Here’s what Rye students think about climate change, upcoming federal election

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By Simon Topa

On Sept. 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the start of a six-week election campaign when he asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.

That means Canadians are officially set to head to the polls on Oct. 21, where they can voice their concerns by casting their vote.

One topic on the minds of Ryerson students is, of course, climate change. But, among other election issues, climate change will prove to be a point of contention, with many differing points of view and concerns.

What do students know right now?

“The platform for any given party seems to be to put motions in place to prevent long-term damage to the globe,” said Ivan Siassine, a fourth-year business student.

“That just shows they’re already two steps behind, as long-term damage is happening right now.” 

Siassine is one of many Ryerson students who says he feels skeptical of the approaches of the contesting parties—those being Trudeau’s Liberals, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Green party. 

“The platforms seem to be more bargaining chips to gain voters,” he said.

Like Siassine, second-year business management student Ryan Harding says he feels like the parties don’t seem honest or concerned.

“Are they really trying to tackle climate change or are they just trying to capture the millennial generation?” Harding said.

Another point of contention for some students is the carbon tax that was put in place by the Liberals back in April

Hayden Brandenburg, a third-year electrical engineering student, said that he is not a fan of the carbon tax because he’s opposed to the creation of more taxes. To him, the Conservatives do “the best job.”

Brandenburg said he is concerned about losing business in Canada. He said he feels that Scheer’s policies are catered towards promoting the development of green energy technologies, which will provide a more effective solution to the problem as a whole. 

“I feel it’s just a better way at keeping companies in Canada rather than forcing more and more taxes, which could cause them to leave,” he said. 

While some students say they are concerned about the policies that are currently in place, others are concerned that a change in government might bring a more restrictive approach to the issue of climate change. 

According to first-year history student Mildred Wu, the Conservatives “seem to be the only party who doesn’t want to enforce carbon taxes.”

“It seems off because when the majority wants to enforce it, and preferably more than the Liberals already do, it makes me wonder if they really have the world’s climate in mind,” said Wu.

Lingering hope amongst students

Though some students say they’re worried about the environment, some students feel that there’s reason to be optimistic about the future. 

“I have hope,” said Siassine. “But, as long as climate change only impacts the poor, the leaders won’t do anything about it.” 

Similarly, Wu said that “hearing what the Green Party has to say gives [her] hope,” but “given how people and corporations are,” she does not feel leaders would be willing to make any adequate sacrifices.  

While some students like Wu have stated that climate change is “an important topic to consider” in their vote, others do not feel the same. 

Brandenburg says that part of his vote consideration is going to be based on climate change, but “other areas take higher priority [his] mind.”

More awareness is needed, say Rye students

While these students may disagree on how climate change should factor into the election, most agree it’s an important topic to discuss and more awareness is needed.

“Education on [climate change] should be more widespread and not just purely on viral tragedies, like the Amazon,” said Eliana McKenzie, a second-year business management student. 

Back in 2015, 195 countries signed on to the unprecedented Paris Agreement, promising to take effective steps toward mitigating global change—including Canada. 

According to the federal government’s website, the agreement will “strengthen the effort” to limit the rise of the global average temperature to “well below 2°C.”

“I think that if this is [going to] be properly addressed, everyone in the world needs to do their part,” said Harding.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. 

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