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Upcoming Federal Candidates Forums Focus on Climate Crisis and Solutions

Area youth participated in recent climate strikes in our area, including Caitlin Kellendonk of Castlegar

Federal election candidates will have an opportunity to focus on issues around climate change and creating a healthier and more peaceful future in a pair of all-candidates forums slated for Oct. 7 (Nelson) and Oct. 9 (Castlegar).

The forum, Safe Climate, Clean Energy, and Healthy Communities, is being organized by four non-partisan local organizations -- the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), the West Kootenay EcoSociety, Selkirk College’s Mir Centre for Peace, and the local Fridays For Future team.

“The climate crisis is a top issue of concern for Canadians this election season,” says Laura Sacks, who co-leads the CCL chapter. “We know there is similarly high concern in our community, particularly after several summers of wildfire and intense smoke.”

According to last year's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to cut greenhouse gas pollution in half in the next decade to keep global heating to the goals of the Paris agreement of 1.5 C. That report and other recent studies show that impacts on oceans, land and ice are rapidly accelerating, including here in Canada. These impacts are directly affecting human health and well being, and are expected to get much worse.

“We are clearly in a climate emergency,” says 16-year-old Jade Osecki, a leader of the local Fridays For Future movement. “Yet frustratingly, we are watching the future of today’s youth be sacrificed for short term gains.”

Invitations were sent to candidates from the four main political parties back in July. NDP, Green, and Liberal candidates are planning to attend both forums. Unfortunately South Okanagan-West Kootenay Conservative candidate Helena Konanz has declined the invitation, and Kootenay-Columbia Conservative candidate Rob Morrison has not yet given a firm answer. There may be an empty chair at each debate.

“We’d like to know what candidates’ views are for transitioning our communities and our country to 100 per cent clean energy,” adds Montana Burgess, executive director of the West Kootenay EcoSociety. “We need to make this transition to have a safe and healthy today, as well as tomorrow for ourselves and our children.”

Jennie Barron, who heads the Mir Centre, agrees. “Climate justice is about intergenerational, interspecies, interracial and indigenous justice. Those least responsible are suffering the worst impacts, and so far we have no signs that governments are taking the crisis seriously.”

Each of the four organizing groups is drafting a question for the candidates. Attendees will also have a chance to express their concerns on a board at the entrance to the forums, writing their own questions or voting up other questions. Several will be selected to ask the candidates, and all concerns will be summarized for the candidates as a follow up.

The Nelson forum will take place at the United Church (602 Silica Street) on Monday, October 7 at 7 p.m. for the Kootenay-Columbia riding. This forum is being hosted by the Nelson United Church. The Castlegar forum is at the Sandman Hotel (1944 Columbia Ave.) on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.

“Youth who can’t vote feel powerless” says Fridays For Future’s Osecki. “We rely on adults to become informed and vote for safe, healthy communities for us and for our kids.”