Sidney Smith Hall. ELENA IOURTAEVA/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Environmental Action (UTEA) group and the Association of Political Science Students (APSS) hosted University–Rosedale’s MP candidates Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Tim Grant from the Green Party, to discuss their parties’ approach to the climate crisis. The Liberal and Conservative Party candidates for University–Rosedale were not invited to the discussion, as UTEA only invited parties with climate as a central part of their platform.

Keith Stewart, a senior strategist with Greenpeace Canada, was one of the speakers for the event. He criticized “petro nationalism,” the rhetoric of oil companies where they attempt to connect the extraction of fossil fuels to a Canadian identity.

Speaking on each party’s environmental plans, Stewart described the Green Party as being more focused on the reduction of greenhouse gasses than on environmental justice, which he defines as “transforming relationships” between society and environment. He described the NDP as being more focused on environmental justice.

“We don’t have to be very nice. The thing is this is actually a fight,” said Stewart on Greenpeace’s approach to environmental issues.

The discussion then turned its focus to the two MP candidates. The NDP wants to make emissions reduction targets legally binding. “We will establish a climate and accountability office that will be outside of the government,” said Vajda.

On environmental justice, Vadja commented that the NDP plans to put Indigenous people “on both sides of the table,” referencing the fact that the NDP is putting forward Indigenous candidates in the election.

Speaking on her housing plans, Vadja said, “We’ll build 500,000 more units all across Canada. We will build more affordable housing, social housing, co-ops — all of that impacts the ability for people to remain in their communities to live safer and healthier lives. It’s all intertwined and connected with a green new deal.”

Green Party candidate Tim Grant emphasized the importance of working with other parties and increasing political engagement from young voters. As 18–24-year-olds are the biggest demographic of non-voters, “your ability to reach out to your friends and get them engaged is critical,” said Grant.

Moving into possibly a minority government, Grant said, “the Greens and NDP I think quite reasonably are going to be pressing hard on climate and other files.”

What makes the Green Party stand out, according to Grant, is that they do not whip votes, a practice he criticized other parties for. “And that means you have to wilt the same way and you can’t speak out even though you may, on various issues, feel differently than the party mainstream, and you can’t speak out otherwise.”

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