ANTIGONISH: Barry Randle says “vote for what you want, what you believe in, not what you’re afraid of in the upcoming election,” during an environmental forum on October 3 at StFX University.
Randle, the Green Party candidate for Central Nova, made the comment during his closing remarks of an environmental forum less than three weeks before the October 21 federal election.
A full house greeted Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser, NDP candidate Betsy MacDonald, People’s Party of Canada candidate Al Muir, and Communist Party candidate Chris Frazer. Although invited, but most notably not in attendance was Conservative candidate George Canyon.
The event was part of the “100 Debates on the Environment,” which was a nation-wide initiative to make the environment an issue that no party or no candidate could ignore by organizing more than 100 inclusive, politically neutral, and environment-focused all-candidates debates in communities across Canada.
The debate began with a series of two-minute opening remarks, where Sean Fraser took the opportunity to review the Liberal’s environment file over the past four years and their platform for a second term, which includes planting two billion trees and passing binding legislative measures that hold them to account on every five-years to get to net zero emissions by 2050.
“Putting a price on pollution is the most effective thing we can do, but it is not in of itself enough,” Fraser said. “We have to launch the most transformative changes to the Canadian economy in the history of our country – we need to protect more of our nature so the natural landscape can act as a carbon-sync and provide critical habitat for the species that live there.”
MacDonald indicated voters are faced with a question in this upcoming election; are Canadians prepared as a global society to do what it takes to ensure the survival of future generations?
“Moderate, incremental, gradualist policies are not going to get us where we need to go,” she said. “Nor is the politics of fear.”
The first question focused on the key climate elements of each party’s platform.
Muir disagreed with the phrasing of the question altogether and spoke on what essential elements need to be put in place in order to meet international targets he indicated in the PPC’s platform that will be passed down to the provinces.
“Essentially, we have no carbon tax here, the reason is – is because what we’ve done with windmills, these are concrete, measurable things that we’ve done as a province,” he said. “On a good day, we can produce 40 per cent of the power in this province through our windmill system.”
Sean Fraser suggested they need to invest in infrastructure that’s going to prevent the consequences of climate change and build a national electrical grid.
“To ensure we can borrow the renewable powers from other provinces when the wind isn’t blowing – as Al pointed out.”
MacDonald said the NDP planned on reaching net-zero emissions in 2030, protecting triple the land and water than the current percentage, and setting a goal of preventing warming to climb any higher than 1.5 degrees.
“The simplest way to layout the NDP’s plan to take on the climate emergency is by looking at two things we need to do, we have to invest and we have to divest,” she said. “We will eliminate fossil fuel subsidies on day one.”
It’s not just about what has to be done, MacDonald indicated it’s about what has to stop being done, and provided examples from within our region of; the Alton Gas project, Boat Harbour, and the Cochrane Hill Gold Mine.
“Imagine if communities that are resisting these projects had an MP who was a partner and who was willing to stand up to corporate interests and put the environment and people first.”
Randle said the issue of climate change isn’t a partisan issue – it’s a science issue; according to scientists Green House Gas emissions have to be reduced by 60 per cent in 20 years and that’s going to be a Herculean task.
“This is not going to be easy, this will require a re-thinking in the way we do government,” he said. “We can’t build any more pipelines, we can’t build any more LNG plants, and we can’t do any more fracking, we have to leave it in the ground, and start mitigating and dealing with the things that are already in the air.”
Randle’s party wants to fully restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which “was gutted a couple of governments ago to the point where it pretty much doesn’t exist.”
Chris Frazer offered a sweeping environmental platform that included stopping resource extraction such as fracking, pipelines, and tar sands, and penalizing corporations for non-compliance, with consequences including jail time.
But his main arguments were surrounding placing resources under public and democratic control, ending corporate energy extraction and export policies, as well as cutting military expenditure by 75 per cent.
Unlike the PPC, Frazer said the first thing the Communist party would do is recognize the UNDRIP.
“This country does not take seriously its obligations to the First Nations People,” he said. “The second thing is the attention we need to pay to global corporations and the imbalances of power that characterize politics and the economy in this country.”
MacDonald also highlighted how her party would create an Environmental Bill of Rights, which would guarantee the right to clean land, air, and water, and ensure communities have a voice.
In speaking on protected areas, Muir suggested moving some protected areas where there is less habitation rather than where they conflict with the population that’s already there.
“Eighty-two per cent of Canadians are concerned they won’t have closer, easier access to nature,” he said. “Well the question is, should they have closer, easier access to nature? Why do we need to go to these protected areas?”
Fraser took issue with Muir’s point.
“I don’t think we should be just protecting areas where it’s inconvenient for local residents,” he said. “We should be protecting areas where the ecology demands it.”
Fraser pointed out that when they came into office in 2015, only one per cent of the marine environment was protected, but today, it’s up to 14 per cent.
While MacDonald applauded the Liberal government’s progress on meeting the Aichi targets for 2020, she reminded the audience this is the same government that bought a pipeline.
Randle sided with MacDonald by stating a climate emergency was declared in this country, and the next day the Trans Mountain Pipeline extension was pushed forward.
“This must be some other definition of emergency.”
Fraser acknowledged there will be some people who will be disappointed because of the symbolic nature of pipelines, but he think it’s an interesting time in history.
“To say are we going to transition by stopping everything, or are we going to transition by building a nation-wide and global approach that reduces our emissions,” he explained. “It’s been hard for me to get there but it’s the approach I’ve taken.”
The closing statements summarized the platforms and defended the arguments made throughout the course of the debate.