Our take on the Federal Leaders’ Debate

By Jennifer Deol, organizer for #OurTime2019 and 350 Canada

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Photo Credit: Nhattan Nguyen

Last night climate change was one of the most discussed issues during the English Federal Leaders’ Debate. Between the shouting matches and bickering over who is worse for Canada, and the significant air time wasted on a white nationalist like Maxime Bernier, 21 minutes were devoted to climate change. It came up during conversations about the economy, about leadership, about Indigenous rights, and other debate topics.

Compare this to 2015, when climate change was barely discussed over the course of five leaders’ debates and never with an understanding that it is a cross cutting emergency that impacts every aspect of our lives.

But here’s the bad news. We still only got 21 minutes of real conversation about an issue that more than one leader called a “crisis” or an “emergency” last night. And, we only got that because nearly a million people joined the historic climate strikes in Canada, and because tens of thousands of us called for a federal leaders’ climate debate this summer.

Last night, it was clear that we need to keep pushing if we truly want to win a Green New Deal for Canada. That’s why last night, organizers with Climate Justice Ottawa and Our Time were outside the debate to greet party leaders.

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Our Time Ottawa outside last night’s leaders’ debate. Photo Credit: Nhattan Nguyen

And, it’s why all across the country, young people and dozens of community members held watch parties, and tuned into a national digital watch party, to see which candidates on that stage had an actual plan to retool our economy to tackle the climate emergency and rising inequality that leaves no one behind.

But, even though we did get some climate debate last night, it wasn’t anywhere near enough. We didn’t get into any of the details about how political leaders plan to address the climate crisis at the scale and justice demand. That is partly on them and partly on our national media, like the CBC, who refused to host a federal leaders’ climate debate this election.

And, when leaders were given a chance to talk about climate change, many of them only offered hollow platitudes. One thing is clear from last night’s debate — some of our elected leaders and media didn’t listen to the nearly one million people who went on climate strike in Canada two weeks ago.

If our elected officials are going to address the climate emergency at the scale required, they need an emergency-grade response plan to tackle this crisis. Carbon taxes and planting trees is not good enough.

That means confronting the historic and ongoing exclusion faced by Indigenous and racialized people. Our next leader, who will guide us through 4 of the 11 critical years scientists have given us to tackle climate change, need to be willing to rise to the challenge ahead of us and do what is necessary to create millions of good, unionized jobs in a low carbon economy. And that starts with backing a Green New Deal for Canada.

That is why we need to elect bold, local candidates who are championing a Green New Deal. And, good news, Our Time has made it easy with our-time.ca, a one stop shop to help elect Green New Deal champions this election. So, let’s vote, then organize to make a Green New Deal for Canada possible.

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