Today’s Fridays for Future event at Laurentian University found a handful of city council candidates show up to support its youth organizers’ environmental causes.
Included among their ranks were three mayoral candidates, including Miranda Rocca-Circelli, Paul Lefebvre and incumbent Mayor Brian Bigger.
“It’s amazing,” Lefebvre said of the youth-led initiative whose central organizer, teenager Sophia Mathur, was honoured in a June 15, 2021, speech he delivered in the House of Commons as Sudbury’s Liberal member of Parliament.
“These inspiring young people are leading by example, and there are so many of them in communities across our beautiful country,” he said at the time.
“Sophia's message to me and to all of us in this chamber is simple: We can lead now on these important issues, or we can get out of the way.”
Now a candidate to serve as Greater Sudbury’s mayor, Lefebvre said he’s supportive of the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP), which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, but that there should be stronger longer-term goals leading up to this objective to determine, “What’s attainable in the short term, what’s attainable in the long term.”
Although the City of Greater Sudbury’s GOVA Transit system is inching toward a fleet of electric buses, Lefebvre said they should be rolling out more quickly.
Bigger headed council during their 2019 unanimous vote in favour of declaring a climate emergency, which led to the creation of the CEEP.
“I think it’s really important to have continued leadership, and it’s clear that city council … has been committed to the environment,” he said. “Certainly, I will continue to do that.”
Bigger pledged to continue supporting the city’s CEEP goals, to do what he can to project the Laurentian University green space and to improve and electrify transit services.
“We’re continuously making investments in our own buildings, improving insulation and installing solar panels,” he said, citing panels at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex and a net-zero carbon emissions plan for the Junction East Cultural Hub as examples.
“It’s all a balancing of budgets and how fast you can go and learning from others’ experiences with technology.”
Rocca-Circelli’s platform includes eliminating salt from the city’s dust-control efforts, and pledged during today’s event to push for the creation of a committee that focuses on finding “innovative strategies and products and ways we can do things differently so we can become environmentally sustainable.”
The city’s decades-long regreening program, which recently found its 10-millionth tree planted, is a good example of what the city can accomplish when people come together in a collaborative way, she said.
Local actor Gaia Dhatt, who plays Jack in the YES Theatre/STC production Into the Woods, spoke at today’s event, encouraging people to check out the play.
“Theatre is a way to bring people together to entertain, but also to share important messages that they might not see otherwise,” she said, adding that in addition to being entertaining, the play carries an environmental message.
While today’s event saw participants dealing with some fairly heavy stuff, Mathur lightened the mood by leading everyone in a dance routine.
In addition to generalized awareness regarding the impacts of climate change, this week’s event was also aimed at furthering the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which signatories pledge “to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition.”
“The main cause of the climate emergency is fossil fuels — responsible for 86% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade,” according to the treaty.
“Phasing out fossil fuels in a manner that is not only fast, but also fair, will require unprecedented international co-operation. Despite the destructive reality of fossil fuels, there is no binding global mechanism to phase-out their production.”
Although all of today’s event participants gathered for a group photo to show their support for the treaty, including the nine politicians in attendance, Bigger told Sudbury.com it’s unlikely to go before city council until after the election.
“It’s not the time for major decisions of city council,” he said, citing a close proximity to the Oct. 24 civic election. “There needs to be more education and awareness of what that actually means for the public to get their buy-in and confidence in these types of commitments.”
That said, Bigger affirmed his commitment to bring the treaty to city council if he is re-elected.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.