Almost 200 people packed the First Unitarian Church last night to hear candidates from all four major political parties square off on their environmental platforms. The enthusiasm of the audience disproved recent media allegations that voters do not care about the environment this election. The forum included questions on climate change, wetlands, biofuels, and nuclear waste transport among other topics.

Participating candidates included Green Party candidate for Wolseley, James Beddome, Liberal Fort Rouge candidate, Paul Hesse, NDP candidate for Fort Rouge, Jennifer Howard, and Progressive Conservative candidate for Tuxedo, Heather Stefanson.

All the candidates were well prepared and gave participants clear perspectives on where their parties stand on the key environmental issues in the province. This is not to say that there was not some of the usual dancing around issues that comes with forums such as these. One of the questions early in the night asked candidates to provide what their targets for greenhouse gas reductions over the decade would be. By the end of the evening, one frustrated audience member asked “none of you answered the question about targets, targets are numbers,” highlighting that none of the four parties could give a definite figure as to how much they would commit to reducing Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.

On the contentious question of bi-pole the four candidates provided four different directions for the project. The NDP see the line on the west side of the province, the Conservatives on the east and the Liberals under Lake Winnipeg. The Green’s position is to avoid building a bi-pole by focusing on energy conservation instead. Each gave succinct, cogent reasons for their choice, leaving to voters to decide the best alternative. Moderator Terry MacLeod did an admirable job keeping candidates on track and on time as candidates handled both prepared questions from the organizers and questions from the floor.

With three weeks to go in the campaign, perhaps the forum will inspire all the parties to put the environment front and centre this election. Carolyn Garlich, from the Green Action Committee of the First Unitarian Church had a final reminder to the audience as they packed up their chairs: “when the candidates come to your door, be sure to ask them about the environment, and remind them it is important to you this election.”

Check back to this link soon. Video is now available. Audio from the event will be posted once they are available.

Download a copy of the questions organizers prepared in advance for the candidates.  We did not have time for all these questions to be asked, so these are some great questions to ask candidates at the door.