Climate change is on the minds of local youth, as was apparent at a federal election forum on Wednesday at South Kamloops secondary. When NDP candidate Cynthia Egli asked if students agree with teenaged environmental advocate Greta Thunberg, a room full of hands shot up.
Meanwhile, People’s Party of Canada candidate Ken Finlayson was asked to defend his party’s position that climate change is real, but is naturally occurring and not caused by CO2 emissions.
“Why should youth trust you when, on Facebook, you compared a youth advocate for climate change to Nazi propaganda?” Grade 12 student Ireland Miller asked Finlayson.
About 150 high school students were hungry for answers before lunch from candidates running to be MP of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding. They can’t yet officially vote, but will take part in a student vote on election day, Oct. 21.
On the issue of climate change, Terry Lake repeated his Liberal Party’s recent announcement to reach net zero emissions by 2050, while Green Party candidate Iain Currie called for leadership in transitioning to a green economy.
“We have to turn this ship around,” Currie said.
Incumbent Conservative MP Cathy McLeod was asked how her party would meet the Paris Agreement targets without a carbon tax. Her party will reach those targets, McLeod said, but argued the carbon tax is too low to be effective, instead hurting rural residents who have no choice but to drive without alternative transportation. She said her party would support technological innovation to reach climate targets and cited the Domtar pulp mill’s reduction of particulate as a success story.
“The government gave them support,” McLeod said. “There was new research. They have decreased their emissions by 70 per cent. Using those same sorts of thinking, we believe that we will get to where we need to be with the Paris targets.”
Finlayson drew the ire of students and other candidates when he outlined his party’s view on climate change. Claiming CO2 emissions are not harmful to the environment, one student asked for proof — to which Finlayson cited climate change skeptic Tim Ball and drew criticism from Lake.
“We have these wonderful machines called smartphones,” Lake said. “And you can Google anything. You will quickly discredit Mr. Finlayson’s claims about Dr. Tim Ball. Wikipedia is very precise on how he has been discredited. All I can tell you is listen to your teachers that are teaching you science.”
Other topics that emerged during the forum included foreign relations with authoritarian regimes and money for retraining employees in light of Interior mill closures and curtailments, to which Communist Party candidate Peter Kerek suggested cutting military spending.
Grade 9 student Alexis Cloet said the forum gave her a better understanding of where candidates stood and she planned to go home and talk politics with family. Grade 9 student Matthew House said attending the forum was different from politics depicted in the media.
“Sometimes I almost want to get away from it,” House said. “But being here today impressed me, with how well they knew their topics and what they were doing.”
Though their votes remain undecided, students KTW spoke with said they were impressed with Kerek and Animal Protection Party candidate Kira Cheeseborough, a self-proclaimed Titan who graduated from South Kam and now has passion to address — you guessed it — climate change.