After #MacDebate, the environment is set to become a key election issue

It has been a while since the environment has played anything but a fringe role in Canadian election campaigns, with jobs, the economy, and security issues taking a more high-profile role. GreenPAC seeks to combat this by championing candidates that have a strong background on environmental issues.

To date, issues like national childcare and the anti-terrorism bill may have received more elections media attention, but we think the environment is well-positioned to become a defining issue over the next 72 days of campaigning. Here are four reasons why:

1.   Environmental issues shone during #MacDebate

Last night was the first federal election debate for 2015, and at this point it is the only English-language debate set to include all four major national party leaders. Harper, Mulcair, Trudeau, and May battled it out for two hours in four pre-set sections: economy, environment, democracy, and foreign policy.

As could be expected, during the environment section pipelines, pollution, climate change, and energy strategy took centre stage, but we were also thrilled to hear climate change be brought up prominently in both the democracy and foreign policy sections. (If you missed the debate, you can watch it here).

Social media experts also suggested the environmental sections of the debate are what resonated with the Canadians following along at home. Twitter traffic spiked during the environmental section of the debate, and the environment was the second most-discussed issue on Facebook. 

2.   We have already heard about it more than in 2011

In the 2011 English federal leader’s debate, the environment was brought up just 3 times. Last night we heard the word a staggering 38 times. This trend was consistent across the board for key environmental words.

Pipelines? 0 times in 2011, 15 times last night.
Climate? 9 times in 2011, 13 times last night.
Pollution/Polluters? 0 times in 2011, 9 times last night.

We could go on, but we’ll let you look at these wordclouds of the most-used terms yourself:

2011 wordcloud.png

In 2011, not a single environment related word made the cut for most-used words in the main English-language debate. Image source: CTV News

2015 debate wordcloud.png

In 2015, environment, environmental, climate, pipeline, carbon, energy, oil, and gas all made it to the 100 most-used words in the debate.

It is important to note that part of this is the design where rather than 2011’s shorter and more varied questions, #MacDebate had a section devoted to the environment, but we also think the format reflects the concerns of the times.

3.   Paris, pipelines debates, and popular resistance have kept it in the media

In 2011, the environmental movement was struggling to capture the public’s attention in the wake of a global recession and a failed deal in the much-hyped 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations. This time around, the movement is stronger than ever. People all over the world have been taking to the streets to challenge political inaction on climate and other environmental issues. At home, we have five contentious pollution-enabling pipelines to debate over, and we have already seen two record-breaking climate rallies in Toronto and Quebec City this year.

Globally, countries are preparing for the climate negotiations in Paris where a new climate treaty is due, and we’ve seen relatively ambitious emissions pledges from some of the world’s biggest polluters over the past few months.

All of this leadership from people and governments around the world have kept environmental issues in the news and in the minds of Canadian voters – just in time for October’s election.

4.   It’s what Canadians want to hear about

Lastly, but most importantly, polls suggest that the environment is one of the issues voters are most concerned with this year. A June 15-16th Forum poll found that the environment was ranked second after ‘job creation’ in issues most important to us.


Image source: Forum Research

While the environment is well-positioned to be important this election, there is a lot of work to be done to ensure Canadians’ concern for our planet is translated into support for candidates that will actually be able to make good on their environmental promises.

That’s where GreenPAC comes in.

In the next few weeks, we will be releasing a set of endorsements of candidates who have a proven background in championing environmental issues, and throwing our support behind them.

We’re asking you to join us. Start by taking our survey here:


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