] and they will never forgive us if we don’t,” said Jackson, of the Green Party.
Green plan is to reduce emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and get to net zero by 2050.
Greens have developed a transit strategy using high speed trains, light rail and e-buses as part of a plan to phase out combustible engines by 2030.
Ilona Matthews, DNP
“New Democrats are in it for you,” said Matthews.
She called on the end of fracking, the creation of jobs in green energy and tougher government regulations, saying, “We cannot leave it up to industry. They cannot police themselves.”
The NDP would create a national water strategy to stop the exporting of water in plastic bottles.They are also calling for food labeling to include all ingredients.