Local candidates answer environment-related questions in first debate of election season

No clear winner in debate

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP candidates answered questions on topics ranging from carbon emissions and the climate crisis to reconciliation and social justice during a virtual debate Wednesday, but there was not a clear winner.

The debate was held over Zoom at 7 p.m., moderated by CFJC’s James Peters and organized by Transition Kamloops and the Kamloops chapter of the BC Sustainable Energy Association.

Candidates had a maximum of two rebuttals they could offer over the course of the 14-question session, and had 30 to 45 seconds to answer each question.

The severe wildfire season and high temperatures experienced in the Kamloops region this summer took a front seat during opening remarks and throughout the evening, with candidates discussing how they plan to address wildfire recovery, mitigation and climate action.

When asked how he would address effects of climate change given increasing wildfire threat and destruction, Jesse McCormick, Liberal candidate, said he would work with the City of Kamloops to implement the community climate action plan, and consult Indigenous partners to implement climate solutions.

“Those could include Indigenous guardians programs, or Indigenous protected and conserved areas,” he said.

“I think this is one key distinction between the Liberals and the NDP, it's the need to bring everyone along, take advantage of that knowledge and experience in the industry world out to support the efforts of the forestry industry to achieve sustainable forest management,” he said.

Corally Delwo, People’s Party of Canada candidate, said she would work to reduce red tape for both wildfire response and recovery efforts.

“Wildfire situations this year should not be totally blamed on climate change, but more so on the bureaucratic red tape that is encompassing the provincial and federal governments' response to the wildfires this year,” Delwo said.

“I will be working to have a public inquiry started not to place the blame necessarily, but to work collaboratively with all levels of government on ways to reduce red tape and have proactive plans to tackle these situations.”

Candidates were also asked what they thought the place of people, pipelines and carbon intensive industry should be in the present and future of the riding.

Bill Sundhu, NDP candidate, said based on findings from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change and the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel investments must stop immediately.

“We're in a red alert, there's serious credible issues around the economic viability, even of TMX. We’ve gone from $4 billion to $8 billion to $12 billion. Regardless, we need to make a just transition for that to be credible,” Sundhu said.

“We have to have viable plans, jobs — good paying jobs — and better wages in the clean energy economy, and the NDP is committed to workers and families to do that, for building energy efficient homes, electric vehicles and doing that in Canada, so that we have good jobs, and that also protects our sovereignty, and our economic independence.”

Wayne Allan, an independent candidate, said he thinks pipelines are needed, and that business should be encouraged.

“Unless we strive towards goals of self-sustainability, we are at the mercy of foreign entities whose goal is only profit, and they care nothing about our sustainability,” Allan said.

A question submitted from a member of the audience asked candidates to share their vision for what a sustainable Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo region might look like in 2050.

Iain Currie, Green Party candidate, said there needs to be a society were decisions are not made based on partisan politics, but on “open, free discussion” — with a better voting system.

“We need to have forgotten that there was such a thing as internal combustion engine, except in history classes. We need to be growing our own food locally. We need to shorten supply chains, we need to do that all with an eye to equality and justice, particularly for our people," Currie said.

Bob O’Brien, independent, said there are already the tools to accomplish the future he sees in 2050.

“I’m presently building my own house, I’m a home builder. And when I’m finished building this house, it will take approximately a year and a half, I’ll be able to plug in my electric vehicle and drive away, and not have to take any power from the grid, using solar panels,” he said.

“I think that we’re there now, we just have to make sure we want to do it.”

Conservative candidate Frank Caputo was noticeably absent from the debate. According to a statement from the local Conservative office, Caputo had been previously booked for another meeting with a number of small business owners from the region.

“Frank is always eager to talk about the Conservative plan for the environment, including meeting Paris 2030 targets, implementing personal carbon saving accounts, and investing in remote sensing and other technology that will improve the early detection of wildfires and better predict fire behaviour,” the statement said.

“Frank and the Conservatives are serious about climate change and he looks forward to discussing these issues in other candidate forums.”

Advanced voting polls are open from Friday to Monday, and voters can also submit their ballot by mail if they apply before Tuesday.

Election day is Sept. 20.

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