Candidates from Toronto Centre riding debate climate crisis at Ryerson

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By Kiernan Green

Representatives from the New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party of Canada and Liberal Party of Canada met on campus on Oct. 3 to debate their climate change policies—with their largest disagreement being how to address the climate crisis. 

In attendance at the Rogers Communication Centre’s The Catalyst were the candidates for the riding of Toronto Centre including NDP’s Brain Chang and the Green Party’s Annamie Paul. Liberal Party’s Adam Vaughan, the current Member of Parliament (MP) for Spadina-Fort York, was filling in for Bill Morneau—Canada’s minister of finance and Toronto Centre MP.

Conservatives don’t participate in climate debate

The MP from the Progressive Conservative Party Ryan Lester declined to participate. 

A national climate debate set to take place in Ottawa next week was cancelled today because the Conservatives declined to participate after originally agreeing, reporting the party wasn’t able “to find anybody” to participate.

The Conservatives platform for climate change includes investing in “research, development, and adoption of emissions-reducing
technology related to [the green] industry” and scrapping the Liberal’s federal carbon tax.

In June, the Conservatives unveiled a plan to invest billions in “clean technology and putting an emphasis on incentivizing private-sector green investments.”

Leader of the Conservative party, Andrew Scheer, said in a press conference that their plan is to focus on “technology, not taxes.”

Party plans to address climate crisis

Of the G20 countries, Canadians produce the most greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)—22 tons per person.

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if global GHG has not decreased by 2030, the Earth will experience catastrophic weather and climate events during what is now called the climate emergency. 

Toronto Star political columnist and moderator Martin Regg Cohn asked the candidates what their action plans are for addressing this climate crisis. 

Paul of the Green Party said that only through “the ambition that this problem requires” can plans, such as eliminating fossil fuels, significantly reduce Canada’s GHG emissions. 

The Green Party’s Climate Change Act would legally require Canada to sufficiently cut its GHG by 60 per cent before 2030, said Paul. They would also establish a federal cabinet with members from all major parties. “We put politics aside,” she said. 

Addressing the climate emergency requires more than ambition alone, said Vaughan, Liberal MP of Spadina-Fort York. 

“This is an area that requires very practical and real solutions,” he said. 

According to Vaughan, this includes eliminating coal electricity and thus 72 per cent of Canada’s GHG before 2030, as well as investing $60 billion in technology to reduce GHG—$4.9 billion of which would go towards the TTC, he said.

The Liberals also intend to plant two billion trees by 2025. It would provide both reforestation and “rural economic development for many communities, in particular, Indigenous communities,” said Vaughan. 

“All of the ambition in the world will make you feel good, but at the end of the day if climate change is not addressed, if emissions do not go down if nature is not preserved, if humanity does not thrive and survive—it’s just slogans.” 

NDP critical of Liberals’ past regarding climate crisis

In response to the Liberals’ plan to plant two billion trees, the NDP’s Chang quoted a recent tweet from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and stated that “the trees that you’re planting won’t cover-up the [Trans Mountain] pipeline that you purchased.” The pipeline is expected to be expanded by 980 km with funds from the Liberal government. 

“It is being used to provide international markets with even more oil that their GHG will increase,” said Chang. “It’s indefensible.”

The NDP’s plan includes the formation of a Climate Accountability Office, said Chang. The office would assess GHG across the country while being independent of the government. 

They also plan to ban the sale of fossil fuel emitting cars and retrofit 14 million buildings by 2040 to achieve national net-zero carbon emission by 2030. 

Chang said he entered politics with an “intersectional, racial and gender-diverse lens” to create an environmental policy transition in which “no one is left behind…Not Indigenous people, not workers, not low-income people, not racialized people, not LGBTQ people.” 

Chang was absent for audience questions due to a previously scheduled appointment, however, Paul and Vaughan continued to answer questions on whether or not they think Canadians are ready for ambitious programs to address the climate crisis.

Liberals response to NDP criticism

Vaughan said that climate change policies should be politically centered as opposed to being far left in order to appeal to the largest number of Canadians—Liberal or Conservative. 

He said that if climate change policies are too left-leaning and unrealistic, the federal government will be “too far out in front of Canadians.” Vaughan referenced Doug Ford’s Ontario premiership and its cuts to carbon emissions cap-and-trade, transit funding, and home renovation benefits.

“We don’t have time for that push back. [A Conservative federal government] will have an impact over the next four years and we will not survive it. We have to be smart, practical and realistic about this,” said Vaughan. 

Paul said that you can’t be too ambitious given the severity of the emergency. “It would be nice to have the luxury to deal with it over decades, or not to be in this situation at all. But here we are,” she said. 

She added that Canadians will respond well to the major parties gathering in a coalition government to address climate change. Anything less, and “we’re not providing the leadership Canadians deserve.”

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