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CNS photo/Nick Oxford, Reuters

Climate issues top of voters’ minds

  • September 2, 2021

OTTAWA -- Faith groups that for years have warned that unless climate change is addressed the future enjoyment of God’s creation is bleak are encouraged the issue is at the forefront as Canadians get set to vote Sept. 20.

As organizations such as the Centre Oblate: A Voice for Justice, Development and Peace and the Canadian Religious Conference continue to advocate on behalf of the faith-based For the Love of Creation coalition, the Angus Reid Institute said on Aug. 27 that “the top issue identified by voters in driving their ballot choice is climate change.”

While Angus Reid acknowledges there are other issues that are almost as important — access to health care and tax rates were both of great concern to poll respondents — it said almost one-in-five Canadians (18 per cent) put climate change as the most pressing issue facing voters.

That climate change is such an important issue does not surprise Kairos Canada, which plans to take part in a one-day “climate strike” just a few days after the election.

“With a federal election underway, and extreme weather events abound, this is a historic opportunity to usher in the change that youth and marginalized communities have been calling for,” said Kairos on its website about the Sept. 24 climate strike.

“By striking together, united by common struggles, we demand a rapid and fair decarbonization of our economy, for a safer, greener, more just future.”

Kairos Canada, which is overseen by the United Church, includes as member organizations the Development and Peace-Caritas Canada and the Canadian Religious Conference.

For the Ottawa-based Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a faith-based public policy advocacy organization, addressing climate change in a meaningful way is one of the key issues Canadians face in the coming years.

“It is critical that (greenhouse gas) emission reductions are accelerated across the Canadian economy — especially the highest emitting sectors — and significant investments are made in a just transition to a new green, decarbonized economy,” said CPJ senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn.

While the parties come at the issue from different perspectives, polls show some parties are more trusted to be climate change warriors than others.

According to Angus Reid, voters who put a premium on climate change are much more likely to support the governing Liberals or NDP, while Canadians who focus on economic issues such as national debt and taxation levels are more likely to support the Conservatives.

Many organizations acknowledge Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has stated clearly on the campaign trail that climate change is an issue that must be addressed, but the party’s official policies are ambiguous when it comes to conceding that man-made climate change exists. O’Toole says if elected the Conservatives will scale back targets on greenhouse gas emissions, returning to the previous national target to reduce emissions by 30-per-cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Those are in line with Canada’s commitments to the Paris Accord and would balance environmental action with maintaining a strong economy, O’Toole said.

The Liberals have promised to bring emissions down by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030, while the NDP has reached higher with a promise of a 50-per-cent reduction.

Politicians have long promised the cut emissions, though neither party that has been in power, Liberals nor Conservatives, have ever come close to meeting their goals.

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