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What party will do more for climate change? Candidates debate in Dundas

The question of which party has done more for the environment took centre stage in Dundas on Monday night as the Conservative candidate told the packed audience that his party has cut greenhouse gases more than any other government in Canada's history.

Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas is considered one of the tightest races in Canada

The question of which party has done more for the environment took centre stage in Dundas on Monday night as the Conservative candidate told the packed audience that his party has cut greenhouse gases more than any other government in Canada's history.

Vincent Samuel, candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, drew a round of boos at an all-candidates meeting when he said the Conservatives have been the only party to balance the economy and the environment.

"As Conservatives, we are the first and only government in history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Samuel told the packed audience at the Association of Dundas Churches event.

I don't know the stats on it. I just think that their environmental record is poor.- Filomena Tassi, Liberal candidate

With the reaction, Samuel clarified.

"Did I say anything wrong?" he asked, then rephrased. "We have the first Conservative government in Canadian history to reduce gas emissions by 3.1 per cent in the last 10 years."

Liberal candidate Filomena Tassi said afterward that she didn't think Samuel's comments were accurate, although she didn't know the numbers off the top of her head.

"I don't know the stats on it," she said. "I just think that their environmental record is poor, and that's probably why (the crowd) reacted the way that they did."

We have seen the muzzling of scientists. We have seen the firing of scientists.- Alex Johnstone, NDP candidate

The environmental question was just one of many candidates fielded during the packed event, which drew about 500 people and even packed the room reserved for crowd overflow. Dundas residents submitted questions on subjects such as prison reform and who was willing to commit to a national housing strategy.

'Hit over the head with a two by four'

On the environment, NDP candidate Alex Johnstone said her party will introduce a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions. She also took aim at the Harper government, including for 2012 changes to the Navigable Waterways Protection Act.

The green economy is happening all over. We just have to get it to a higher level.- Peter Ormond, Green candidate

"We have seen the muzzling of scientists," she said. "We have seen the firing of scientists. We've seen over a million waterways and lakes lose their protection and now we're just down to 200. Shame." 

Green candidate Peter Ormond said his party will stop expansion of the Alberta oil sands and implement a carbon tax.

"The green economy is happening all over," he said. "We just have to get it to a higher level."

Tassi, meanwhile, said her party will invest billions in green infrastructure and work with the provinces to develop a framework to combat climate change.

We have kept a balance in that we have greenhouse gas emission reduction as well as jobs and the economy.- Vincent Samuel, Conservative candidate

"We have to take this matter seriously," she said. "We're getting hit over the head with a two by four. We need to change."

But Samuel's response defending his party's environmental record drew the biggest reaction.

Greenhouse gases by the numbers

"We have kept a balance in that we have greenhouse gas emission reduction as well as jobs and the economy," he told the crowd. "Other than the last 10 years, this has not happened in Canadian history."

According to Environment Canada data, greenhouse gas emissions did fall under the Conservatives from 761 to 699 megatonnes from 2006 to 2008 — a change, the agency said, that was primarily in the public electricity and heat production category.

But they've crept slowly upward since then, reaching 726 megatonnes in 2013. That's been driven primarily from fossil fuel industries and transport, the agency said. The 3.1-per cent reduction Samuel cited refers to greenhouse gas data from 2005 to 2013, when they fell from 749 megatonnes to 726 in that time period. 

But emissions have crept upward steadily since 1990, including through numerous years when the Liberals governed. Emissions did decrease slightly from 2000 to 2001 under Liberal watch.

As for the Oct. 19 election, the riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas is considered one of the tightest races in Canada. The newly redrawn riding encompasses areas where all three parties have won.

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