Throughout the last five months, Community Climate Hubs have been busy preparing for their municipal elections. Across British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories, thousands of people have gone or will soon be going to the polls voting in new mayors, councillors, and school trustees that will serve their communities for the next few years. Elections can be especially pivotal for municipal climate action, as they offer a chance for councils to renew their commitments towards climate action - or be replaced with those who will. As the leader of the Maple Ridge Climate Hub notes in their preparation for organizing around the municipal elections: “It was critical that we elect a council that understands the science, gets the urgency, and knows what the solutions can be.”
“It was critical that we elect a council that understands the science, gets the urgency, and knows what the solutions can be.”
As Community Climate Hubs, our aim is to raise municipal ambition on climate action. An election is a key time to put that mandate into action, whether it be, for example, through creating a questionnaire to candidates on climate or organizing candidate debates highlighting questions on climate. Initiatives such as these showcase candidates’ standpoints on climate issues, and highlight climate as an important issue for citizens to think about when they cast their ballots. Some of the highlights of these last few months have been the work done in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
In Winnipeg, the Climate Reality Project Canada’s Regional Engagement Coordinator for the Prairies, Adrian Werner helped to coordinate a coalition of 26 local environmental organizations to work together on creating a Mayoral Candidate Forum on the Environment. All but one of the 11 mayoral candidates attended. Over 250 people attended and another 50+ were following along online in the livestreamed version. Such an event confirmed climate as a priority issue for citizens, and demonstrated the eagerness of local citizens to hear candidates’ environmental platforms. When asked about the experience, Adrian said that “the key to success was providing multiple opportunities for organizations to engage or disengage based on their capacity while remaining informed about the project so they could help whenever they were able.” He also encourages other Hubs to use their networks to collaborate on shared projects because it allows time for important inclusive decision-making and tends to energize people wanting to make a difference in their city.
In Maple Ridge, the Community Climate Hub worked on creating election packages for both voters and candidates to “inform them about what is causing climate change and the very concrete actions council can take to help,” according to the leader of the Hub, Kirk Grayson. These packages are summarized on their user-friendly webpage that can be found here and were distributed at many all-candidate forums and other public events. Grayson further explained that the Hub decided to take the educational approach, having previously organized all-candidate debates for the most recent federal and provincial elections. Grayson said it allowed candidates and citizens to “learn about some strong options for city action if they were not already aware,” including some candidates who showed keen interest in learning more, integrating the information into the climate-focused part of their platform - with some of these candidates even getting elected! The election packages were a success in educating both the candidates and the public on the potentials of municipal climate action, and whose benefits will surely be reaped in the coming years.
Municipal Election Resource Database
We have worked to compile some of the work that Community Climate Hubs and other groups have done in their municipal elections in order to centralize this wonderful work, and to inspire action during future elections. You can find the database here. You will find that many Hubs created surveys/questionnaires, billboards, yard signs, general election packages, and more. Many of these resources were created in collaboration with other Hubs or other groups, by sharing questions, strategies, or even just taking inspiration from one another. For example, the West Kootenay Climate Hub incorporated school trustees in their surveying, inspired by what a group in Vernon had done. From further afield, the Sault Climate Hub sought advice on how to structure their questionnaire from folks in British Columbia and Manitoba - exemplifying the strengths of the Hub network. The database provides a chance to look into the collaborative workings of the Hub network, and will provide insight to Hubs and groups in elections to come.
These are only a few of the magnificent stories and work done around the municipal elections this year. While we do not have a complete view of the results, as some elections are still yet to come, we can confidently say that the time and effort put in by the Community Climate Hub’s network has been wonderful and truly impressive. By establishing climate as an issue worthy of prioritization at the polls, and building relationships between candidates and councillors, the potential of what comes next and what impact can be made is both monumental and exciting.
The following dates are when municipal elections have occurred or will take place this Fall:
- British Columbia - Oct 15
- Northwest Territories - Oct 17
- Ontario - Oct 24
- Manitoba - Oct 26
- Prince Edward Island - Nov 7
If you want to get involved with your local Community Climate Hub or get one started in your area to work on what happens next, sign up here or email email@example.com.