Federal candidates in Kamloops struggle with basic information in virtual climate debate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Federal candidates in Kamloops struggle with basic information in virtual climate debate

September 09, 2021 - 6:00 PM

It was a rough go for several candidates in the federal election in the first — and so far only — public debate as they struggled to determine which are federal and provincial responsibilities.

At a debate centred around climate change and environmental issues, three of the six candidates who took part focused many of their answers on wildfires and forest management, which is a matter up to provincial governments to handle.

"The wildfire situations this year should not be totally blamed on climate change but more so on the bureaucratic red tape that is encompassing the federal and provincial governments' response," People's Party candidate Corally Delwo said at the debate last night, Sept. 8, when asked how she would address the effects of climate change in the local riding.

Green Party candidate Iain Currie, however, did acknowledge this difference in jurisdictions, adding that there is still room for a federal response. 

"Forest management, of course, and wildfire prevention are a provincial jurisdiction primarily, but there's lots of room for federal investment and job creation for forest fuel mitigation," Currie said, adding that the Green Party platform includes measures to fund youth workers through municipalities and Indigenous communities who would clean up forest fuels in an effort to mitigate wildfire risks.

Six out of seven candidates for the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo federal riding took part in a virtual debate on climate policies on Wednesday evening, with much of the focus on the 2021 wildfire season in B.C.

Present at the virtual debate were Liberal candidate Jesse McCormick, Currie with the Green Party, NDP candidate Bill Sundhu, the PPC's Delwo and two independents, Bob O'Brien and Wayne Allan.

The two independents, Allan and O'Brien, and Delwo focused much of their attention on wildfire management, but the other three seemed to acknowledge that wildfires and heatwaves are affected and worsened by a changing climate. McCormick, Currie and Sundhu chose to make the distinction that wildfire management is a provincial matter, but acknowledged that there is room for funding in certain areas from the federal government.

James Peters of CFJC moderated the debate. The Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Debate on the Environment was hosted by Transition Kamloops and the Kamloops chapter of the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

READ MORE: Federal Election 2021: Odds in favour of new Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative candidate

While a live audience was not permitted, the virtual platform allowed the moderator to control who could speak within their turn and avoid cross-talk, making for a civil forum on each candidate's position on climate change issues. 

When asked whether deeming the current global climate situation as an "emergency" is an overreaction, most candidates said no, and agreed that climate change is an emergency and significantly human-caused. The glaring exception was PPC's Delwo. She mostly called for changes to forest management practices and later added she would call for an inquiry into the wildfire response in B.C. this year.

The B.C. government, which manages wildfire responses in the province, completed two reports following some of the worst wildfire seasons ever — the Abbot and Chapman report following the 2017 wildfire season and the Filmon report after the 2003 wildfire season.

Delwo also added that Canada, instead of focusing on international climate agreements, should focus on itself and not follow the "U.N. agenda."

"Climate change alarmism is based on flawed models that have consistently failed at correctly failed to predict the future," Delwo said. "The People's Party would pull out of the Paris Accord and focus on our own governance."

Sundhu, Currie and O'Brien decried the Liberal government's stance on continued pipeline construction, claiming that it is counterintuitive to build a pipeline while aiming to transition the country into a more sustainable economy with less green house gas emissions.

Liberal candidate McCormick followed the party line and did not speak against the building of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, but questioned the NDP stance on liquid natural gas projects, saying he was unclear whether the NDP supports them or not.

READ MORE: Trudeau, Blanchet clash as leaders spar on health care, environment in French debate

While most of the candidates acknowledged a need for Canada to transition away from fossil fuels and implement measures with less green house gas emissions, like encouraging more electric vehicles throughout the country.

Independent O'Brien, however, questioned how gas taxes used for road construction would be recuperated, while PPC Delwo said current infrastructure is not prepared to support more widespread electric vehicle charging stations. She would like to see more hybrid vehicles instead.

While much of the candidates called for the need to transition away from energy production through fossil fuels, very few spoke on any energy production alternatives. Both independents called for more solar energy production at households, while Delwo said solar energy is not viable because it would not be sufficient at a large scale.

The candidates were also asked how they would use the COVID-19 pandemic as a "launch pad" to offer innovative changes to the Canadian economy with focus on sustainability and social justice. While Liberal candidate McCormick believes Canada already has some of those measures in place, Sundhu and Currie both noted that more work is needed to offer more swift changes to the economy. Sundhu noted that in his career as a human rights lawyer, social justice has been a lifelong passion for him.

Currie raised that emergencies, like the pandemic, show how politicians can set aside differences to make meaningful and swift policy changes.

"In the all-too-rare moments when politicians can set aside their differences and come together, as they did in the beginning of the pandemic, parliament can get things done," Currie said.

Go here to watch the full debate recorded on Zoom.

Missing from the debate was Conservative candidate Frank Caputo. When asked why he declined to attend, Caputo's campaign manager Sandra Webb Smith said his calendar was booked and there was no flexibility to move the debate.

"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," Smith said in an email to iNFOnews.ca. "Frank and the Conservatives are serious about climate change and he looks forward to discussing these issues in other candidate forums."

READ MORE: B.C.’s Vaccine Card security is good but not the best: IT expert

Instead Caputo met with small business owners that employ "more than 400 jobs in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo," she said.

He did post a video to his social media on Sept. 8 and answered questions such as: "Are you a dog or cat person?" and "Who is a childhood hero for you, and why?"

Caputo, for the record, is a dog person and enjoys meeting both voters and their dogs while door knocking, he said in the video posted to his campaign's social media page.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2021

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