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.
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