Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge – Mission candidates gathered virtually to discuss their respective environmental ideas and policy plans on Thursday night.
Maple Ridge Climate Hub played host to the candidates in both ridings on two separate Zoom calls, asking a series of questions on the climate crisis, emissions, agriculture and forestry, forest fires, floods, farming practices, fisheries, and more.
Maple Ridge Climate Hub’s Kirk Grayson moderated both forums, and posed the questions – which the candidates were given in advance.
Candidates were provided with 90 seconds to answer each question.
The first of the debates took place between incumbent NDP MLA Lisa Beare, and her challenger, Cheryl Ashlie of the Liberal Party.
About 25 participants watched as the two local politicians went back and forth.
While Beare, whose government called the election, had a number of talking points to answer each question with; at times Ashlie seemed exasperated, and took to jabbing at her opponent.
“I don’t have the luxury of having my notes scripted for me like Lisa does,” she said in response to a question on climate related disasters.
While the two-time Maple Ridge city councillor found herself on the back foot in a couple instances, she iterated the importance environmental issues held with her when deciding to run.
“When I was first reached out to – 16 to 18 months ago – by [Liberal party leader Andrew] Wilkinson there was a stipulation that we aggressively tackle climate change, and I was very heartened by his feelings around it,” Ashlie said.
“There was a ground swell, and we have a lot of candidates who also pushed for more rigorous involvement in the area too.”
Beare referenced the challenge the pandemic has posed to the province a few times in her answers, and wrapped up by saying that COVID-19 has tested all of us.
“We need to build an economy that works for everyone and the environment, and to help, we have the most forward looking climate plan in North America,” Beare said, talking about the Clean B.C. plan, the NDP created with the help of the Green Party.
“We all want our children to inherit a province that has clean air and water, and we’re going to get us there.”
The second all-candidates meeting, which began a little over half an hour after the first wrapped up, had to overcome some technical difficulties, but the three candidates involved all got to have their say.
Incumbent NDP MLA Bob D’Eith faced off against challengers Chelsa Meadus of the Liberals, and Matt Trenholm of the Green Party for around 25 Zoom viewers.
This stand-off saw the candidates remove their gloves at times during the debate.
Trenholm took to attacking Clean BC off the bat.
“It was a great step forward,” the Green Party candidate said. “But it doesn’t take us to where we need to be – we need to go even further.”
Trenholm said the glaring issue with the NDP climate plan to achieve net-zero emissions is a massive fracking program for natural gas.
“We’ll be one of the biggest polluters in Western Canada,” he said.
He also aimed his sites on the Liberal party, and their push for a second LNG plant.
“If we want to be carbon neutral by 2045, we have to immediately end oil and gas subsidies,” he said.
Liberal Party candidate Meadus acceded the NDP had a good environmental program, but took a shot at the NDP’s timing of a snap election.
“Clean BC was a good program but it was abandoned – just like the agreement with the Greens – when this election was called.
She said the Liberal Party plans to establish B.C. as a global climate leader, but like her contemporary, Ashlie, did not have many specific party plans to draw attention to.
“We need to look at our policies and make sure they make sense,” she said.
D’eith was swift to jump on the Liberals in his party’s defense.
“It’s astounding that we were a minority government for three-and-a-half years, and the B.C. Liberals don’t even have a climate plan,” he said.
“I have a hard time getting my head around that.”
To hear more detailed answers, the meetings will both be available for viewing on the Maple Ridge Climate Hub YouTube channel.