It's time to get political; literally, today is the day

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Erin Kuepfer
Communications Assistant
Fri, 10/18/2019 - 09:45

UW hosts "100 Debates on the Environment"

With environmental crises looming it's impossible to avoid the topic in political discussions. Our future is at stake, and we need leaders whose platforms aim to address the many environmental issues that we face both nationally and globally. The 2019 federal election is then monumental in determining the fate of future environmental policies. "100 Debates on the Environment" [external link] aims to start a Canada-wide conversation in the hopes that citizens will better understand each party’s environmental platform. Fifteen thousand Canadians have attended these debates that have collectively featured 365 candidates.

100 debates
So it's not Thursday, but it is Election Day which means we're throwing it back to October 9, when UW Department of Political Science [external link] hosted four federal party representatives in one of over 100 environment-related debates across the nation! Theatre of the Arts in Modern Languages (ML) was packed to the brim with students, professors and the general KW public, all listening to candidates of the Waterloo electoral district riding highlight their party’s platforms on the environment.

The event closely resembled that of the federal debates you may have recently seen on TV, but with a twist of being solely focused on the environment. There were introductions, pre-selected questions on six environmental topics, audience-selected questions, and concluding remarks –candidates were even able to challenge points being made (though there wasn’t nearly as much back and forth yelling as what the federal debates have displayed). 

Lori Campbell of the New Democratic Party, Kirsten Wright of the Green Party, Bardish Chagger of the Liberal Party, and Erika Traub of the People’s Party of Canada were at the forefront of the discussion. Jerry Zhang, the Conservative Party candidate, was absent from the debate due to scheduling conflicts. The candidates were asked a series of questions on six different topics, followed by two audience questions.

The topics and questions are featured below:

Hot topics

Climate Change
What are the key elements of a climate action action plan that addresses the need for international action?

Water
What can the federal government do to work with different sectors (ie. farmers) to reduce flooding and other events that have been provoked by industrialization and climate change?

Wilderness Conservation
What will you do to protect quality and quantity of wilderness in Canada?

Pollution and Toxic Substances
What will you do to ensure Canadians are protect from the impacts of toxic substances?

Just Transition
How will you ensure development and implementation of a just transition to a de-carbonized economy?

Indigenous Rights
How will you ensure rights of Indigenous peoples are respected in energy projects?

Questions from the audience

How will your party respond to global climate refugees?

What do you think of Greta Thunberg? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?

Get to know your party leaders

The New Democratic Party

Lori CampbellWith Cree and Métis family roots Lori Campbell[external link] has spent years fighting for change. “As an indigenous person, I haven’t had the ability to not fight for those changes,” she says. Lori holds the position of Director at the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre [external link] and looks after the Indigenous Studies academic programming at St. Paul's University College.

As a result of her background Lori framed many of her answers to the questions in terms of reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations peoples. “Reconciliation at the heart of every decision,” says Campbell. Through Campbell’s contributions to the debate it can be determined that a large focus of the NDP platform is on social equity, diverse representation in decision-making, and taking immediate action on environmental issues.

Some key goals of the NDP include: ending oil and gas subsidies and investing in low carbon initiatives, adapting infrastructure to respond to climate change, tree planting efforts and fighting back against invasive species, strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and creating 300 000 good jobs through a green economy.

The Green Party

Kirsten WrightA UW graduate, Kirsten Wright [external link] is pursuing her PhD in Systems Design Engineering. In addition to her schooling Wright has had a longstanding interest in the environment and social issues. “Climate change is the biggest threat that we face as a civilization,” she says. Wright cites the Green Party as a party that will take legitimate action on environmental issues. “It comes down to not what the parties are promising, but what they will deliver,” she says.

The Green Party’s key environmental goals involve: abandoning the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, building water infrastructure to protect from climate change, restoring the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,  developing a national forest strategy, and incorporating Aboriginal Traditional Environmental Knowledge into decision-making. 

The Liberal Party

Bardish ChaggerBardish Chagger [external link], the current MP for the Waterloo electoral district and a UW alumni, wants to continue the work of the current Liberal Government. She is quoted as saying, “for the past four years the Liberal Government has delivered results”.

A main inspiration for the Liberal Party platform, particularly on the environment, is that they have delivered visible results but still have a ways to go–and have concrete plans for continuing their pursuit of environmental integrity.

Key aspects of the Liberal environmental platform include: exceeding 2030 Paris Agreement and achieving zero net emissions, continuing their introduced $2 billion disaster support fund, $1.3 billion over 5 years to protect Canada’s diversity, continuing to build urban national parks, eliminating coal by 2030, and allocating $150 million to diversify Canadian economies and promote investments in renewable resources.

The People’s Party of Canada

Erika TraubErika Traub [external link] is yet another UW graduate, with a long-standing career as a lawyer. What she’s learned about climate and the environment is that, “it’s a debate about fossil fuels”. The PPC sees the global demand for fossil fuels continuing to grow year after year, and as a result someone has to meet that demand–”if not Canada, then who?”

At the conclusion of the debate is was apparent that the PPC’s focus was on maintaining the economy in the face of environmental issues. Traub noted a need for the separation of science and politics. “Instead of having politicians debate [environmental issues] we should consult the scientists. A science which the PPC deems as inconclusive in proving that any immediate environmental emergency, climate-related in particular, is looming.

Main goals of the PPC’s environmental platform include: addressing the harm of dumping into lakes and rivers, addressing the water crises in First Nations communities, and actively involving Indigenous peoples in the economic benefit of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The takeaway?

The main points from each party summarized here are brief; only scratching the surface of the massive environmental debate that our country is immersed in. If you were unable to attend the debate, there’s still a way that you can make an informed vote for the sake of the environment: Research!

The bottom line is that every voter needs to develop their own opinion on political parties and their efforts, or lack thereof, on creating sufficient environmental policy. The notes summed up in this article are insufficient in representing the true magnitude of parties and their unique platforms. So go out and do a bit of research. Read party platforms, consult *unbiased* media articles, watch and re-watch federal debates, and become educated so that, if you haven’t voted already, your vote is meaningful and well-informed. We are the generation that can determine the election, so we need to make our votes count!

Here are the party platform links to make sure you’re up-to-date on their environmental, social and economic stances:

Today is your last chance to vote if you haven’t yet! But here’s the important (annoying) thing, you can only vote for local candidates in the riding where you currently live, and at the specific voting station assigned to your polling district. For example, if you're from Victoria, B.C. and living in Waterloo right now for school, you can vote locally for your Waterloo riding at your assigned polling station (so long as you have proper ID requirements), but you cannot vote for the candidates running in your Victoria home riding. If your assigned polling station [external link] is UW, you can vote on campus in SLC MPR, Village 1 or Beck Hall's UWP from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.