Clean Growth and the 2017 B.C. Election Webinar

Mary Polak, George Heyman, and Andrew Weaver talk about climate action on April 20
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

Environmental Stances (2)

Mary Polak, Andrew Weaver, and George Heyman discuss environmental issues leading up to the B.C. provincial election on April 20. (Alyssa Laube)

Climate change is influencing politics more than ever before, particularly in British Columbia. Our province’s resources are an enormous contributor to our collective identity, economy, and culture, and as the globe continues to warm, the resources that make the world go ‘round will become more important and less bountiful.

That’s an issue for everyone to hold in high regard, including members of government.

With the cold, hard facts about climate change in mind—especially those that threaten human safety and well-being—politicians are starting to weave climate action plans into their campaigns. This has been a noticeable change so far in the 2017 B.C. election. The Liberals, Greens, and NDP have all proposed plans for environmental action, and are making investment in fields like green energy key parts of their platforms.

The Liberal Party’s Mary Polak, NDP’s George Heyman, and Greens’ Andrew Weaver, who is also the party’s leader, convened online for a webinar on “clean growth” on April 20. For one hour they answered questions asked by Judith Sayers of the University of Victoria, Sybil Seitzinger of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Tony Gioventu of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association of B.C., and Bryan MacLeod of Clean Energy B.C. The director of the Pembina Institute, Josha MacNab, moderated the discussion.

“There’s no question that the single biggest issue facing mankind is the issue of climate change, and for public policymakers the challenge that presents is how we move forward in trying to tackle that challenge and, at the same time, making sure that we’re keeping people full in terms of their livelihoods,” Polak said in her opening statement.

Heyman opened with a jab at Liberal Premier Christy Clark for not lowering emissions to satisfactory levels, and stated that the B.C. NDP will adopt changes to the energy sector, set and meet targets, and keep the lower-middle class in mind while doing so.

Weaver reminded his audience that he got into politics because he got “sick and tired of politicians saying one thing and doing the other in the area of climate leadership.”

“The B.C. Liberals have no plan. The B.C. NDP claim they have a plan but the single most important and underpinning aspect of the plan is missing, and that is carbon pricing,” he says. “We have a plan that would increase the carbon price by ten dollars per year to seventy dollars a tonne, which will be twenty dollars over the amount that Trudeau has mandated anyway.”

Questions asked by panelists focused on how parties will help citizens adapt to climate change, deal with Site C and First Nations relations, and create environmentally friendly infrastructure and buildings, among related topics.

Only Polak defended the merits of Site C, saying that although the Liberals “want to encourage renewable and clean energy projects, especially with First Nations,” preventing ratepayers from paying higher electricity bills is the party’s current priority.

Weaver feels that “bringing Site C on has essentially killed the green sustainability sector in B.C.,” and that it “is being constructed to provide energy for an industry that doesn’t exist, which is the LNG industry.”

Heyman agrees that renewable energy is where the government should be funneling its money and energy, particularly “with a focus on the tremendous opportunities for the First Nations for wind, solar, and when it’s managed for environmental impact, hydro,” all of which he says can create jobs.

Weaver also emphasized the importance of small changes to building construction such as putting in charging stations for electric vehicles. Polak talked about “moving towards net zero buildings” while providing incentives for large buildings transitioning to using “more efficient technology,” and Heyman echoed the significance of weaving sustainability into the construction of homes and home appliances.

The general consensus was that environmentalism is important, but, perhaps for the Liberals, not important enough to sacrifice immediate economic gains. Weaver was the most enthusiastic about reform that would push B.C. towards a greener future, whereas, characteristically for the NDP, Heyman stood on relatively middle-left ground.

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