On Tuesday, March 8th party candidates from of the upcoming Provincial election gathered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. A member of each the Liberal (Brian Van Wildenberg), NDP (James Allum), Green (James Beddome), and Communist (Darrell Rankin) parties came to represent their platforms on pressing environmental issues in this province. The PC’s attendance was close but no cigar; after much “waffle-ing” to confirm their participation, they were left to be represented by an unaccompanied name card tent.

The event itself was 2 hours long and a lot of ground was covered, somewhere in the order of 65 million hectares (to be a little more precise) of prairie, lake, forest and so much more. Questions covered a full gamut of issues; from the “Big Kahuna” )climate change) to Lake Winnipeg to those garbage issues (of course by that we mean compost and organics in landfills). It is unfair to say who came out on top as all the representing candidates clearly did their due diligence in preparing for and answering the questions, and we would like to thank them for their time and effort. And with only 3 minutes to answer each of the 4 long answer questions (view questions here) not only was the audience privy to the most current environmental  policy of each party, but also that age old question: How long can a politician speak without pausing to breathe? All politician jokes aside there was a lot of information and policy squeezed into each three minute answer, audience members most definitely got their money’s worth and had no shortage of thoughts to chew on at the end of the evening.

Redundancy was not the name of the game as the policies and solutions highlighted by each representing candidate to solve the questions at hand showed but a little overlap. The broadest and most open ended of the questions (how to meet the current global commitment to climate change mitigation) took us on a rollercoaster ride of potential approaches. Out of the gate both the Liberals and the Greens were putting a price on carbon, and while they both forayed into curbing the development of our transport sector (the largest emitting sector in our province), their approaches contrasted significantly. Liberals focused on the demand side management, proposing to reduce urban sprawl and roadway expansion subsequently making our city more active transport friendly. While the Greens noted their initiatives to make public transit free and more accessible to citizens, as well as targeted increases to the active transport sector.

The NDP are in a different position as they have held they reigns for the last ten years in this province, and as a result James Allum was able to speak on recent party initiatives. Collaboration with Manitoba Hydro seemed to be the focus, noting the past developed Pay As You Save program (i.e. demand side management of electricity use) developed under the NDP direction.  Future initiatives to combat climate change also revolved around collaboration with electricity and natural gas utility monopoly , one prospect being developing more renewable energy for export the other being the development of a National Energy Grid (goes without saying, but also energy for export).  This potential for a National Grid came up in more than once in the NDP responses, as the idea also fed their approach to the Energy East Pipeline.

Now to recap the full two hours would likely make for a very long blog post, and perhaps not the most exciting blog post either as my ability to glamorize policy is quite limited. But I’ve made a concise (or at least what I consider to be concise) table of each party’s response to the four long answer questions to help get you up to speed. Also if you so happen to want to watch the entire forum, you’re in luck! (click here for a video of the entire event)

The crowd was engaged and questions were astute. While the majority were directed at Mr. Allum, as they were directly questioning policies and actions that have been developed (or not developed) and taken (or not taken) over the past years with the NDP in the driver’s seat. Something that became noticeable over the course of the 2 hours was the difference between not only the platforms of the parties, but also the difference between speaking from experience and speaking from purely from political ideology.  As informed voters we need to take into consideration past, present and future actions of each party, which becomes a tricky thought process when some parties have yet to have the chance to execute their policies. And as we have seen so many times policy translates from page to reality in a variable manner, so there remains a degree of responsibility on us as citizens to ensure that the policies and ideologies that are presented in this critical campaign period don’t get lost in translation when the winning party moves into power.

As the election season progresses there are numerous issues to take into consideration and many events and initiatives going on around the province to help us become informed of our vote and I encourage individuals to be as engaged as possible (we all know life is busy but a little bit of information goes a long way!). And I know we all love the environment, but since the Bruntland Commission in 1983 it has become a relatively undisputable fact that sustainable development is rooted in the three pillars; social, economic and environmental. Don’t shy away from events and initiatives that shine light on issues like local economic development through social enterprise, food security in northern communities, or community poverty reduction.

A just a little reminder to be grateful the name Trump will not be on your voting ballot this April 19th. Happy Voting!