Environment and climate change is one of the most important issues to Canadian voters; the same cannot be said for most of the NWT candidates in the upcoming federal election.
Liberal Michael McLeod, Conservative Yanik D’Aigle, and People’s Party candidate Luke Quinlan all skipped out on a debate centred around the environment on Thursday evening.
Organizers Ecology North and Alternatives North said candidates were given the opportunity to join via phone or video conference but none of them took up the offer.
As a result, Paul Falvo of the Green Party and Mary Beckett of the NDP had an agreeable if somewhat underwhelming discussion on the topic.
Both candidates agreed that mining was going to be necessary to support a healthy NWT economy and added there needed to be more regulation to ensure it’s done sustainably.
A rare disagreement
Both parties’ platforms have significant overlap in how they want to address climate change. For example, both push for a national housing retrofit program, both want to offer financial incentives for people to buy electric vehicles, both aim to reduce overall emissions, and both want to create training programs for workers transitioning to a green economy. The main difference is to what degree.
Put simply—and this is no surprise—the Greens have the most aggressive plan to tackle climate change. It’s also worth noting that after some initial changes, the party’s plan has been fully costed. However, that doesn’t take away from other criticism that the plan’s timeline is overly ambitious—especially the idea of doubling emission reduction by 2030.
Falvo reiterated that the Greens would treat the fight against climate change like a wartime effort, even establishing a non-partisan “survival cabinet.”
One area where the candidates disagreed was on oil and gas exploration in the NWT.
The Greens have committed to not approve any new oil and gas projects.
“We’d leave it in the ground,” said Falvo.
The NDP has not made this commitment. Beckett said modern land claims were amended for possible exploration by Indigenous groups. She added that if elected, she would need to consult with them to offer alternatives if exploration was no longer on the table.
You can see both parties’ environment platform here (Greens) and here (NDP).
Avoiding more of the same
Towards the end of the evening, Noeline Villebrun, a board member with Ecology North and former Dene National Chief, reminded both candidates that the federal government has a history of ignoring people’s issues in the NWT.
“These political parties that are running in the federal election have to stop and realize it should not matter what party gets in power,” said Villebrun. “We should all be treated equally, we should be treated with dignity and we should be treated with fairness. It seems like when one party gets out, another comes in and our issues are forgotten. This is why it takes people like myself to stand up and to keep reminding (them).”
Keep an eye out for CKLB’S one-on-one interviews with the federal candidates as we inch closer to the election on October 21.