As Ontario heads into a provincial election on June 2, many of the key issues have a significant environmental angle.  

All of the parties want to turn Ontario into a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles, for example, which could mean roads built over the carbon sink peatlands of James Bay, where Indigenous communities have differing opinions about industry and consultation. They’re also all promising to increase much-needed housing supply — which could see residential development encroach on greenspace and farmland.

These are important conversations, but the official party leaders’ debate barely mentioned climate: by our count, only 10 of the 90 minutes even touched on the environment, and not in any depth. So The Narwhal invited a group of candidates for a full hour-long conversation on the conservation, environment and climate issues that matter to us this election. 

Three candidates accepted: Lucille Collard, environment critic and incumbent Liberal MPP for Ottawa–Vanier; Sandy Shaw, environment critic and incumbent NDP MPP for Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas; and Dianne Saxe, the province’s former environmental commissioner, currently deputy leader of the provincial Green Party and a candidate in the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale. We also invited Progressive Conservative Environment Minister David Piccini, but he turned us down, so we went ahead with an all-female event — joining the candidates were the three women of our Ontario bureau. 

All three candidates agreed that collaboration is crucial to climate action, but that didn’t mean they agreed on exactly what actions should be taken, and when. When Saxe said that the Liberals and NDP both supported two controversial highways through farmland and protected areas, Collard and Shaw were quick to disagree. Both said their party would not build Highway 413, an expressway which would ring between the Toronto suburbs of Vaughan and Milton, cutting through 2,000 acres of farmland and 85 waterways, damaging 220 wetlands and disrupting the habitats of 10 species-at-risk.

Collard wasn’t as definitive on the Bradford Bypass, though, which some farmers have said is crucial for moving their harvest to consumers. “The highways are only supported to the level that the funds have already been engaged, that there’s been appropriate enviro assessment done on that and they’re very necessary to allow people to move efficiently,” she said about her party’s stance on the bypass. 

Watch the whole forum below, or follow along with this Twitter thread

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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