Vancouver Island's federal candidates say climate change is a top priority
Polling data shows it's the biggest election issue for British Columbia voters
British Columbians are going to the polls in roughly six weeks to elect their representatives in Ottawa and data shows when they do, many will be prioritizing breathable air, clean water and provincial protections against drought, devastating wildfires and other consequences of climate change.
Polling data from the Angus Reid Institute shows the environment and climate change is the biggest concern for British Columbian voters, with 45 per cent of those surveyed indicating it's a priority.
This could be one of the reasons why Vancouver Island candidates from the four major federal parties say climate is a key election issue for them as well.
"We've got the worst record in the G7. We have increased emissions by 20 per cent over 1990 levels," said Paul Manly, the incumbent Green Party of Canada candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
Manly said bold action is needed and that the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act passed by the current Liberal leadership is too weak. The act establishes a legally binding process to set five-year national emissions-reduction targets for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045.
It also mandates frequent progress reports, an independent advisory body, and a 2026 emissions objective requiring a plan within six months after the bill passed — which it did in June.
Manly says his party would do more, including pass into law a Climate Change Act requiring a 60 per cent cut in climate-changing emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, reaching net zero in 2050.
"We should be shutting down all the the pipelines that are in construction right now and stopping all new fossil fuel infrastructure. And we need to re-gear our economy and start dealing with home energy retrofits, building retrofits across the country, and re-tooling and re-skilling our workers so that we can build the clean energy economy that we need to be able to survive," he told CBC's On The Island.
Nikki Macdonald, Victoria's Liberal Party candidate, says Justin Trudeau's team is on top of climate issues.
"People are really looking for a government that's going to do something on climate change. And the Liberals have already shown that they are," she said.
Macdonald says she has knocked on over 2,000 doors during the campaign period and climate change is the No. 1 issue people want to talk about.
Of the 1,465 people surveyed by Angus Reid, 35 per cent said they planned to vote for the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau, followed by Erin O'Toole and the Conservatives and then the NDP and Greens.
Conservative candidate Tamara Kronis is battling Manly for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith vote.
In April, O'Toole proposed charging a levy on fuel purchases to fund personalized savings accounts which Canadians can use for environmentally friendly purchases.
Instead of channeling that money into direct rebates to Canadian households, as is the case currently, the Conservatives would divert it to "personal low carbon savings accounts."
"We have a climate change plan this time around that really puts control over making change in the hands of ordinary Canadians," said Kronis.
She echoed Manly with the sentiment that the Liberals are not doing enough.
Victoria NDP candidate Laurel Collins was quick to say the same during a Tuesday radio interview.
"My focus has been on relentlessly pushing this Liberal government in a minority situation for bold action to protect our environment," said the incumbent.
Collins said she led negotiations to strengthen their Accountability Act bill that resulted in stronger accountability sooner.
A majority of those surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute felt NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was "best suited" to deal with climate change.
In the last federal election, Vancouver Island and Powell River voters elected members of Parliament from the NDP and Green Party. Incumbent candidates for the NDP and Green party are seeking re-election in all seven federal ridings.
Canadians go to the polls on September 20.
We're answering your questions about climate change and the federal election. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll answer as many as we can leading up to election day.
With files from On The Island and Ethan Sawyer