Hundreds of young people rallied across Canada Wednesday as part of a campaign to make climate change and a Green New Deal key issues in this fall’s federal election.
The rallies in more than 20 cities were aimed at pushing the CBC to broadcast a leaders’ debate focused on the two issues. They were organized by Our Time, a national campaign of young people and many — including the Vancouver rally — were held outside CBC offices.
Rajdeep Dhaliwal, a 24-year-old Vancouver-based organizer with Our Time, said voters need to understand each party’s positions on climate change.
“With an election this fall, I think people need to know who has the plan to deal with climate change at the scale that science and justice demand,” she said. “I’m talking about a Green New Deal for Canada.”
The idea of a Green New Deal first emerged in the United States and is gaining traction in Canada. It’s a proposal to address climate change by reducing emissions while addressing inequality and ensuring sustainable jobs to replace any that are lost during the transition.
Dhaliwal says a televised climate change debate is needed to push political leaders to engage in conversations around detailed climate policy plans.
“Millions of people watch our election debates, I believe this is the best way to make that happen,” she said. “Showing up to CBC will send a clear message to the producers of what is important to us.”
CBC did not say whether it would hold a debate focused on the issues.
In a statement, it said it recognized climate change was an important issue to Canadians and emphasized its continuing extensive coverage.
But it noted decisions on debates are made by the Leaders’ Debate Commission set up by the federal government.
“It’s the debate commission who determines which media organization will host the official leaders’ debate,” said the statement from Chuck Thompson, head of public affairs at CBC. “Any decisions around topics of the debate would be driven by the editorial group that will be producing it.”
Nayeli Jimenez, Dhaliwal’s co-organizer with Our Time, says CBC has a “moral obligation” to host a climate debate and speak out about it.
“As the public broadcaster, they have a huge say,” said Jimenez. “At the very least, [they can] release a statement that they support it.”
The Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and Greens have already released their climate plans.
But Jimenez said there is still a lack of detailed information, especially on any plans to link climate policy with a Green New Deal.
“Only the NDP and Green Party have released plans that include some of the principles that a Green New Deal should cover,” said Jimenez.
“A lot of times plans get released but not a lot of Canadians engage with them right away. A debate is one of those opportunities to grab their attention and get into more specifics,” said Jimenez. “When candidates are usually asked harsher questions, that’s when you start seeing those specifics come to life. That’s why a debate is really important.”
Vancouver’s young activists are hopeful that CBC will host a climate debate.
“The ideal outcome is that CBC will say yes, we commit to hosting a debate of federal leaders on climate change with a Green New Deal at the forefront of the conversation,” said Jimenez.
Our Time’s series of rallies follows a similar demonstration organized by Sunrise Movement, a U.S.-based climate organization of young people which Our Time is modelled after.
In June, Sunrise Movement members rallied at the Democratic National Committee headquarters to demand a climate change debate as part of the process of selecting the party’s presidential candidate.
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