Justin Trudeau Says Green Party Win Means Climate Change Is Important to Canadians

Paul Manly’s win in Nanaimo-Ladysmith gives the Green Party two seats in the House of Commons.
May 7, 2019, 5:21pm
justin trudeau, green party win, climate change, canadians
Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Justin Trudeau | Images via CP 

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will be joined by a colleague in the House of Commons thanks to Paul Manly’s win last night in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith BC by-election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberals finished in fourth place in the by-election, said the Green Party's win shows Canadians care about climate change.

“One of the clear things we’ve seen from this that Canadians are really preoccupied about climate change,” Trudeau told reporters Tuesday.

That sentiment is something the Liberals definitely hope translates into votes in the upcoming federal election, given their floundering numbers amid the SNC-Lavalin affair, as well as the fact that the Conservatives have yet to reveal a climate change plan.

But how likely is it that climate change will be seen as a top issue at the polls? Climate change certainly appears to be a hot-button issue recently. Recent UN reports have said that we have 12 years left to combat climate change before its effects become irreversible and that a total of one million species are at risk of extinction thanks to humans. And, according to an Environment Canada senior climatologist, the effects of climate change on Canada are twice as noticeable in Canada as the rest of the world.

Responses to the issue’s urgency are increasing—and they’re being led by youth. Thousands of people turned out to a cross-country student-led protest May 3, frustrated with the inaction against climate change by current government officials. “Here in BC, we now have wildfire season in the summer, which is very disruptive,” 16-year-old Rebecca Hamilton told VICE the day of the protest. “For weeks on end the sky is just completely grey and it feels like you’re living in a confining bubble of ash.”

However, according to an Abacus Data nationwide survey published at the end of March, while 83 percent of Canadians are at least concerned about climate change, only 12 percent of voters who participated in the survey said that it will be a top issue that they consider while voting.

Trudeau said that voters must elect a party that is committed to climate action—pointing to his own party with that campaign promise. He also called out conservative premiers for fighting against his carbon tax.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has yet to reveal his plan to address climate change, though he promised to do so before the House of Commons shuts down for the summer.

Newly-elected Green Party MP Manly maintains that people are demanding action, proven by his win last night. “Whether it’s people that are dealing with floods in the east or forest fires in the west...It’s time to take bold action.”

"There's a real strong sense here on the West Coast and on Vancouver Island that the three old-line parties are just slow on the uptake on actually committing to real action.”

Manly won 37.3 percent of the vote, according to the Canadian Press. The Conservatives won more than 24.8 percent, the New Democratic Party 23.1 percent, and the Liberals far behind with 11 percent of the vote.

The win comes shortly after the Green Party made its first big provincial breakthrough, as PEI Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker led his party to a second-place finish in a tight election there, winning eight seats.

Follow Sarah on Twitter.

Sign up for the VICE Canada Newsletter to get the best of VICE Canada delivered to your inbox.