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Streets outside federal election debate may be a frontline in climate fight

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Public entrance of the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau. Image: Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons

Politics as usual won't fix the climate crisis, so what are we to do?

While polls and seat projections can shift, CBC Poll Tracker is now projecting 163 seats for the Liberals (the party in power that bought the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline) and 142 seats for the Conservatives (a party that also wants to see that pipeline built).

Neither of these parties is equipped to boldly address climate breakdown, the existential issue of our time, and yet it would seem from the polls that we are stuck with them.

CBC Poll Tracker further projects 14 seats for the NDP (a party that has backed the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet'suwet'en territory) and four seats for the Green Party (or perhaps as many as nine seats for them in the 338-seat Parliament).

Polls can shift, and we shouldn't overly rely on them, but environmental defenders also need to figure out how to shift the debate and strategically take advantage of political moments.

The federal election debate with party leaders will take place on Monday, October 7 in English and on Thursday, October 10 in French. Both debates will take place at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, just across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.

Notably, the non-violent direct-action group Extinction Rebellion has called for an international rebellion to begin on October 7, the same day as the English-language debate in Canada.

In the United Kingdom, Extinction Rebellion and allied movements will shut down Westminster in Central London. Westminster refers to the government district in London that includes Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.

The election debate has also caught the attention of 350.org.

Our Time (which "is supported by 350 Canada and local hubs led by young people across the country") has now posted:

"We will show up en masse to the debate venue in Ottawa, and take action across the country, to make sure that the leaders, and everyone tuning in, understand how important bold action on the climate crisis is to people in this country."

What will they do once they show up en masse?

University College Dublin Professor David Farrell has written, "This climate emergency requires a courageous response from our political leaders."

Farrell supports Extinction Rebellion's call for a citizens' assembly, noting the one created by the Irish government in 2016 preceding the referendum in 2018 that legalized reproductive choice in Ireland after years of not being able to move forward on this issue.

Will Canadian political parties reject the business-as-usual, politics-as-usual approach and endorse a peoples' assembly to develop recommendations to avert deepening climate breakdown? Will they back a bold Green New Deal?

How likely does that seem to you?

While CBC Poll Tracker now gives the Liberals a 39 per cent chance of winning a majority government, it also gives them a 24 per cent chance of only winning the most seats.

Does this mean that the best, most-likely outcome at this point is a Liberal minority backed by the NDP and Greens? Could that happen?

Would the NDP and Greens make a peoples' assembly (along with cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline, ending the billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out the tar sands, and cutting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030) the conditions of their backing in Parliament?

While that may seem unlikely now, could that change?

In these early days, there are more questions than answers.

Historically, the Youth International Party (Yippies), the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and other anti-war groups mobilized outside the Democratic National Convention in August 1968 to push for an end to the war against Vietnam.

With the first federal leaders' debate exactly two weeks before voting day, could the Canadian Museum of History be a critical frontline to stop the war against the planet?

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Image: Wladyslaw/Wikimedia Commons

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