Four parties vying for votes in Langley-Aldergrove spoke to a crowd ranging from students to seniors on environmental topics at the first local debate of the federal election campaign on Wednesday evening.
The event was organized by the Trinity Western Environmental Club, with the local Climate Crisis Langley Action Partners.
The candidates who fielded questions on everything from transportation to the carbon tax to fracking were Kaija Farstad of the Green Party, Leon Jensen of the Liberals, Alex Joehl of the Libertarians, and Stacey Wakelin of the NDP.
Conservative candidate Tako van Popta could not come, organizers said. Natalie DiPietra-Cudmore of the People’s Party of Canada also did not attend.
All the speakers said they take the environment and global warming seriously, though with approaches that differed in certain areas.
“I do classify it as a crisis,” Wakelin said of climate change. “The time for debate and denial has passed.”
Jensen mentioned local action and spoke of his work with streamkeeping groups in Langley such as the Nicomekl Enhancement Society.
Farstad said before running for the Greens, becoming a politician was lower on her list of preferred occupations than “scuba diver in a sewage treatment facility” said she had already made all the changes in her own life she could to make a greener world, from biking to work to recycling to buying more used clothes.
“I got to a point in my life where I couldn’t make any more choices personally,” she said, and she wanted to make good choices more accessible to everyone.
Libertarian Joehl, who noted there was no chance he would be going to Ottawa, said he was running to bring ideas.
“Voting for the lesser evil is not the way to go,” he said.
On the most important local environmental issue, most of the candidates said protecting local waterways and water supplies was key for Langley.
Wakelin spoke of the agriculture sector in Langley and its need for water protection.
“We have to ensure that sustainability is a priority in this community,” she said.
Jensen singled out the West Creek, which begins its route to the Fraser near the Gloucester Industrial Park.
“We have an opportunity to save the headwaters there if we work together,” he said.
Farstad said overall contaminants in Langley pose the biggest single threat, with chemical pesticides such as glyphosates and nicontinoids, along with pollution from vehicles washing into the streams and environment.
One of the major themes that multiple candidates agreed on was eliminating subsidies for the oil and gas industry to bring down carbon dioxide emissions.
Moving from the current economy to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is the Liberal plan’s goal, said Jensen.
“That’s going to be the difficult part in our economy,” he noted.
“We need to let the market determine which clean energy technologies are going to be sustainable,” said Johel.
The candidates were also put on the spot to say what they had done personally to reduce their impact on the environment.
“It’s really hard for me to think how I could further reduce my carbon footprint,” said Farstad.
Jensen said he switched to a hybrid car a few years ago, and with the rapid pace of technological change, is likely to make his next car electric.
Wakelin’s family uses one hybrid and one electric vehicle, and she’s moving towards a plant-based diet and being conscious of what she purchases.
Joehl spoke of Styrofoam recycling at his workplace.
When it comes to the campaign itself, the plastic election signs used by all the candidates on the stage Wednesday will be collected and transformed into sleeping mats for the homeless once the election is over.