The federal candidates who spoke up during Thursday night’s GreenPac 100 Debates on the Environment were united in saying more needs to be done to combat climate change.
“Everyone believes in the issue, but everyone’s coming at it from a different angle,” reThink Green communications director David St. Georges told Sudbury.com this morning, adding that there’s plenty for voters to consider when they head out to the polls.
“It really is anybody’s game at this point,” he said.
Thursday’s online event was hosted by reThink Green and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and had all candidates in the Sudbury and Nickel Belt ridings whose parties have candidates in Parliament invited to speak about various environmental issues.
As such, People’s Party of Canada candidates Colette Methé (Sudbury) and David Hobbs (NIckel Belt), and the single independent candidate (David Popescu) were not invited to attend.
Neither Conservative candidate showed up or provided a statement, including Sudbury candidate Ian Symington and Nickel Belt candidate Charles Humphrey.
“We were surprised,” St. Georges said, adding that Conservative candidates have attended similar events in the past.
Further, he said it’s not like they didn’t have platform points to talk about, with Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole saying some positive things during that evening’s televised leaders’ debate.
“I’m sure they had reasons or other engagements, but it’s unfortunate,” he said.
Still, he added, those who did choose to show up brought unique perspectives, with the evening fittingly kicking off with Green candidate David Robinson, who is running in the Sudbury riding.
The thrust of his argument, as also expressed during past online events, was that although he’s not going to win, voting for him will send a clear message to the other parties in his swing riding that there’s a public interest in green policies.
“The question before us is, do you really believe one of the two candidates you can vote for here and get will make a difference?” he asked, referencing Liberal candidate Viviane Lapointe and NDP candidate Nadia Verrelli.
“I would like to see our government say, ‘We are going to kill the oil industry’ — kill it, not take the subsidies away.”
Various climate policies currently tabled or on the books, including the recently adopted Bill C-12, the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, all constitute “a good start,” but all “fall short,” Robinson said, adding they would have been a nice step if done 10 years ago.
Bill C-12 is the Liberals’ centrepiece when it comes to combatting climate change, and sets a net-zero emissions target for 2050 with various benchmarks along the way.
Going against the Green party line, Robinson added that Canada will be unable to get to the level of electricity production it needs without nuclear energy.
“When you vote Green, you are saying … first and foremost, let’s ramp up climate action,” he said. “That’s what the ‘X’ means.”
Fellow Green candidate Craig Gravelle is running in the Nickel Belt riding and said that the climate crisis will take decades to solve and a guaranteed livable income will be key.
“In order to do that we need to allow everyone to have … a long-term mindset,” he said. “It’s kind of hard for everyone to have a long-term mindset when everyone’s focused on paying the bills that they need to pay this month.”
Gravelle was called to work Thursday night so offered his statements in a recorded video.
NDP candidates Nadia Verrelli (Sudbury) and Andréane Chénier (Nickel Belt) said they would push to end fossil fuel subsidies, which currently total approximately $18 billion — money, they said, that could be better spent on building an entirely new green industry.
“It won’t be easy, I understand that, but if we keep subsidizing fossil fuel it will never change,” Verrelli said, also pledging to develop a national food policy and food waste strategy.
As the owner of a small farm impacted by climate change, Chénier said agriculture will play an important role in addressing environmental concerns and that the “buy local” drum needs to be beaten.
Climate change, she said, needs to be at the forefront of every government decision.
“This is not a single ministry problem, it’s a pervasive problem that requires the full engagement of government.”
The NDP candidates are also pushing for stronger accountability measures in Bill C-12 in order to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do.
Although they represent the incumbent Liberal government, neither Viviane Lapointe (Sudbury) nor Marc Serré (Nickel Belt) proposed a status-quo approach to climate change, offering that more needed to be done.
“I am not an environmental scientist, and I acknowledge that I have much to learn from the very people on this Zoom call tonight,” Lapointe said, adding this does not mean she will not be an effective, informed agent.
“I will listen to the advice of climate change activists and scientists, and I will listen to the bold ideas of young people and I will voice these loudly and clearly as your representative.”
Bill C-12 points to a number of actions the government plans on taking in the next few decades, Lapointe said, including phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Taking aim at the NDP pledge to tax the ultra-rich to pay for climate action, Serré said “No, Canada’s a rich country, we have the purchasing power, we have the budget and we’ve already committed $100 billion.”
One current gap in government action on climate thus far has been in health-related impacts, he said, adding the government needs to do more work in this area.
“It’s a climate emergency — it is the environment, but there’s a huge, huge health cost that we’re not looking at.”
A full video of Thursday night’s online event has been posted on reThink Green’s namesake Facebook page, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political matters for Sudbury.com.