Peace River group joins national call for CBC to host climate change debate

Left to right: Sarah Wildeman, Wanda Laurin and Joanne Boutet gathered at the river to send a message.

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

A small group of people in Peace River braved a rain storm to join a nation-wide protest to demand that the CBC host a federal leaders’ debate on climate change.

“Change the Debate” events were held across the country during the evening news on July 17. Actions were organized as far away as Halifax. Many of the protests were held outside CBC offices, including a large group that gathered with signs and face masks in front of CBC Edmonton.

Others were held in areas where climate change might have an impact, such as a Vancouver Island protest organized by the Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment, a group of current, retired and student nurses who say climate change is impacting the health of Canadians.

The website for the national action stated, “As our public broadcaster, the CBC has a moral obligation to make sure that every single person in Canada knows which of our leaders have a real plan to tackle the climate crisis.”

“Canada declared a climate emergency in June. Fires are still ravaging our northern communities,” says Peace River organizer Joanne Boutet. “We handed out face masks in schools and took in evacuees. The big Chuckegg fire is still active. Over 3.5 times more land burned in Alberta between March and June this year than in the previous five-year average. Rain is pouring on the province further south. Recently Stony Plain had two one-in-one hundred year events in 8 days. Not to mention the rest of the country.”

With a federal election coming up, the groups that organized the action are hoping to help make climate change the main election issue.

“The government we elect in the 2019 election will lead us through four of the 11 remaining years scientists have given us to act on climate,” says Boutet.

“Over 11 million people tune in to watch federal leaders’ debates during Canadian federal campaigns. As our public broadcaster, funded by public money, the CBC must organize a federal leaders’ debate so that Canadians can make an informed choice for a leader that will see us together through the most emergent crisis of our time. We have to act now as CBC officials finalize their plans for their elections coverage.”

“That’s why today we gathered at the river to send a clear message: Canada needs a federal leaders’ debate on climate change,” Boutet says.

Other actions may be planned in the future. Peace River protest participant Wanda Laurin has long been an advocate for renewable energy, and is also currently working on founding a solar energy cooperative that has interest from several local municipalities.

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