Election rundown: Which party leaders participated in the climate strikes and why does it matter?

Knowing where leaders stand on the environment is a significant issue to voters

Justin Trudeau’s trouble climate history isn’t mitigated by his attendance at the climate strike. Photo: /CBC

By: Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate

On September 27, climate strikes were held across Canada as part of the larger global movement inspired by Greta Thunberg. Environmental policy has also become increasingly central in the Canadian federal election campaigns. Because of this, it is important to not just look at the platforms of the parties, but also the actions that they have taken prior to the election — including their participation in the climate strikes.

Elizabeth May of the Green Party attended the Montreal climate strike, publicly calling on the other major leaders to work together to develop a bipartisan response to the crisis. This went hand-in-hand with her party’s platform which discusses utilizing all government branches  to transition into a greener economy — including intergovernmental agreements to allow for new, greener jobs.

Justin Trudeau also attended the Montreal strikes after meeting privately with Greta Thunberg. Thunberg later spoke at a press conference saying that Trudeau’s government was “not doing enough.” Her disappointment rings true in light of the Liberal failure on climate change since 2015, which has seen Trudeau going back on many campaign promises and buying the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. While the 2019 platform lists climate change as one of their top issues, the lack of adherence to these principles after 2015 should be remembered going forward.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP party, attended the Victoria climate strike. Singh choose to walk through the crowds, speak one-on-one with the students, and keep the focus on them. He also discussed protecting our coasts, fitting with the NDP’s platform message.

Andrew Scheer chose not to attend any climate strike, despite being in Vancouver during the city’s 100,000 person event. Aside from opening himself to criticism by not joining in, Scheer’s absence has also raised new questions from voters and non-Party MPs alike about the supposed Conservative commitment to reversing climate change. 

Considering the fact that Scheer could be the next prime minister, it is important to know where he stands on such a critical issue. Climate change is going to be one of the biggest issues going forward. The Conservatives already have a small environmental platform, so having a leader who ignores public outcry on this issue is only hurting the party further. As we get closer to the election, important decisions like this could be enough to not only determine who becomes prime minister, but also how parties find themselves represented in the House of Commons. 

With a minority government appearing more and more likely, both the Liberal and Conservative parties may be looking to the NDP and Green party to allow them to create majority coalitions. Choices like avoiding the climate strike may cause both Singh and May to think twice before choosing what party to align with.