Kootenay-Columbia candidates would rather voters check online for their parties’ climate change policies — it turns out they don’t have much original to say about it.
A climate change debate at Nelson United Church on Monday night failed to elicit any original ideas from candidates, nor did they address local issues related to the environment.
Local topics such as wildfire mitigation, water conservation, flood and landslide risk, caribou repopulation and dwindling salmon stocks were ignored by candidates during the event.
The ongoing Columbia River Treaty negotiations? Just one candidate mentioned the talks, and only then briefly in their closing statement.
Instead, what the audience heard over two hours was five candidates going on about their party’s policies with little personal insight. Three candidates directed the audience to their websites for more information — Liberal candidate Robin Goldsbury mentioned her own site three times.
The event, organized by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the West Kootenay EcoSociety, the Mir Centre for Peace and Fridays for Future, got off to an awkward start.
Wayne Stetski of the NDP, Abra Brynne of the Green Party candidate and Goldsbury each had seats at a table. Rick Stewart of the People’s Party and Trev Miller of the Animal Protection Party arrived without previously notifying organizers, which led to the audience being asked to vote if Miller and Stewart should take part.
The audience voted them in, and the pair sat at chairs on either end of the table despite moderator Katherine Oldfield’s reluctance to admit them.
Conservative Party candidate Rob Morrison told organizers he was ill and could not attend. Morrison has yet to attend any election forums in Nelson.
On the opening question about a proposed end to $3.3 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies, Stetski, Goldsbury and Brynne talked up the importance of investing in education and job transitioning for employees of the oil and gas industry.
Little also separated Stetski, Brynne and Goldsbury on the next question about the need for a non-partisan approach (they all agree working together is a good idea).
There were finally some different answers on a question about how to bring about 100 per cent renewable energy at the community level.
Stetski and Brynne spoke on the need to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure, while Brynne got a rare reaction from the crowd with a suggestion to expand passenger rail in Canada. Goldsbury meanwhile defended the Liberal record, without specifying which part of that record she was defending.
A third question asked for three ways parties can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2030, but the candidates all ignored the requested number of answers. Brynne referred the audience to the Greens’ 20-step plan (without saying what it was), Stetski said the NDP is focused on a 50 per cent reduction, and Goldsbury again referred the audience to her website.
Several questions submitted by the audience were also asked on topics such as transportation, greenhouse gas emissions and climate justice for Indigenous nations, the latter of which elicited the only negative reaction of the evening from the crowd when Stewart said he prefers to treat First Nations people the same as all other Canadians.
Miller made a point of walking back and forth in front of the candidates whenever he had the microphone and largely stuck to points on animal rights advocacy.
Stewart’s party opposes the Paris Accord and does not acknowledge the planet is facing an environmental crisis.
Stetski, Brynne and Goldsbury also took part in a debate Tuesday morning at Trafalgar Middle School.
The trio took questions from students on topics including mental health services, how candidates got their start in politics, Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, wildfire mitigation and First Nations’ access to clean drinking water.
Trafalgar and Hume School students took part, and all questions were asked by students.