Why people across the country demand a leaders’ climate debate

Read some of the powerful letters to the editor submitted by people across the country

350 Canada
14 min readAug 22, 2019

Earlier this month, three of the largest oil companies in Canada made a desperate attempt to influence this fall’s election. They spent millions of dollars taking out ads trying to sway the public and politicians to support fossil fuel expansion. Luckily, people all across the country were building power of their own. They responded right away by mass submitting letters to their local newspapers demanding a leaders’ debate on climate change and a Green New Deal.

Clearly Big Oil and their political allies are terrified. The fossil fuel industry knows the climate crisis is one of the top ballot box issue. They’re terrified of the 50,000+ people who have added their names to the petition calling for Canada’s first leaders’ debate on the climate crisis.

Big Oil might derive its powers from money. But we derive ours from people. And here’s what people have to say.

July 17th Toronto | Photo Credit: Claire Foran

“My name is Farista Sairuv and I’m a university student in Edmonton. A couple of years ago my aunt’s village in Bangladesh flooded. While flooding happens there from time to time, it’s not ever so devastating as what happened that year. Climate Change is making weather more extreme, making floods more extreme.

And it’s what made this flood so powerful. People died. Classmates of people I am friends with died. Most crops were destroyed. It was … words cannot explain how terrible and terrifying it was. Floods are getting more numerous, more powerful, more deadly and devastating in my country of origin and all over the world.

On July 17th, folks from Farista’s city in Edmonton visited the CBC’s studios wearing masks from forest fire season to demand a leaders’ climate debate. Photo Credit: Abdul Malik

Droughts are also getting worse, longer, and more frequent around the world. Hurricanes, wildfires, natural disasters of all kinds are getting more frequent and worse. Access to clean water for people will be greatly reduced in upcoming years unless we act. Food production will decrease. Vast regions of Earth including Edmonton will become barren deserts. As sea levels rise so many parts of the world including most of Bangladesh will be underwater. Canadians already know this. They know we have a responsibility to each other, the world, and our children to make sure the 1.5 degree increase in average global temperature does not occur. But we need to make sure that in next elections people are informed about Climate Change, each party’s thoughts on the matter, and their plans to tackle it. Democracy works when debates happen.

We’re in the midst of a Climate Emergency according to the scientists. CBC has a responsibility to host a federal leaders’ debate on Climate Change, so that Canadians can make a better, more informed vote.”

— Farista Sairuv, Edmonton, Alberta

“I’ve lived in Oakville all my life, the day I was born over 21 years ago, we got so much snow that it completely buried my parents’ driveway. Now it’s unlikely we get any snow at all until late January.

The seasons are shifted and it’s only getting worse, spring doesn’t start till May and summer doesn’t start till July.

The lake that I’ve lived next to my entire life is rising to levels not seen before in my lifetime, I used to be able to take my dog for walks on the pier near my house but now for months of the year it has to be closed due to high water levels.

Earlier this year, Canada declared a national climate emergency. According to the CBC’s journalistic standards and practices, our national broadcaster has a responsibility, during national emergencies, to provide special, critical coverage. This is one of those moments.

It’s up to our media to ensure voters have the information they want and need to cast a vote for real climate action. You either stand up for what’s right or you get out of the way because at times like these there is no room for those who would prevent progress.”

— Michael, Oakville, ON

“Last year, several days of my family’s August vacation were spent inside, under a public health advisory which recommended that small children, like my son and daughter, should not be allowed to play outdoors in the heavy smoke.

Since the drought in Vancouver in 2015, and the frightening wildfires in BC and elsewhere in Canada over the past several years, summers have become a time of climate stress for many of us.

As this is a federal election year, we have a key opportunity here in Canada to make sure that real solutions to the climate crisis are a major part of each party’s platform. We need a leaders’ debate on climate change before the October 21st election.

It’s inexcusable that climate change only received 15 minutes of air time in federal leaders’ debates in the last election. I’m one of tens of thousands of people calling on the CBC to host a leaders’ debate on the climate crisis and a Green New Deal ahead of the fall election.”

— F. Stewart Vancouver, BC

“The years 2015 to 2018 have been the five hottest since climate records began, and 2019 is not offering much relief as we continue to break records. The effects are being felt in the Kingston region as we are experiencing another sweltering summer.

This may be good for beach days here, but those with the least capacity to adapt are the most affected. Rising sea levels, powerful forest fires, and more volatile weather events as a result of climate change are death sentences for our most vulnerable communities. In the last federal election, Canadians only received 15 minutes of debate on climate change.

This year, Kingston led the way in declaring a climate emergency in our city and were followed by many others across Canada.

This fall, I’d like to see our federal leader’s climate change plans exposed by a full televised debate devoted specifically to climate change. I have been demanding for weeks, along with thousands of other Canadians, that the CBC, the Leaders Debate Commission, and all other media outlets get together to host a federal leader’s debate about climate change and a Green New Deal. CBC is our public broadcaster and can ensure Canadians can make an informed vote according to where every party stands on the most important issue for my generation; climate change.

The IPPC has stated we have 11 years to act on climate change to avoid the most disastrous scenarios. The next government would be responsible for 4 of those crucial years. I do not want them to go to waste.”

— Geoffrey, Kingston, ON

“Big Oil’s money allows them to afford full-page ads in Canada’s newspapers in advance of the coming election.

I have only a voice, but it speaks from the heart, not a corporate bank account.

I have only a voice, but it speaks from the heart, not a corporate bank account. We are in a climate emergency. How the government of the next four years deals with that is going to matter, so how we vote in the upcoming election needs to count.

We need a CBC-hosted federal leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, separate from the all-topic debates. Sure, health care, education, employment, and other issues are important, but they’re irrelevant if we don’t have a liveable planet, and we can’t afford to let that reality get lost in a general debate.

I’m calling on CBC, our national broadcaster, whose job it is to keep Canadians informed, to make the climate debate happen. Let the federal leaders outline their Green New Deal so Canadians can make an informed choice on election day. Our future depends on it.”

— Shiela, LaHave, NS

“As seniors, my husband and I are suffering due to the current heatwave; not only the temperature but also the lengthy period of such hot days.

I don’t want us dying of heatstroke in our living rooms or on our front lawns when we could hope for another 10–12 years of life.

But that seems increasingly likely to happen if nothing is done. Science says that is due to global warming and that is due to the policies and practices pursued by our politicians and industries. In short, we, humans caused this and only we can solve the problem. I don’t expect miracles but I do expect our politicians to govern on behalf of all people, not just the owners of businesses.

If voting is to have any meaning they need to chart a path to radical transformations in our practices and I want to hear about it. I want to see and hear them on TV and in our newspapers with their plans for what people are calling a Green New Deal. Call it a debate if you like but I want to hear their plans. Please use your influence to make it happen.”

— Pat, Moncton, NB

Photo Credit: Nico Bell

“As the father of two small children, I often wonder what their world will be like when they are my age.

We know the damage we are doing to the planet. We know we are causing climate change. We see the consequences every day in the news. It’s time to stop being in denial and accept we need to change how we are dealing with climate change.

This topic needs to be debated by our national leaders so we can all vote for a party that reflects our wants and needs for a better future involving our world. As Canadians it’s time to set aside our differences and vote for a party that takes our concerns about climate change seriously and has an realistic action plan to do our part in helping this’ problem.”

— M. Hilton, London, ON

“In 2017, Toronto’s Lake Ontario in broke precipitation “once in a lifetime” records. In 2019, we broke 2017 records. The Toronto Islands and mainland shores are underwater. I have videotaped the shore where tree trunks are two feet underwater. With a Federal Election October 21/19, it’s long overdue for a National Leaders’ Debate only on climate change.

Canada has declared a national climate emergency. This emergency demands a National Debate... The CBC is the perfect host for a National Climate Change Leaders’ Debate.”

— EAD, Toronto, ON

“If Canada was ever a leader on the international stage, now is the time to demonstrate it. Of course, we must all do individual things but of those, one of the most important is who we vote for. For an issue as dire as this with implications for all of us it is of paramount importance that this be made a key issue in the upcoming federal election and we must call on the CBC to bring it front and center with an election debate specifically themed around climate change and what the various leaders are going to do to turn the national and international tide.

According to the latest reporting, we are way ahead of where we were projected to be. The tipping point is here! I personally am trying to understand what 2 to 7 meters of sea-level rise would mean for us locally.

This is an emergency and our federal and all media outlets must treat it as such.”

— Rohit K. Singal MD MSc FRCSC, Oak Bay, BC

“I am a retired nurse (palliative care), a mother, wife, grandmother, sister, friend. I am gravely appalled with the lack of media coverage and inactions of our leaders/politicians.

I have been inspired to help with the crusade against this crisis because when I play with my grandson who is only two years old, I sometimes look at him and try to imagine what his world will look like as he grows; will it be recognizable, healthy, safe, just, green?

When I play with my grandson who is only two years old, I sometimes look at him and try to imagine what his world will look like as he grows; will it be recognizable, healthy, safe, just, green?

Will his generation not even survive this crisis we all face? It is our environmental right to live in a green world, with clean water and food, to not be forced to migrate, to have a safe home, be healthy, enjoy our green space and to breathe!

We need our leaders to be real heroes with us and make history together. We need a leaders’ debate on the climate crisis in the upcoming election. The voters need truth and awareness. It’s the moral thing to do.”

— Erica Toronto, Ontario

Vancouver , July 17th | Photo Credit: Nico Bell

“I am extremely concerned about the threat to our collective health posed by climate change. As someone who spent more than twenty years in B.C.

I witnessed the devastation caused by the pine beetle and know that the fires of recent years are directly attributable to climate change because previously the winter cold would kill the pine beetle. When we surveyed the vast numbers of dead trees we speculated that it was all firewood and that with fires regularly sweeping through, it might all become savannah.

Now, I am back in Ontario and I am alarmed at the damage that Lyme disease has caused family and friends. In particular, young people will suffer from the consequences for most of their lives.

I want to know what Canada’s leaders plans are regarding climate change and the best way to do that is for the CBC to have a leaders debate on climate change ahead of the federal election.”

— Natalie, Thornhill, Ontario

“Last summer, my wife and I were camping south of Parry Sound, Ontario, in Massassauga Provincial Park. The smoke from the burning fires north of us was palpable as the hotter than usual summer persisted.

With all the fires and floods occurring in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, British Columbia, in California — around the world — it is clear we are in a climate emergency.

It is most sobering to think this is the legacy for my two children and five grandchildren. I say stop and take action now.

The government of Canada, along with many others around the world, have declared a national climate emergency.

And if we don’t take action immediately we can expect things to get worse for all of us. This is something we have no playbook for and we need your help to treat these circumstances dead seriously. In a federal election year, we have a critical opportunity to make sure that real solutions to the climate crisis, like a Green New Deal, are at the center of every party’s platform. That’s why we need a leaders’ debate on climate change before voters hit the ballot box on October 21st.”

— Jerry, Toronto, ON

“Last summer, while visiting family in BC, we were sandwiched between two of the largest forest fires in Canada. Rather than my two-year old son simply enjoying family, we were in an evacuation zone and worried about evacuating my mother in law from her home.

My son and I left with chronic sinus infections, and that was after only one week’s exposure, so I wonder about the many residents of that area? Forest fires are inextricably linked to climate change, and in Saskatchewan we are no strangers to life-threatening, and highly damaging fires.

I have no doubt that we are in a state of national climate emergency, which has been declared by the Canadian government. In some other parts of the world, the impact is being felt even more strongly. If we are not prepared to take immediate action, our future and our children’s future is dim.

A federal election year offers the perfect opportunity to develop tangible solutions to the escalating climate crisis. Proposals like the Green New Deal, for which we participated with a town hall here in Regina, need to be central to the platforms of every political party.

For this reason, we need our perspective leaders to hold a serious debate on climate change before we citizens cast our votes on October 21st. I am one of tens of thousands of people who have called on the CBC, our public broadcaster, to host a leaders’ debate on the climate crisis prior to the fall election. We need action now!”

— Dr. Tanya Dahms, Saskatoon

“My hometown, Winnipeg, has had a hot, dry summer, and the local Prairie Climate Centre has projected that its climate will be more like that of Kansas by mid-century. This will have negative effects on agriculture and ecosystem health. We are clearly in a climate emergency. Many national governments, including Canada’s, have recognized this by declaring national climate emergencies.

It is incomprehensible to me that the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, is not covering this story of public interest more extensively and holding the public’s leaders to account.

Therefore, I and tens of thousands more people across Canada call on the CBC to fulfil a public broadcaster’s mandate to serve the public interest and host leaders’ debates in English and French devoted to the imperative task of salvaging a livable climate for future generations of Canadians.”

— Michael, Winnipeg, MB

“In school, we were told that everything would be okay if we just shut the taps when brushing our teeth, and turned off lights when we left a room. Yet, we see unprecedented flooding and heatwaves, and know that the worst is yet to come.

Earlier this year, Canada declared a national climate emergency. Before and after that, dozens of cities and towns have done the same and, according to the CBC’s journalistic standards and practices, our national broadcaster has a responsibility, during national emergencies, to provide special, critical coverage. This is one of those moments. For these reasons, I have been among the thousands of Canadians calling on CBC, who hosts the federal leaders’ debates, to centre one of those debates around the climate crisis and real solutions, like a Green New Deal.

Just earlier today, Climate Justice Toronto dropped off over 40,000 petition signatures at CBC headquarters.

According to the IPCC, we have 11 years to get our act together and keep global temperature rise below catastrophic levels. Federally, that’s only two full election cycles. The government we elect this fall will lead us through 4 of those years, and it’s up to our media to ensure voters have the information they want and need to cast a vote for real climate action. The CBC can and should host this debate, but every media outlet in Canada, including this one, should support this critical debate.”

— Sara, Vaughan, ON

“I grew up in Port Moody, swimming in Burrard Inlet in the summers and walking my dog next to Buntzen Lake in the rain. So much of what made the Tri Cities such a lovely place to grow up in was the proximity to the forest and sea — but that proximity to nature is precisely why we’re vulnerable to wildfires and to coastal hazards like sea level rise that will be exacerbated by climate change.

On June 11th 2019, Port Moody City Council declared a climate emergency, alongside hundreds of other municipalities around the world, acknowledging that we need to take climate action now. The climate crisis will be the defining issue of my generation — according to the special report that the IPCC released in October 2018, we have until 2030 to reduce emissions enough to keep global temperature rise below catastrophic levels. In 2030, I’ll be 35, and I don’t want to look back on today as a time that I sat idly by, while I could have changed our future for the better.

That’s why I am calling on CBC to host a leaders’ debate on the climate crisis and a Green New Deal ahead of the fall election. According to the CBC’s journalistic standards, our national broadcaster has a responsibility during national emergencies to provide special coverage.

Whoever is elected this fall will lead us through 4 of those 11 years — and it’s the job of the media to ensure that the electorate have the information we need to vote for representatives that will enact equitable climate policies at the speed this crisis requires.”

— Deanna Shrimpton, Port Moody

The fight’s not over.

This summer, over 50,000 people across the country took action to demand Canada’s first leaders’ debate on the climate crisis ahead of the October election. But the CBC and the Leaders’ Debates Commission refused to act on our demands.

Now, we’re organizing to show up at the one place they can’t ignore us — the official leaders’ debate on October 7th.

Learn more about this movement and sign up to take action.



350 Canada

Pushing Canada to take real #climate leadership by freezing #tarsands and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. We're part of a global climate justice movement.