Climate change was once again the focus of a heated debate between Kelowna-Lake Country MP hopefuls at an all-candidates forum on Oct. 3.
Five of seven candidates were present for the debate at UBC Okanagan, which was one of over 100 similar debates focusing on the environment held across the country. Notably absent was the Conservative Party’s Tracy Gray, despite being invited.
Four of the five candidates that were present made it clear fighting climate change would be high on their to-do lists if they are elected on Oct. 21, while one candidate said he was less sure about the validity of the science surrounding climate change.
“There is no scientific consensus on the theory that CO2 produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming, today or in the future,” said People’s Party of Canada candidate John Barr, eliciting a chorus of “boos” from the crowd.
This prompted an interjection from moderator Rick Webber, who said: “if you’re going to boo somebody, maybe boo the people who aren’t here.”
The other four candidates took similar stances on the threat that a changing climate poses. Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr said that his party shares similar views with the NDP and the Green Party on what must be done, they just all have different ways of “getting there.” He also said that a minority government is one of the biggest threats to moving forward on climate change.
“It’s the most political thing that we’re dealing with and it’s very important to get it right,” said Fuhr.
“We’re looking at three options: one doesn’t want to do anything about climate, one does want to do something about climate, and one has no ability to do anything about climate change. Minority governments can work when both sides agree on something but they maybe don’t agree on the magnitude. When you have big divisive issues, and climate is a big, divisive issue, it shouldn’t be but it is. A minority government just isn’t going to move the yardstick on that issue.”
The NDP’s Justin Kulik retorted Fuhr’s view, bringing up that a minority government gave us universal healthcare under Lester B. Pearson.
Less than convinced about the rhetoric of his peers, Barr invited his fellow candidates to have an open debate on the topic of climate change, which prompted one of the more turbulent moments of the night.
Kulik made it clear that he would decline the offer, adding that the other candidates likely would as well. This sparked a question from an audience member in which he told Kulik, “you should be ashamed of yourself,” for not stepping up to defend his beliefs.
“Regardless of your beliefs, climate change is going to affect us all,” Kulik replied.
“It doesn’t matter if you believe it to be real or not. Regardless of your beliefs, climate change is a fact.”
The Green Party’s Travis Ashley felt that an open debate might be a useful practice.
“If given the chance, I’d love to persuade you guys to understand that climate change is real,” he said. “We can’t just throw rotten fruit at each other and say you’re wrong and you’re wrong. Let’s put it at the table and talk about it like we’re at a family reunion.”
It was pointed out by independent candidate Daniel Joseph that the man who accused Kulik was the president of the Kelowna-Lake Country Peoples Party of Canada riding association, Peter Neville. Joseph formerly held the position before leaving in late March of this year due to what he called “racist, homophobic and xenophobic views.”
“One of the main reasons why I left the party is because instead of the People’s Party deciding to want to be an official opposition party, they decided to become a rhetoric machine,” Joseph said.