Leaders forgot about nature in the Election debates—don’t let them.
A myriad of issues, so many questions, and so little time for reflection and answers. And as the circus went on, my wish was for every single leader to go take a hike, quite literally—alone and then with each other. Because they were missing nature in the discussion, and we need nature now more than ever.
Climate change, reconciliation, the mental health crisis, COVID-19, and equitable access to services—key issues shaping my future, and my kids’ future—were raised. Leaders of all parties attempted rapid-fire answers, trying to showcase solutions from their platforms, shouting over each other at times.
But they forgot, systematically, to highlight how restoring and protecting Nature is a central solution to all of these challenges.
Nature conservation and protection is actually present in all the parties’ platforms–with important new commitments from some parties to reverse the crises of species loss, to invest in Indigenous-led solutions, to protect between 25-50% of our land and ocean, and support nature-based solutions to climate change. But you’d never have known it from the Leaders’ debates.
The platforms also differ of course in important ways, and none of them offer a complete package, as we have called for in our Nature Platform—but Canadians need to look through the options on offer carefully. On Election Day it will be key for voters to decide who best reflects their own values and concerns to protect the ground beneath our feet, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the wildlife we love and the green spaces that have sustained us through the pandemic.
Who has a credible plan to take care of nature as the foundation for a healthy future for us all?
Parties need to answer this question because Canadians care about nature. 97% of Canadians have either maintained (80%) or increased (17%) their support for nature conservation since COVID-19. And, 84% of Canadians say fulfilling the commitment to protecting 30 percent of lands, rivers and lakes by 2030 is important
And we know ensuring nature’s health and abundance is key for a prosperous economy. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 report, biodiversity loss ranks among the top 5 risks to the world economy in both likelihood and in severity of impact.
But with unprecedented global warming and close to a million species hurtling towards extinction around the world–and over 600 wildlife species alone in Canada at risk–the leader’s debates were like arguments over carry-on luggage, seating allocations and food service as the bolts are coming off the plane in mid-air.
As Canadians raised concerns about healing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, economic opportunity, support for mental health and the crisis of climate change, I wanted to yell “NATURE IS THE ANSWER”!
I know yelling doesn’t help. And nature is not the only answer—we need urgent action to reduce fossil fuel emissions, build employment in sustainable energy, improve and expand key public services, and more. But ensuring nature’s health and full recovery is an essential part of addressing most of the issues raised for debate. And nature unites us; teaching us how we are all connected both to each other and the Earth. Yet the leaders seriously missed the elephants (orcas, caribou and honey bees) in the room.
So what do we do? We need to stand up for nature.
At the end of the day, it won’t be leaders’ that chart our course to safety and security. It will be where citizens and local communities direct leaders’ attention. In the final days of this election campaign, let’s all do our part to engage with candidates, tell them our priorities for nature and beyond, assess their commitment and let this guide our critical choice on Sept 20th.
There are lots of tools and resources to help you do that. Read up on how parties answered questions from leading environmental groups. And don’t forget to check out Nature Canada’s nature platform, ask your candidates questions, and urge them to take the nature pledge.
We have to stop yelling at our screens, get outside, and speak up for what matters to secure a brighter future for all of us on this tiny planet.
Nature needs our vote.