Sudbury Chapter: Sudbury candidates clash over climate change

Click here to read ‘Sudbury candidates clash over climate change‘ by Maryk Keown – The Sudbury Star, October 14, 2015

The debates have ended, the issues discussed. Now all that remains is to check a box on the ballot.

Paul Loewenberg, Paul Lefebvre, Fred Slade, David Robinson and independent candidate Jean-Raymond Audet met Tuesday afternoon in front of about three dozen people – mostly older adults – for the final throw-down in a flurry of debates that have taken place throughout this election campaign.

The Sudbury riding hopefuls met to hash out their party platforms at the Parkside Centre in a meeting organized by the local branch of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).

Besides topics that tend to weigh heavy with older voters – including home care, end-of-life care and income-splitting – candidates were questioned about climate change. The conversation quickly evolved into a debate on the economy and the environment.

The Conservatives were hammered over their record on climate change. Slade, the Sudbury riding candidate, began by citing statistics purporting to show that the economy has actually grown while carbon emissions have fallen.

“In 2013, greenhouse gas emissions were 3.1% lower than 2005 levels, while the economy grew by 13% over the same period,” he argued, adding the Conservatives would “protect” the Canadian economy while continuing to lower the national carbon footprint.

Audet claimed those lower emissions as a provincial Liberal victory, since they have mothballed Ontario’s coal-fired power generators. He also postulated that to really cut emissions, the tar sands would need to remain undeveloped.

Lefebvre, the Grit hopeful, did not mince words.

“Greenhouse gas emissions are lower because the provinces got engaged, period,” he said. “The federal government has not been at the table. There have been no discussions between the federal government and the provinces on this issue. I find it not only disconcerting, but abhorrent, that in today’s society, around the world we’re all looking at greenhouse gas emissions, but our federal government has not been at the table at all.”

He added that one of the first things a federal Liberal government would do is to collaborate with the provinces to develop a strategy.

Loewenberg, running for the New Democrats in Sudbury, added only half-jokingly that it is easy to cut emissions when factories close and jobs move offshore.

“The misconception of reducing greenhouse gases can also be applied (this way): if you send 400,000 manufacturing jobs to another country and there are no factories open, then you have fewer greenhouse gases – there’s less pollution,” he said. “We need to make investments in green technology to move our country forward, and we need to put caps on greenhouse gas emissions. That’s what the NDP pledges to do.”

Robinson, the Green Party candidate and an economics professor at Laurentian University, explained that most industrialized countries are diversifying and cutting their carbon intensity.

“Every country is doing it and Canada isn’t leading; Canada is behind in cutting carbon intensity,” he added.

The economy and environment work in conjunction, Slade continued, before blaming high payroll and hydro costs, as well as high taxes, on job losses in the manufacturing industry.

The federal election takes place Oct. 19; however, Elections Canada reported Tuesday that advance polls, which took place over the Thanksgiving weekend, were busier than during the last federal election. An estimated 3.6 million people voted over four days last weekend, up 71% over three days of advance polling four years ago.