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Federal Debates Commission threatens to Bigfoot  National Grassroots Debates Initiative 100debates.ca

Thursday, August 1st 2019 1:45:12pm

*Commission’s proposed date is same day as confirmed 
environmental debates in over 100 ridings nation-wide*

Toronto, August 1, 2019 -- Today, GreenPAC and Équiterre expressed deep disappointment following the Leaders’ Debates Commission’s announcement that the national English-language debate is planned for Monday October 7, 2019, the same day more than 100 local debates on the environment are slated to take place. (Complete list of debates here www.100debates.ca/debates)

“This is the most important election we’ve ever had on the environment. Community volunteers across Canada have responded by pulling together the largest number of themed all-candidates debates in Canadian history,” said GreenPAC’s Executive Director, Sabrina Bowman. “The Commission’s proposal would severely undermine the hard work being done in these communities.”

“Whole communities are literally underwater and wildfires are ravaging our forests, youth are walking the streets to urge Government for climate action, it’s important for voters to know what the leaders as well as their local candidates have to suggest as solutions to address environmental issues,” said Ryan Worms, Communications Director at Équiterre

Over 40 concerned debate organizers signed a joint letter to the Commissioner yesterday urging the Commission to select an alternate date for the leaders’ debate. The letter highlighted the Commission’s mandate, which states that it must not “preclude other organizations from producing or organizing leaders’ debates or other political debates.” 

With environment polling as the top concern in the upcoming election, 100 Debates on the Environment publicly launched on June 5, 2019, identifying October 7 as the nation-wide date for all debates. The announcement was covered in a number of major media outlets, including  CBC Radio’s The HouseThe Hill Times, and several community outlets. The initiative later urged the Commission by mail to refrain from booking the leaders’ debates on the same day. A July 23 meeting with the Commissioner’s office failed to offer up any meaningful resolution. 

With the Commission’s announcement, debate hosts must figure out whether to proceed with their plans, or try to find another date that works for them and their community. This is a significant amount of work for volunteers who have already made a serious commitment to this democratic endeavour. In some cases, debate hosts will simply be unable to find an alternative and the debate will not take place. Keeping the scheduled date would force Canadians to choose between hearing from their local officials and national party leaders. As such, 100 Debates on the Environment is now considering alternative dates.    

“We have been planning debates in 5 ridings in our region, investing at least 30 hours a week on this for the past 2 months. Working with the local chambers of commerce and other community organizations, we've negotiated free space, secured venues and partners and confirmed the participation of nearly all candidates,” said Cindy Toth, Vice-Chair of the Halton Environmental Network’s Board of Directors.

“The Commission has created a real logistical challenge for grassroots community organizers in every province and territory who, like me, had started to book venues, invite candidates and publicize their event,” said Kirk Grayson, an organizer from British Columbia. 

100 Debates on the Environment is a project coordinated by GreenPAC. Visit  www.100debates.ca for more information on the project and for a list of local debates.

Launched in 2015, GreenPAC is Canada’s non-partisan non-profit organization that works to build environmental leadership in politics. GreenPAC’s other initiatives include a political internship program on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, as well as a non-partisan endorsement program for aspiring political candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the environment. Visit www.greenpac.ca for more information.

For more information or interview requests including with local organizers, please contact:
Kate Belmore, GreenPAC, 647-457-3075,  k.belmore@greenpac.ca