Peterborough’s Green New Deal Town Hall

” . . . this is the defining issue of our time and should be addressed in a New Deal context. This is like a third world war. It’s even bigger.”: Vicki Preston, Peterborough mother. 

“People are working hard, but most people realise we need systemic change with government on board.”: Kelly Carmichael, Green New Deal organizer.

Politicians, take note. Ordinary Canadians are no longer willing to sit back as the climate changes at run-away speed and their world slips away before their very eyes.

I think people are disappointed in the inactivity of their government,” said Kelly Carmichael, one of the organizers of a recent Green New Deal town hall meeting in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough, Ontario. “We need policy change.” 

Close to 200  people — from Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County and Peterborough County —  attended to hear about the Green New Deal plan that has been spreading around the world with an aim to eliminate poverty, create millions of jobs, and tackle climate change. 

Kelly carmichael

Kelly Carmichael

“I think this is going to be the main issue of this 2019 election, and the turn-out at our meeting is an indication it’s what people want to talk about,”said Carmichael, former executive director of Fair Vote Canada, in a later interview with JOURNEY Magazine.

The Green New Deal is a grassroots movement “capable of pushing governments to act”, she said.

According to the Green New Deal Canada website, it requires public investments in clean energy, transit and climate adaptation work, but also wants to transform to a renewable energy economy, creating good ‘green jobs’, fairer to everyone and “leaving no one behind”. 

Another big part is respect for Indigenous knowledge. Green New Deal Canada is calling for the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Right to Free Prior and Informed Consent and and the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

planet over profit photo markus spiskeAcross Canada, there have been, or will be, 200 town hall meetings to get policy ideas from community people. These ideas will be shared to a broader coalition of major national non-governmental organizations like Greenpeace, Council of Canadians and The Leap.

It’s the beginning of a campaign to influence politicians in the October federal election to change economic and environmental policies, said Carmichael.

Hundreds of policy ideas were suggested by the Peterborough crowd, including a ban on oil sands extraction, and more public transportation, electric vehicles and green energy, she said. Another meeting is in the works, she said, “because we really want to carry on with the work and grow something from this meeting.”

Vicki Preston

Vicki Preston of Peterborough said she attended the meeting because of her 13-year-old daughter, Monica. 

“Last year, she came home from school and burst into tears, crying because she was so scared and sad about climate change. She had, for the first time, understood what it might mean,” explained Preston to JOURNEY Magazine.

“This was an expected and appropriate response, but it was one of those moments, as a parent, that I said, ‘what do I do?’. I didn’t want to lie to her or give her false expectations, but I also wanted to comfort her,” she said.


Vicki Preston and daughter, Monica.

The two of them decided they could attend protests, join an activist group, and try to make the government pay attention to the crisis. Monica wrote a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and delivered it to MP Maryam Monsef’s Peterborough office, just when there happened to be a climate protest outside. The protesters read her letter out loud.

“That seemed to calm her. She felt like she had done something,” said Preston.

But Preston still says the issue is urgent. One of her suggestions at the Green New Deal meeting is to have daily announcements of critical climate change indicators on television news sites, such as the number of species going extinct each day, and carbon dioxide concentrations, “so that sense of urgency could be conveyed every day”. 

She would also like to see a national boycott of the #1 corporate polluter. “So you might boycott Tim Horton’s, for example, until they did enough so they were no longer first. Then you would move on to McDonald’s, until they did something. Companies would be competing against each other to drive down their waste.”

Steve Sharpe 

steve sharpe

Steve Sharpe

As a seventh-generation farmer in Selwyn Township, Steve Sharpe has seen first-hand over the past five years what climate change looks like. This Spring has been one of the worst years for precipitation, meaning a late planting at his cash crop and beef farm. Other years have seen record-high temperatures, bringing drought. 

“We’re getting a lot more variable weather now. It’s hard because if we’re in one type of climate you can accommodate that environment, but when one year is dry and then rainy, back and forth, or half rainy, half dry, you can’t plan,” explained Sharpe, who is also a math teacher at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough, and was a federal NDP candidate locally in 2008, running on a climate change platform.

“You might plant drought-resistant seed and end up with rain,” said the father of two.

He would like to see a professional organization for media so it can be held accountable for what it says “in case it is spreading lies (about climate change). The press is one of the core tenets of our society”.

Another idea of his is to curtail trade deals with countries who are not fighting climate change because “we are in this together. We have one atmosphere. We have to put pressure on other countries to follow the rules.”

But his major concern is the electoral system. He thinks proportional representation would play a key part in preventing a “false majority” with which people are unhappy after only a year, as seems to be the case now in Ontario. It would mean more minority governments in which all political parties would work together to create climate change programs useful for everyone “and we don’t get a 180 degree shift every four years.”

Another meeting in the city is in the works, says organizer Carmichael, “because we really want to carry on with the work and grow something from this (past) meeting.” 

By Melodie McCullough

Featured Image by Markus Spiske

See also: Letter to Editor: Nuclear Pellet and Fuel Bundle Production Presents Danger to Peterborough

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