St. Paul’s United Church in Sidney will host an all-candidates forum Oct. 3 dedicated to the environment as part of a national campaign. (Wolf Depner/News)

Organizer of Sidney election forum defend environmental focus

Organizers say the forum won’t be soap box for local MP and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May

Organizers of an all-candidates debate are defending its exclusive focus on the environment.

The debate for candidates in Saanich-Gulf Islands scheduled for Oct. 3 at St. Paul’s United Church in Sidney will be one of more than 100 debates in ridings across Canada on climate change and the environment. Starting time is 6:30 p.m., running until 9 p.m.

The event is organized by 100 Debates on the Environment. GreenPAC, a “non-partisan, non-profit organization working to elect and support environmental leaders of all major parties running for office,” and Équiterre, a Quebec-based non-profit, are coordinating the project, which describes itself as a “strictly non-partisan initiative focused on bringing voters together at the riding level to hear candidates’ best policy proposals for the environment.”

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The question remains though: why organize an entire debate for a singular subject in light of other pressing issues such as housing affordability, global trade, security and immigration among others.

Local co-organizer Jack Thornburgh said “undeniably there are other important issues” that other general all-candidates meetings in Saanich-Gulf Islands and elsewhere will cover.

“The 100 Debates on the Environment are intended as dedicated forums covering environmental issues,” he said. “Wilderness conservation, water protection, toxins in the environment, and more, will all be addressed in these debates — not just climate change and global warming itself.”

So what steps are organizers taking to ensure that the forum does not end up being a soap box or the equivalent of a penalty kick on an empty net for one of the candidates, namely local MP and federal Green party leader Elizabeth May?

“If this were going to be a soap box, or easy penalty kick for the Greens, other parties’ candidates would decline to attend,” said Thornburgh. “That’s not the case, as we have all four major parties confirmed for our forum. Early indications are that the other 100-plus debates across the country are getting a similar broad response from parties across the board.”

Thornburgh acknowledged that May is known for her familiarity with environmental issues. “But Elizabeth is coming to this forum because she’s our elected MP,” he said. “If there were a different Green candidate for our riding, that person would be attending.”

Debates will also take place in the ridings of Victoria, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, and Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.


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