Federal candidates debate climate change at UNB

Some candidates didn’t show despite being invited. From left to right: Stuart Jamieson running as an independent, Armand Cormier with the NDP, Wayne Long representing the Liberals, and Ann McAllister for the Greens. (Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron)

The Saint John-Rothesay federal MP candidate’s environmental debate had a fantastic turnout on Thursday. The Whitebone Lounge was packed with voters keen to hear the debate held by the SRC that focused specifically on the environment.

Even though all candidates were invited, Rodney Weston, the Conservative candidate, declined; Adam Salesse, the People’s Party candidate, agreed to come but did not show; and Neville Barnett, running as an independent, did not attend.

We spoke with a few students beforehand to see what they were hoping to get from this debate.

“I’m hoping to hear a clear, detailed plan [on the environment], not empty promises, on how they’re going to tackle this issue in our riding.” said Chloe Dallon.

“I look forward to hearing the perspective of these parties and candidates that I’ve never heard of, [and I’m] curious as to what the PPC candidate will say about climate change as their official stance is that climate change isn’t real” commented another student, Caitlin Grogan.

J.P. Lewis, a political science professor at UNBSJ, moderated the debate. The candidates were allowed to make opening statements, were given eight environmental-related questions, four provided by 100 Debates on the Environment, and four were submitted by potential voters. Finally, candidates were given a chance to make their closing remarks.

The official questions

The 100 Debates on the Environment questions asked about climate change, water, wilderness conservation, pollution, and toxic substances.

NDP’s response

Armand Cormier took a glass of water, as opposed to the bottled water that other candidates were drinking. (Amelia Bailey/The Baron)

Armand Cormier, the NDP candidate, referred to the NDP’s $15 billion climate change plan and that this funding would be used to keep the climate from warming above the 1.5 degree threshold, create 300,000 jobs through the renewable energy sector, make electric vehicles more affordable, and no-interest loans to allow homes to be retrofitted to be more energy efficient.

Cormier also stated that the NDP has committed to protecting 30 percent of the country’s land and ocean habitats by 2030 with the help and guidance of the Indigenous peoples. He pledged to strengthen the Environmental Protection Act and enshrine into the law the “right to a healthy environment” by introducing an environmental bill of rights.

Liberal’s response

Wayne Long, the Liberal candidate, mentioned some changes that were implemented during the Liberal’s term from 2015 – 2019, like the Paris Agreement. He also introduced new promises such as becoming carbon neutral by 2050. He stated that industries need to be taxed, and we need a “price on pollution”.

Wayne Long, the Liberal candidate. (Wolfgang Düchtel/The Baron)

Long cited things like investing $1 million in ACAP, a company that studies the ecosystem and makes recommendations to the government on how the waters can be cleaned up, and the passing of Bill C-48, which banned large oil tankers off the coast of B.C., C-68, which protected more ocean habitat, and C-69, which made changes on how major infrastructure projects are reviewed.

He mentioned the Liberal’s pledge to plant 2 billion trees and to protect 25 percent of land and ocean habitats by 2025. He mentioned his support for the carbon tax that was enacted and “disappointment” that the Conservative and People’s Party candidates did not attend.

Green’s response

Ann McAllister, the Green party candidate, cited the party’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 60%, which is double the Liberal pledge. They also plan to be carbon-neutral by 2050. They will do this by utilizing renewable energy sources and finance a nation-wide “smart grid” to distribute energy.

Ann McAllister, from the Green Party of Canada. (Amelia Bailey/The Baron)

They will fund this by ending oil subsidies and cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline. They also plan to retrofit homes across the country, which will, in turn, create “thousands” of jobs. They also plan to electrify transport, as she stated this accounts for over one-quarter of our pollution. McAllister mentioned the Green’s commitment to protect 30% of freshwater, ocean and marine habitat if elected.

McAllister stated that she would not approve projects that do not have scientific proof of safety, would strengthen the Environmental Protection Act, ban fracking, and will work with provinces to develop a water classification regulation system. She also condemned the former Liberal government’s Sisson mine project, which would allow companies to dump their waste into an area of the Naashwaak River.

Independent candidate’s response

Independent candidate Stuart Jamieson stated that this should be the responsibility of the government through legislation, not individuals, and condemned the carbon tax.

Stuart Jamieson, the only independent candidate that showed up for the debate. (Amelia Bailey/The Baron)

Jamieson cited some environmental projects he undertook during his time as the Minister of Environment for the provincial government, such as the watershed protection plan, the clean water act, and the returnable bottle legislation, and creating regulated landfills, and again said that legislation needs to be enforced. Jamieson mentioned the clear-cutting in N.B. and stated that woodlands should be bought from private individuals and the land preserved. He says that more teaching needs to be done in schools about the environment, specifically how to develop agriculture.

He mentioned the clear-cutting in N.B. and stated that woodlands should be bought from private individuals and the land preserved. He says that more teaching needs to be done in schools about the environment, specifically how to develop agriculture.

Questions from the crowd

The following questions, submitted by attendees of the debate, asked about how the candidates would deal with extreme flooding in our area, the candidate’s thoughts on single-use plastics, and what kinds of renewable energy sources they would invest in.

NDP’s response

Cormier stated that the NDP’s pledge of $2.5 billion to help with natural disasters would be used to help respond and prevent flooding in New Brunswick. He also mentioned that the NDP would ban single-use plastics, stating that only 10% are currently recycled, and would expand marine protected areas. He also believes that the government needs to invest in renewable energy.

Liberal’s response

Long stated that he will continue to gain funding from Ottawa for climate adaptation projects such as building up the city’s seawall and building up roads. He mentioned his government’s pledge to plan single-use plastics by 2021. He is interested in investing in tidal, solar and nuclear sources of renewable energy. He said he met with a company that is interested in building small nuclear reactors in Southern N.B., which would give the region nuclear power, and would create 4-5000 jobs.

Green’s response

McAllister stated that her government would work with the province to end clear-cutting, as this contributes to spring run-off, would ensure that no more building could be done on flood plains, and would not allow any new waterfront development, and would build up roads. She stated also that the main goal is to target the root of the problem, which are fossil fuels leading to climate change. She believes that N.B. has the potential to develop solar and wind energy, by putting solar panels on homes and building more windmills. She also mentioned the potential of investing in geothermal energy in the tar sands area in Alberta. She is concerned about nuclear energy as she stated it has risks of accidents, involves uranium mining, and it creates leftover waste

Independent candidate’s response

Jamieson thinks that the Mactaquac dam should be restructured for more energy development. He also thinks the government should provide tax incentives and low-interest loans for low-energy home options, and that they need to provide funding to help individuals transition into renewable forms of energy.

What did the crowd think?

After the debate, we asked some attendees how they felt about the candidates after having the opportunity to hear them speak.

Allie Ruigrok, the VP Social, was disappointed that not all of the candidates participated. Adam Salesse, the People’s Party candidate, had originally agreed to attend, but then declined the request 12 minutes into the debate.

Student Matthew Robart is now more interested in the New Democratic Party. “He [the candidate] had very progressive and diverse ideas.”

Jenny Burpee is still undecided. “This is my first-time voting, and I find it hard to form an opinion on just one topic, but I’m glad I came. I want to gain as much knowledge out of any opportunity I can find to hear from the candidates”.