While candidates in the riding of St. Paul’s agree that Alberta’s tar sands are contributing heavily to Canada’s overall carbon footprint, they offered different solutions to the growing environmental problem.
Residents filled the St. Clair Avenue West Unitarian Congregation on Tuesday as moderator Bob Fougere of called it, “an educational event, not an all-candidates debate”.
The forum centred on issues such as a carbon tax, global climate change and party approaches to the global climate change problem.
Present were Liberal party incumbent Carolyn Bennett, Conservative party candidate Heather Jewell and NDP candidate Anita Agrawal. Ontario leader of the Green Party, Frank de Jong, took the place of local candidate Justin Erdman.
Audience member and Science for Peace Toronto organizer Judy Deutsch noted in her question that Canadian emissions are roughly 24.4 tonnes per person, per year.
In suggesting that the tar sands play a large role in Canada’s large carbon footprint, she asked what each candidate would do to alleviate the problem.
De Jong was adamant that the Green Party would halt operations altogether.
“We should shut it down,” De Jong said. “Ontario should refuse to use all oil from the tar sands. That is the first step.”
And while Agrawal illustrated the NDP’s support for this idea, she deviated from the Greens, saying her party would end such operations only after impacts of the production are assessed.
She noted further that the NDP would like to end the tax breaks and subsidies going into development of the tar sands.
Moving away from the idea of halting operations were Liberal and Conservative candidates. While neither would support shutting down the massive projects in northern Alberta, they did share similar concerns to that of the NDP and Greens.
Bennett went only so far as to say that the Liberals are “committed to removing all the subsidies and advantages unfairly given there.”
And while Jewell disagreed with shutting down the tar sands and did not mention cutting subsidies and tax breaks, she showed concern for the high emissions coming out of the tar sands.
“We’re going to require they reduce emissions by an absolute 20 per cent,” she said.
“We’re already into an extreme situation where we will have to adapt to a new environment. One way or another (the current environmental crisis) will be very, very painful.”