GreenPAC Election Debate Blitz Makes Climate a Local Concern

Unlike the debate by federal leaders, candidates who participated in GreenPAC’s 100 Debates for the Environment this week were able to give clear, thoughtful answers and respectful rebuttals, said the executive director of the environmental nonprofit organization.

“There was a lot of cordiality; it was a very well structured way of really listening to what the candidates had to say, “said Sarah Van Exan. Many of the questions posed by the moderators were very black and white and elicited clear answers, he added.

GreenPAC, which organized the first 100 Debates for the Environment in 2019 in partnership with Équiterre, aims to facilitate as many non-partisan debates by all candidates as possible to draw attention to environmental issues. This year’s events began on September 7 and will run through September 16 in federal districts across the country.

The debates provide voters with an opportunity to question local candidates about their climate action plans, increase public awareness of climate issues, and subsequently pressure politicians to take concrete action, said Boyd Reimer, who attended the Toronto-Danforth event.

“Human civilization is at a giant crossroads,” said the 61-year-old. “It is a decisive moment. Either we take steps to move away from the status quo or we are faced with a catastrophic situation, which would involve massive human suffering … And I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do anything about it. “

He said the most powerful moment of the debate was when the Green Party candidate Maryem tollar She was overwhelmed with excitement when she related to her youngest son asking “if we should start preparing for the apocalypse.”

Attendees and candidates addressed issues such as the link between climate change and local impacts, such as worsening food insecurity. Having a space to localize the broad topic of climate change is important, Van Exan said, and these discussions offer an opportunity to organize and follow up on important local issues once elections are decided.

So far, 62 discussions have been held and another 10 are expected to take place between September 10-16.

Debates span eight provinces, and notable candidates such as conservative environmental critic Dan Albas, liberal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Green Party leader Annamie Paul, and liberal Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson will attend GreenPAC events. in their districts.

In 2019, more than 100 GreenPAC debates took place, but this year, the time pressure of an early election in late summer, the presence of COVID-19, and the timing of religious holidays and leaders’ debates Federal authorities limited the capacity of the organizers. to configure events.

A debate for Port Moody-Coquitlam and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam had to be canceled when the two liberal candidates, Will Davis and Ron McKinnon, withdrew from the event on Tuesday. A Liberal representative cited “unforeseen circumstances” as the reason for his last minute cancellation. None of the conservative candidates responded to the invitation.

# 100DebatesfortheEnvironment put the climate at the forefront in these elections. “Human civilization is at a giant crossroads,” said one attendee. “Either we take steps to move away from the status quo or we face a catastrophic situation.” #cdnpoli # elxn44

Christina Gower, 49, was on the organizing committee along with “a hodgepodge of people trying to fight for the environment” and said the cancellation was “really sad” but not entirely surprising.

“A lot of people put in a lot of work,” Gower said. “I am deeply disappointed that the opportunity to hear from our local candidates on the environment was missed.”

Despite the challenges, Van Exan said there were many people like Gower who stepped up and did their best to make these debates happen.

“We have to take this as a sign of how deeply Canadians care about making sure they have a good understanding of the climate plans (and environmental commitments) of their candidates,” he said.

Although his leadership, Victoria, did not have a debate on the environment in this election, the critic of climate change and the environment of the NDP, Laurel Collins, said that it is great that these conversations are happening in other constituencies, and that the debate 2019 environmental policy in Victoria “was one of the most interesting and meaningful deep discussions we had in the last election … and an important opportunity for citizens to engage on this critical issue.”

“The climate crisis is putting everything we value at risk … And we need Members of Parliament (who) to act like this is the emergency that it is,” Collins said.

GreenPAC is still collecting data on how many candidates from each party attended and the number of viewers who tuned in, but an advantage of hosting the debates online is already being revealed.

In downtown Ottawa, 150 people attended the Zoom debate, but 380 people have watched the event live on Facebook since then for a total of 530 views.

“If we can get 72 recordings that people can watch when they have time to listen carefully and think about how that affects their vote, that’s an important resource for the public … and a resource that really becomes a tool for accountability in the future, “said Van Exan.

You can watch the debates here as the videos are uploaded in the next few days.

The North Okanagan-Shuswap riding debate is scheduled for tonight, and Kristine Wickner, 35, said she looks forward to asking the liberal candidate about his climate platform.

Living in a conservative stronghold, Wickner said her vote will likely go to the NDP or the Green Party because liberals and conservatives’ market-dependent, incremental climate plans are not what she thinks Canadians need.

On Reimer’s trip, the Conservative candidate did not participate, saying that anyone with children should not vote for the Conservatives because their children will have to deal with the inevitable consequences.

“I don’t even have children,” Reimer said. But I have a heart. And I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed the scientific reality of climate change to create a catastrophic situation and create all that human suffering. “

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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