It was all about the environment Tuesday night at the First Things First all-candidates forum for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates.
All the candidates attended the forum held at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, except Conservative candidate Helena Konanz.
The night kicked off with a roundtable discussion for residents to talk about their environmental concerns, followed by a forum debate with the candidates answering five pre-determined questions and one question from the previous discussion.
The first topic had candidates consider their party’s stance on climate change and what key elements are needed in an action plan to bring Canada to a low carbon emission economy.
Next, they were asked about the federal government’s responsibility to protect the quantity and quality of Canadian waters.
They were also questioned about sustaining and restoring Canada’s biodiversity, as well as protecting Canadians and the environment from the impact of toxic substances.
Each candidate stuck to their party platform in terms of reacting to climate change through legislation, with Tara Howse, the Green Party candidate, highlighting that the party’s plan has been independently verified as “the only platform that meets Paris targets.”
Connie Denesiuk, the Liberal candidate, mentioned Dr. Rose Murphy, a researcher from Simon Fraser University, said the Justin Trudeau Liberals are the first “climate-sincere” federal government Canada has had.
For NDP candidate Richard Cannings, the answer is to “walk the walk” through adopting science-based emission plans and reconciling with the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
He added Canada needs to “put our money where our mouth is” by investing in resources to allow for a quick transition away from oil and gas dependencies.
Independent candidate Carolina Hopkins said tackling climate change is about crossing party lines to come up with the best practices and solutions while setting up benchmarks and auditing our progress towards a low carbon emission economy.
Sean Taylor, the People’s Party of Canada candidate, said instead of transitioning quickly, we need to transition “intelligently” and noted the country is doing well on most fronts when it comes to conservation, adjusting to toxic substance impacts and developing energy technologies through industry.
The debate was reasonably civil, with each candidate getting the opportunity to rebut any of the other responses. Cannings and Denesiuk took Taylor to task for his stance on electric vehicles, with the NDP and Liberal candidates stating it’s necessary to subsidize those types of vehicles becuase of their low carbon impact. Taylor said his party would not support subsidizing those vehicles, which he claimed have a high carbon impact. It was clarified that while they emit carbon in production, they do not add any more carbon emissions through their use.
Government interference in industry was a sticking point for Taylor, who said the way of the future is nuclear technology and solar and wind energy have gaps that are insurmountable.
Hopkins drew on personal experience in restoring a wetland to explain that water conservation, reactions from toxic substances and biodiversification all go hand-in-hand.
Cannings also used personal experience from his past career as a biologist to discuss the importance of species preservation and what can be determined through research and data collection of protected species.
Howse took aim at the current federal subsidy for electric vehicles and described how she’d like to see the program adjusted into three tiers to better address the price and engineering of the vehicles.
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