Engaged crowds, lively discussion of the issues and stalwart work by volunteer organizing teams have marked the first three of five "Energy, Climate and Our Future" federal debates on southern Vancouver Island.
Presented by the BCSEA's Victoria Chapter and the Dogwood Initiative, each night so far has featured candidates from the Green, Liberal and NDP parties. An empty seat reserved for absentee Conservative nominees has been filled by a teddy bear who has been featured in the Victoria Times Colonist and whose fans have created a Twitter account in his name #teddybearproxy.
Debates to date have taken place in Sooke, Victoria and Langford. On Sept. 29, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke candidates will reconvene at Esquimalt United Church. Saanich-Gulf Islands contenders will have their say on Oct. 2 at Sidney's St. Paul's United Church.
Each debate features a set of prepared statements and questions carefully crafted by a team led by BCSEA co-founder Tom Hackney. These focus on green jobs, renewable energy, intergenerational equity, the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline proposals, the National Energy Board and Canada's share of greenhouse gas emissions. We'll share the questions once the debates are complete.
Photos and the full video of the Victoria debate are available at our Victoria chapter page.
"The emotion has been palpable as we give people hope through the example of our questions, the way we treat candidates and the way the candidates treat each other," says BCSEA Victoria chairperson Marion Pape, who launched the year-long Energy and the Next Federal Election event series last year in an effort to make climate change and renewable energy ballot issues. "We've blended serious analysis with teddy bear humour, excellent planning with occasional chaos, and optimism with our deepest fears. We hope the energy and commitment we have brought to this series and the strong audience participation will be an inspiration to the parties to champion this issue in the next Parliament.”
The series got underway on Sept. 16 in front of a full house of 300 at Edward Milne Community School in Sooke. NDP incumbent Randall Garrison, the Green Party's Frances Litman and Liberal David Merner found ample common ground and some key differences in their respective positions. Audience questions focused on the danger of fracking, Coast Guard cutbacks, bitumen export to Asia, minority government, coalition building, vote-splitting, First Nations rights, Bill C-51 and proportional representation. Praising the BCSEA and Dogwood as organizers and Sooke Mayor Maja Tait as moderator, Garrison said afterwards that it was "one of the best organized, moderated and run debates of the more than two dozen I've participated in as a political candidate."
Victoria candidates with moderator, Alastair McCollum, and the stand-in for no show Conservative Party candidate John Rizzuti.
The Victoria debate on Sept. 21 drew 550 people to First Metropolitan United Church as Murray Rankin (NDP), Jo-Ann Roberts (Green) and Cheryl Thomas (Liberal) engaged in a fast-paced debate moderated by Alastair McCollum, Rector at St. John the Divine Anglican Church. The debate can be viewed in full on our Victoria chapter page.
Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidates Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi (Green), Alistair MacGregor (NDP) and Maria Manna (Liberal) spoke to more than 200 voters at Our Lady of the Rosary Priory in downtown Langford on Sept. 24. The three acknowledged that they're friends-turned-"friendly rivals" for the duration of the election season. Ottawa has its "head in the tar sands" regarding renewable energy, noted MacGregor, who concluded by saying that "I've looked forward to this debate for a long time, it's very near and dear to my heart." Added Manna: "We're all in agreement that we definitely need a change in Ottawa." Hunt-Jinnouchi said that democratic reform and the transition from fossil fuels are the Green Party's top two priorities.