Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound candidates talk environment

Five of the six candidates running in the upcoming federal election in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound took part in an all-candidates meeting on the environment and climate change at the Harmony Centre on Tuesday, September 10, 2019 in Owen Sound, Ont. From left are Chris Stephen of the NDP, Michael Den Tandt of the Liberals, Alex Ruff of the Conservatives, Bill Townsend of the People's Party of Canada and Danielle Valiquette of the Green Party. Rob Gowan/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network Rob Gowan / Rob Gowan/Sun Times

Share Adjust Comment Print

On the eve of the official start of the federal election campaign, candidates in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound were focused on the environment and climate change.

The first all-candidates meeting in the riding was held in the studio at the Harmony Centre in Owen Sound Tuesday night with five of the six candidates laying out varying environmental plans to the standing-room only crowd of well over 200 people.

Liberal Michael Den Tandt asked that his party be able to continue to move ahead with its plan of pricing pollution through a carbon tax, which he said is the only way.

Den Tandt said the Liberal plan is one that is “working, is proven and is tested in other jurisdictions around the world.”

“We have a plan in place now that is working across Canada, even in Ontario as well as in Alberta,” said Den Tandt.

The federal Liberals implemented a carbon tax on Ontario, Alberta and two other provinces after they refused to take part in the pan-Canadian climate framework, agreed to by Canada at the Paris climate summit. The Liberals say that putting a price on carbon will reduce emissions by 50-60 million tonnes by 2022. They have also established a fund for green innovation and also vowed to ban single use plastics by 2021.

“This is working and is in place right now and we can choose to support that, or we can choose to turn back the clock,” Den Tandt said.

Conservative challenger Alex Ruff said green technology and not taxes is the answer. He called for a cleaner and greener environment and the need to take the climate fight global.

“Much like other issues our government faces, protecting our environment is a complex issue with a number of different possible solutions,” said Ruff.

The Conservative plan is built on the idea of lower greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment without hurting taxpayers financially.

They are against the federal carbon pricing plan as well as the carbon tax, encourage environmental protections and promote a global approach to fighting climate change.

They also promote tax credits for homeowners who renovate, developing emission-reducing technologies, and requiring big emitters to invest in green technology.

Chris Stephen of the NDP said his party has had the most effective and most robust environmental platform with a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions,in the neighbourhood of 40 and 50 per cent below the 2005 level by 2030.

“We can escalate the planks of our environmental policy tomorrow and truly see remarkable changes,” Stephen said.

The NDP also plans to ban single-use plastics by 2022 and wants to see all of Canada powered by net carbon-free electricity by 2030 and move to 100 per cent non-emitting electricity by 2050.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Bill Townsend said he supports environmental efforts, but spoke out against climate alarmism and was skeptical that the world is facing a climate emergency.

“The PPC acknowledges that climate change is real, it is happening and will continue,” said Townsend, but added that climate alarmism “has become a kind of doomsday cult.”

Townsend said Tuesday most of the modern climate movement has “abandoned science in favour of emotion and sensationalism.”

Townsend used the example of 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who PPC leader Maxime Bernier recently called “mentally unstable,” but later backtracked on some of his remarks, targeting the media and others for making her a spokesperson for climate alarmism.

Townsend said his party is not panicking on the environmental agenda, with plans to create and maintain a safe and sustainable environment at the local level.

“We will undo past damage and ensure clean rivers, clean lakes, clean air and responsible energy use for all of Canada for today and tomorrow,” he said.

Green candidate Danielle Valiquette called what the world is facing “a climate mess” and called for immediate action. She wants to see subsidies ended for big polluters, sustainable agriculture promoted, a pharmacare and senior strategy created, and energy-efficient housing encouraged.

“I applaud every step anyone takes towards a greener planet,” she said.

The Green Party has announced that it plans to cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. It wants to halt all new fossil fuel development projects, and shift the nation toward non-nuclear renewables. The party has proposed creating a “survival cabinet” consisting of members from all political parties, who would tackle climate change and declare a climate emergency.

“We must act immediately. We must repair the damage we have done to our air, our soil and our water,” said Valiquette. “We must ensure a just transition for everyone and not pit the environment against the economy.”

Libertarian Dan Little was unable to attend due to his work schedule aboard ships, but provided his view, as well as that of his party, on the issue of climate change in an e-mail to The Sun Times.

Little said his party’s policy will provide constitutional amendments that grant private property rights to all, including the right to a clean, healthy and safe environment.

Anyone who uses the natural environment will be required to restore it to its natural state, he wrote.

“What we will not do is impose taxes on citizens under the facade of climate change,” Little wrote.

The meeting came the night before Justin Trudeau’s visit with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette on Wednesday morning began the election campaign. Canada’s 43rd general election will be on Oct. 21, after which the winning candidate in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound will replace Conservative MP Larry Miller, who is retiring after 15 years.

Along with synopses about themselves and their party stances on the environment, candidates on Tuesday also took questions from audience members on a wide range of topics. They were asked what they have done personally to reduce their environmental footprint, about their views on nuclear power and the storage of nuclear waste, how to provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, and what they feel should be done in the case of a disaster if attempts to stop climate change are unsuccessful.

Tuesday’s meeting, moderated by Michael McLuhan, was organized by concerned citizens who attended town-hall meetings in the spring, held to discuss the policies laid out in Canada’s Green New Deal. Among other things, the deal demands emissions be cut in half by 2030, critical cultural and biological diversity be protected, a million jobs created and the multiple climate crises the world faces be addressed.

Bill Jones, who organized the meeting with David Walton, said he appreciated all the parties for coming out and describing their platforms, but added he was disappointed there wasn’t more talk on the urgent need to deal with climate change and global warming right now.

“I do hope that in the coming election campaign, that the number one topic on everybody’s mind is the urgency of climate change and not necessarily the economy, or corporations or whatever,” said Jones.

“None of the five parties actually discussed the urgency of the moment, which is what the Green New Deal is all about. It was more about how they would treat the environment or what they have done in the past and not about the urgency, which is going on globally.”

With the campaign now officially off and running, there are other all-candidates meetings scheduled for the riding in the coming weeks.

The Grey and Bruce County Federations of Agriculture will hold an all-candidates meeting on Sept. 17 at the Keady Community Centre, the Grey Highlands Chamber of Commerce will hold one on Sept. 26 at the Centre Grey Complex in Markdale and the Owen Sound and District Chamber of Commerce will hold its all-candidates meeting on Oct. 2 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.