Kelowna-Lake Country candidates faced off on Wednesday night for a debate on climate.
Federal NDP candidate Cade Desjarlais, Green Party candidate Imre Szeman, Liberal candidate Tim Krupa and Conservative candidate Tracy Gray were present at the forum. People’s Party candidate Brian Rogers did not confirm his attendance in time for the debate.
The debate opened with a question from moderator Meghan Wise about how the candidates plan to help residents during wildfire season, which has seen more than 850,000 hectares of land scorched this year.
Krupa said that he will help provide more resources to the riding and help build more climate-ready infrastructure, while Szeman said that the Green Party would provide grants to homeowners to retrofit their homes.
Desjarlais said that the NDP is committed to put $3 billion towards wildfire prevention infrastructure and prioritize forest management to reduce wildfires.
Gray said that the Conservative Party would also deploy resources such as the Canadian Armed Forces when necessary and invest in better wildfire infrastructure.
Candidates spar over climate policies
Szeman criticized the Liberal and Conservative parties over alleged historical climate inaction, saying that both failed to implement sound climate policy while in power.
Krupa questioned Gray’s commitment to fighting climate change, saying her rhetoric is “decades old.” Gray, however, asked Krupa if it was acceptable that long-term care homes had to evacuate to the Lower Mainland because of how unsafe the Okanagan was.
“I want to remind everyone that the Liberal Party called an election during wildfire season,” said Gray.
Indigenous peoples and environmental solutions
Krupa and Gray sparred over reconciliation commitments. Gray asked Krupa if he supports Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s movements on Indigenous rights, which she called failures. Krupa responded by pointing out that Gray voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), saying she is on the wrong side of the issue.
“If you don’t support UNDRIP, how will you support Indigenous peoples moving forward?” asked Krupa.
Gray did not directly answer Krupa’s question but instead criticized the Liberal’s response when the bodies of hundreds of Indigenous children were discovered old residential school sites.
Desjarlais said he promises to work with Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities and said this is not a political issue. “We need to stand up and do what’s right,” he said.
Fossil fuel solutions
Krupa was the target of repeated attacks from other candidates over the Liberal Party’s decision to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Krupa maintained that the party could not immediately nix fossil fuels and said that hundreds of workers would lose their jobs. He also said that the Liberal Party is committed to phasing out fossil fuels by 2023.
Desjarlais and Szeman responded by saying that the Liberal Party’s plan is too slow, both saying that they would end all fossil fuel subsidies.
Gray said she wants Canada to have a fossil fuel industry, saying she would rather buy Canadian oil over oil from Venezuela and.
The climate debate was organized by GreenPac and Green Okanagan, non-partisan organizations advocating for better climate policies from politicians. The debate is part of the 100 Debates For The Environment series hosted every election year. You can watch the climate debate in full on the event’s Facebook event page.