When Coquitlam resident Warren Wilkinson first saw the notice pop up in his inbox, he had no idea he would be leading the first environment and climate change debate of its kind in the history of the Tri-Cities.
But having helped organize a climate change town-hall meeting earlier, he thought, “Why not?”
By the end of September, residents had snatched up the 136 tickets available for the Oct. 9 debate at Douglas College that has morphed into a two-riding (Port Moody-Coquitlam and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam) affair.
“We sold out before we even had time to print the posters,” Wilkinson told The Tri-City News.
Across the country, people have flooded scores of theatres, community centres and schools looking to take part in the debates.
“The uptake is far beyond what we expected,” said Sabrina Bowman, executive director of Greenpac, the Ontario-based non-profit that sparked the series of debates. “In one way, it was a big experiment.”
As the environment and climate change move up on the list of voters’ priorities, the organization wanted to provide a non-partisan space to debate the issues. Everything from energy efficiency and green jobs to Indigenous participation and a transition to a society less reliant on fossil fuels were put on the table. In the end, Greenpac sent out four questions to local organizers across the country touching on water, pollution, climate change and the conservation of wilderness areas.
The majority of the 100-plus environmental debates were held in each of Canada’s 10 provinces last week. Early reporting suggests crowd attendance was high, particularly in suburban areas. As for candidates, participation ranged from 96% to 100% among Liberal, NDP and Green candidates to 39% for Conservative and People’s Party of Canada candidates, said Bowman.
Bowman said it has been a huge success when one considers that debate around the environment has been buried during past election cycles.
“We’re hoping for a nuanced, hopeful discussion,” she said. “Whoever we pick for the next four years is going to have a huge impact on the environment.”
What: Tri-Cities Environment Debate
Where: Douglas College, David Lam campus (Coquitlam), 1250 Pinetree Way, Room A1470
When: 7 to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
The debate will be divided into two halves, with the first half reserved for candidates to answer four questions suggested by Greenpac (see questions below). During a break, members of the audience will have an opportunity to submit questions on slips of paper, which will be collated and presented to the candidates based on audience popularity.
If you don’t have a ticket, don’t fret. The Tri-City News will provide full coverage of the night.
QUESTIONS TO EXPECT:
Around the world, we are seeing inspiring examples of leadership to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and accelerate the shift to a green economy. At the same time, we are seeing a ramp-up of the effects of climate change, and the scientific consensus is that we have little more than a decade to turn things around. We see extreme weather events across the country, including wildfires, flooding and droughts. These are causing anxiety and worry, given their enormous financial and environmental impact. Per person, Canadians produce the most GHG pollution of all G20 industrialized nations – nearly three times the G20 average and over twenty tonnes per person.
What are the key elements of an action plan that you will advocate for to ensure Canada meets its international obligations to reduce GHG pollution?
Many Canadians know that our country has the longest coastline in the world. Less well known is that Canada is home to roughly half of the world’s lakes and roughly 10% of the world’s wetlands.
Canada is seeing the impact that industrial development and climate change is having on our water resources. We are seeing the re-emergence of pollution hotspots, like Lake Erie. And the Insurance Bureau of Canada notes that since the 1970s there has been a massive 250% increase in natural disasters, including floods and droughts, that are likely related to climate change.
What can the federal government do to work with different sectors like municipalities and farmers to reduce both water pollution, and the risk of flood events which have been aggravated by industrial development and climate change?
When asked about what they love most about our country, Canadians often point to natural beauty, wildlife and spectacular wilderness areas. Yet we are falling below our international commitments to protect these spaces, and our parks and other protected areas are not funded at the level needed to conserve the diverse plants and animals that live there. A recent study shows that 50% of Canadian wildlife species are in decline.
Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians value the emotional and physical benefits of spending time in nature. However, 82% say that they’re concerned that future generations won’t have close or easy access to nature.
What will you do to protect the quality and quantity of wilderness in Canada?
Pollution & Toxic Substances
Canada has made big strides to improve our health and environment by regulating toxic substances. Legal limits on lead in gasoline, restricting chemicals like DDT and ozone-depleting substances, the Canada-US acid rain agreement, and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity have had an enormous impact on our wellbeing by saving lives, preventing illnesses, and saving billions of dollars in avoided health care costs. However, air pollution is still a leading cause of death and illness in Canada.
In addition, our laws and regulations have not kept pace with emerging threats from newer toxic substances in our environment, including from pesticides in our food, and other harmful chemicals in everyday consumer products. Many of these substances have demonstrated links to cancer, genetic damage, developmental problems, chronic illness and many other health effects. These effects are often more severe for children and other vulnerable populations.
Our overarching toxics law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, has not been significantly strengthened in 20 years.
What will you do to ensure that Canadians are better protected from the health and environmental impacts of toxic substances? Will you commit to strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the Pest Control Products Act?