Something spectacular happened through this 42nd election season. As the major party leaders travelled across the country, trying to convince people across Canada that they were best-suited to lead the country, the climate movement invited itself to their campaign trails, consistently and powerfully. Just a couple of weeks into the election period, it became very clear very quickly that politicians could not maintain the same silence on climate change that they had so carefully preserved during previous elections.
Almost every week, campaign events were disrupted by local activists and residents concerned that climate change and tar sands pipelines weren’t taken seriously by the main party leaders. Over the course of nine weeks, these actions became routine.The headlines and live-streams of well-crafted party events were interrupted by banners and confrontational questions forcing the potential Prime Ministers to speak to their plans for climate action and their stance on tar sands expansion.
As a result of this mounting pressure, the NDP and Liberal Party came forward with statements confirm that they would overhaul the National Energy Board review process for pipelines to assess climate impacts — meaning projects such as Energy East and the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline would need to go back to square one.
It didn’t stop at disruptions during campaign events. At three of the major electoral debates across the country, the party leaders were greeted with mobilizations calling for climate action. The absolutely spectacular actions that made climate change impossible to ignore during the federal election are detailed here.
Here are the stories of some of the bold individuals that brought climate change to the campaign trail:
“When Harper came to North Bay, Ontario, I attended the Conservative’s invitation-only, high-security campaign event and walked up and stood shoulder to shoulder with Stephen Harper while wearing a shirt that read, “Water Not Harper.” My hand-lettered shirt was to bring attention to how there is more security at one Harper campaign event than there is protection for all of the lakes and rivers across the country. Specifically I talked to media afterwards about how the proposed Energy East Pipeline runs right through the sole drinking water source here.” – Yan Roberts, North Bay, ON. Stood next to PM Harper at a campaign event wearing the confrontational shirt shown below.
“I decided to get involved in this action because I am really excited about the possibility of a change in government this fall, but I’ve been disappointed by the alternatives. While the Liberals and NDP are better options than the Conservatives, neither of them have policies that align with the climate science – I know they can do better. I want to be able to vote for a climate leader this fall and for Canada to regain its international reputation. So far in this election, the environment seems to be the passenger in the conversation about the economy. The environment is where the economy exists. The tar sands are this country’s biggest environmental black eye, and we need a government that is going to effectively address it, and that means keeping them in the ground. That is the message that every political Leader needs to hear.“ – Juliana Duholke, Montreal, QC. Disrupted local Liberal, NDP and Conservative events — by staging actions like the one shown below.
“As I waited for the opportunity when my message would resonate in a quiet moment of Harper’s talk, I thought about the millions of people in fragile economies who are and will increasingly be most affected by our changing climate. I thought about the the Syrian crisis specifically, which was ignited by food shortages caused by extreme droughts. I thought about my children growing up in an increasingly xenophobic world where climate refugees become more and more prevalent and their attempts to reach foreign shores even more desperate. Not only does this man and this government fail to do the bare minimum, they work actively to scupper international efforts towards progress.
A couple of opportunities passed me up where I could have easily finished one of his sentences with a message about climate change. I was determined that I would take the next chance he offered. Then it came. In French, he said ‘Which of the parties and which of the leaders is prepared, today…’ Lifting the sign above my head, I got a few short words on record before the crowd’s booing drowned me out and I got dragged from the room, saying ‘…to take action on climate? Who’s ready? Who’s going to do it?’” – Matthew Chapman, Montreal, QC. Interrupted PM Harper speech during a campaign stop
As the election draws to a close, Julianna, Yan and many of the other courageous individuals that have been mobilizing during the election are planning to escalate their demands for climate action by joining the Climate Welcome action this November. Just as democracy doesn’t stop at the ballot box, politicians don’t stop being accountable to the people after an election. People across Canada have been organizing to ensure that climate justice is central in this election. Now, they’re organizing to ensure that the next government is consistently held accountable.