Three candidates representing widely differing views across the political spectrum squared off in an environmental debate in West Vancouver Thursday night, covering topics that ranged from what to do about climate change to the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Three candidates took part in the event held at West Vancouver United Church and organized by the non-partisan group GreenPAC which hosted 100 environmental debates on the same day across the country.
About 200 people packed the church pews to watch Dana Taylor of the Green Party, Patrick Weiler of the Liberals and Doug Bebb of the People’s Party spend better part of two hours verbally jousting on what kind of threat is posed by greenhouse gas emissions, whether the LNG plant at Woodfibre threatens Howe Sound and their stance on protected areas.
(The NDP’s Judith Wilson didn’t attend, citing a work conflict, and the Conservatives’ Gabrielle Loren cancelled at the last minute over a family emergency, according to organizers.)
Taylor and Bebb quickly staked out opposing viewpoints on many debate questions.
Taylor said he’s running for the Green Party because he wants to “salvage and save” the future for the younger generations who took part in the recent Climate March. The Greens want to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and have net zero emissions by 2050, he said.
To do that, the Greens would increase the carbon tax on all sources of carbon, would reject all new fossil fuel projects and aim to have Canada on 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, he said.
In contract, Bebb said while his party believes climate change is real, he doesn’t believe climate change is primarily caused by human-generated carbon emissions, calling that “the current CO2 hysteria.”
Weiler, running to keep the Liberal seat in West Vancouver, defended the government’s record on the environment, saying the “Liberal government has done more than any other government to address climate change” and citing the “ground breaking plan” the Liberals made to introduce a Canada-wide carbon tax.
That prompted a response from Taylor, who said that “having bought a $4.5 billion pipeline as part of their marquee plan to reduce emissions . . . one has to challenge the Liberal government on all of their pronouncements.”
Weiler replied that the Greens, NDP and Liberals all have the same target of net zero emissions by 2050. “We just disagree on how we’re going to get there.”
Moving away from the fossil fuel industry at the rate the Greens are proposing is “akin to driving down the highway full speed ahead and jamming your car into park,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that’s going to blow the hood of the car”. That’s the kind of thing that would happen to our economy.”
Making the transition more slowly, is the “only responsible approach” for people working in the oil and gas industry, said Weiler.
Bebb also criticized the Green Party plan for being too prescriptive, calling their platform “145 pages of intrusive regulation. There’s really nothing the Greens don’t want to regulate.”
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion reared its head again later in the debate.
In response to a question from the moderator, Bebb said he shares concerns about tanker traffic but said the People’s Party is “basically pro pipeline. We see pipeline being a matter of national unity.”
Bebb said pipelines are still a better way to transport oil than rail.
Taylor said the pipeline project should be stopped and called out the Liberals and Conservatives for being funded by petroleum producers.
Weiler didn’t directly address whether he thinks the pipeline expansion is a good or bad idea. “At this point the project’s been approved we’re past the point of being for or against the project,” he said. “The focus has to be on ensuring it’s built and operated in the safest way possible.”
Weiler repeated that a transition time is needed to switch to a cleaner economy.
“It’s not as if we can take someone working in the fossil fuel section send them to school for a week and the next week have them building wind turbines,” he said. “It’s going to take longer to do that.”
The candidates expressed similar views on the Woodfibre LNG project, with Weiler saying “we’re past supporting or opposing the projects” and adding the Squamish Nation had already forced a new environmental assessment process which came with 150 conditions.
Bebb said his party supports LNG. “We thank the Liberal government for putting this one forward,” he said.
Taylor said he is “absolutely opposed” to the project.”
“There is no reason in the world why we continue to build for fossil fuel industry and why our tax dollars continue to support this,” he said, describing the project as making no economic sense without government subsidies.
Other topics addressed during the debate included fisheries, protection of endangered species and wilderness spaces and pesticides.
A similar environmental-focused candidate debate took place in North Vancouver Thursday night.
Videos of both debates were being uploaded to the group’s website at: