Local candidates from the four main political parties were invited to take part in a debate on environmental issues concerning the riding of Simcoe-Grey.
The event was sponsored by GreenPAC, a national non-partisan, non-profit organization working to build environmental leadership and government action on the environment.
It was held online on Wednesday, September 8. The debate was monitored by Penny Skelton – a Collingwood Rogers Cable TV show host and local resident. Liberal candidate Bren Munro, NDP candidate Lucas Gillies, and Green Party candidate Nick Clayton, all participated.
Conservative incumbent, Terry Dowdall, declined the invitation stating that his “schedule will not permit him to participate.” The discussion followed several topics and had a heavy emphasis on climate change.
The candidates were asked a series of questions that they had received in advance. That was followed by a series of questions from the public, that were posed to the candidates during the broadcast. T
he candidates were asked if they would consider using mandatory measures to combat climate change and which measures would they support.
Ms. Munro said the Liberal party has set an emission reduction target of “40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels, by the year 2030.”
Mr. Clayton cited wildfires and warming temperatures as proof of a climate change emergency, adding the Green Party will “shut the door on the oil and gas industry in Canada.”
NDP candidate Mr. Gillies said the “majority of pollution is caused by major corporations” adding “mandatory measures will force these corporations to reduce pollutants including plastics and toxins from their production.”
When asked what they would do to prevent SimcoeGrey agricultural lands from over development, the candidates responded with several suggestions.
Mr. Clayton said the Green Party would “partner with the province and municipalities through the official plan that would end vehiclecentric urban sprawl in favour of mixed density walkable neighbourhoods.” M
r. Gillies said towns should be building “up instead of out. We need to prioritize local development and classification of local land for development.”
Ms. Munro said she would work with local municipalities in cleaning up local environmental problems.
The Canadian Environmental Protection act has not been significantly amended since 1999. Candidates were asked if they would support a new bill to amend the act and make it a priority.
Mr. Gillies responded, “having updated and enforceable legislation around toxins will be important locally, such as the water issues in Tottenham.”
Ms. Munro said “we need to get this bill passed and we are open to improving the bill. We are [requiring] that consumer products such as cosmetics and cleaning products give people the information they need.”
Mr. Clayton said the Green Party would “prioritize legislation to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, enshrining in law the right to a healthy environment for all Canadians. That’s access to clean air, land, food, and water.”
The candidates were asked how they would support young people in their quest for a cleaner environment and sustainable world, and how would they give them hope?
Ms. Munro replied the Liberals are looking at “every possible way to reduce carbon emissions,” adding that they are looking for “climate friendly fuels.”
She said a group of young Liberals will be marching during the United Nations Climate Week in New York.
Mr. Clayton said “The youth voice is what motivated me. To the youth, I say, you cannot count on people who are in power. I’m sitting here because you pushed me. What we do now - we have to consider what happens seven generations down the line.”
Mr. Gillies said the NDP would “provide free postsecondary education with emphasis on stem research, and engaging youth and championing their local projects and protecting the space where they live and grow.”
The debate then switched to question from the public that were posed to the candidates with no advance knowledge of the content.
The first question asked what the political parties would do to protect the Great Lakes and waterways within Simcoe County?
Mr. Clayton said the Green Party would provide “infrastructure upgrades” and have “less paved areas and more green space to absorb water,” as well as move to a “different model of agriculture,” with less chemicals running off into the water.
Mr. Gillies said, the NDP would “protect water and work with the fisheries” but yielded the rest of his time.
Ms. Munro, said the Liberals are trying to “restore the Great Lakes which provide one in four Canadians with clean drinking water. A re-elected Liberal government will strengthen the fresh water action plan,” and “collaborate with provincial, territorial, and indigenous, partners to better protect and manage Canada’s fresh water.”
The candidates were then asked what bold action they would do to reduce carbon emissions and over-heating of the planet.
Mr. Gillies responded “the New Democratic has a very bold climate action plan that includes reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and zero percent by 2050,” adding “carbon free electricity by 2030.” Ms. Munro said “Climate change continues to threaten our supply of fresh water.
The bold action I’m thinking of is we have to work together. It cannot be partisan (issue).” Mr. Clayton said the Green Party is “proposing a non-partisan council advisory on climate and doing it at all levels of government.”
The debate will be rebroadcast on Collingwood Rogers Cable TV on the days leading up to the election.
Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times