Opinion: Shame on New West candidates for skipping climate debate

When Bill Clinton first ran to become president of the United States, his campaign team had a simple slogan: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

The slogan was designed to keep the team focused on that central issue.

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For the 2019 federal election, the slogan could just as easily be, “It’s the environment, stupid” for candidates.

At least here in B.C.

British Columbians are troubled by housing, homelessness and poverty, but according to a national survey conducted by Research Co., the province now has the third-highest proportion of residents – after Quebec and Ontario – who cite the environment as their main concern.

Research Co. asked British Columbians about specific environmental issues that worry them. The results outline major gender and generational shifts, as well as a perception that, out of the three levels of government, Ottawa emerges as a major disappointment.

Respondents to the survey were presented with 10 different environmental problems and asked if they were concerned about each of them. Global warming or climate change is tied for third place on the list, along with pollution of drinking water, at 55 per cent. Slightly larger proportions of British Columbians expressed worries about air pollution (58 per cent) and the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs (57 per cent).

Half of British Columbians (50 per cent) are personally concerned about the contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, and slightly lower proportions are worried about deforestation (46 per cent), the extinction of plant and animal species (45 per cent), the depletion of fishing stocks due to overfishing (also 45 per cent), the loss of tropical rain forests (44 per cent) and the maintenance of the supply of fresh water for household needs (41 per cent).

While more than half of women say none of the three levels of government is paying enough attention to the environment, only about a third of men feel the same way. People aged 18 to 34 also expressed deep concerns about the environment.

This was made obvious on Sept. 27 when some amazing New Westminster Secondary students marched through our local streets on a climate strike. They made their views clear that they want politicians to make major changes to save our planet.

That’s why it was so disconcerting to see on Oct. 2 that two New Westminster-Burnaby candidates from major parties – Conservative Megan Veck and Liberal Will Davis – did not attend an all-candidates’ meeting that was specifically about climate change.

It seemed a cowardly choice to not defend their parties’ policies on an issue that clearly a lot of voters care about.

Our kids deserve better than cowardly actions.

It should also be noted that Davis also didn’t show up to an election event (after confirming he would be there) held earlier this week at Second Street Community School, in which candidates debated issues in front of an audience of children.

Our youth are unfortunately getting a crash course in being disappointed by politicians.

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