Protesters in Vancouver demand federal candidates make climate crisis a top priority

Dozens of people at a protest in downtown Vancouver Wednesday called on candidates in the Sept. 20 federal election to make the climate crisis a priority.

Khalid Boudreau, 22, was among the all-ages crowd at Hamilton Street and West Georgia to demand the government take swift action.  He says witnessing this summer’s unprecedented heat waves created a bleak picture.

“It’s scary. You have these overlapping crises … the heat wave killing hundreds of people, then there’s affordability issues, the climate crisis and of course the pandemic. It’s only going to get worse, if we don’t act now,” Boudreau said with emotion. 

EsméDecker, 19, is a University of British Columbia student who says this will be the first federal election in which she is eligible to vote. 

“With the recent air quality issues and climate change hitting close to home, it has made it even more pressing for me to get involved and make sure everybody is making climate a priority,” says Decker. “It’s about making sure our voices are heard and showing politicians, climate change is an issue that matters to people.”

Esmé Decker spoke at Wednesday’s climate action rally in Vancouver leading up to the federal election. (Maggie MacPherson)

Connor Roff is one of the organizers of Wednesday’s Canada on Fire Day of Action. 

“The main thing is to not allow yourself to feel hopeless and helpless. We really want to put climate action at the forefront of every political party’s campaign. Canada is literally on fire. We have to put a stop to it,” says Roff. 

Protestors at the rally say they will keep politicians accountable for the promises they make. 

Climate activists rally to raise awareness of climate change on Wednesday. (Maggie MacPherson)
Some took aim at the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project which will almost triple the capacity of a petroleum pipeline from Edmonton, Alta., to Burnaby (Maggie MacPherson)

Canada’s political parties climate change plans 

Canada’s six major parties have all proposed climate change plans within their election platforms.

The Liberals, claim that with a national price on carbon and other measures, they can cut Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030. They have pledged to ensure the oil and gas sector cuts emissions at the pace required to hit net-zero in 2050. 

The Conservatives opposed the Liberals’ net-zero emissions legislation and say their climate plan will meet Paris climate commitments of 30 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030. 

New Democrats supported the Liberals’ net-zero legislation and have set an emissions reduction target of 50 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030. 

The Bloc Québécois says it wants to meet and exceed the Paris climate agreement targets, redirect unspent money on the Trans Mountain pipeline to renewable projects, and compel provinces that have emissions higher than the national average to pay into a “green equalization” fund, to be distributed to provinces with less pollution. 

The Green Party wants to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030, and says it will create “clear” and “enforceable” targets and timelines by 2023. If elected, the party would cancel pipeline projects, ban fracking and put tariffs on imports from countries with weak climate policies. 

The People’s Party argues that there is “no scientific consensus” that human activity is driving climate change and has said warnings of looming environmental catastrophe are exaggerated. The party would withdraw Canada from the Paris climate accord and abandon what it calls “unrealistic” targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal parties have varying positions on how best to deal with climate change. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Worried for the future

Looking down at her young son with tears in her eyes, Christina Reed said if the government does not act soon, there will be no future for him. 

“There is no point in hanging our heads, saying we’ve always done it this way or nothing can change. It is the most important issue for the election coming up, and it’s not getting the attention it deserves. Without a planet, we don’t have anything.” 

Following the rally, protestors marched down Hamilton street, waving their signs and chanting for change. 

British Columbians were just one of 60 communities to join in the day of action, ahead of the federal party leaders’ official election debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights..  

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