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Green New Deal town hall attracts young voters to the climate discussion

Jeff Wheeldon, Green Party candidate for Peterborough-Northhumberland speaks to an audience in Belleville about the New Green Deal. Photo by Sarah Cooke, QNet News

By Sarah Cooke [1]

BELLEVILLE – More than 40 people attended a Green New Deal [2] town hall Monday night with several young people in attendance to discuss ideas for a greener future.

Harley Boyes, 18, is graduating from Centennial Secondary School this year and he said that he can’t wrap his head around why current governments aren’t moving faster to take action against climate change.

“If it’s as big as they say it is – which it is – then why is nothing being done?” he asked. “Why aren’t we reaching the levels that we need to reduce emissions and basically change the way we are living?”

Harley Boyes (left) and Mikaela Naumann started the Belleville chapter of Fridays for Future in February 2019. Photo by Sarah Cooke, QNet News

A Green New Deal is a call to shift Canada’s economy to battle climate change. It’s inspired by the U.S. version introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey.

The meeting was held at the St. Thomas’ Anglican Church [3] and it invited attendees to write out their ideas about what they would and wouldn’t like to see in a greener future.

Boyes said he attended the event because it’s important for youth to show up and have their voices input policies.

“Green policies need to be nonpartisan,” he said. “It needs to be more of a government policy like health care or education. We need to step away from the debate because it’s not really a debate – it’s facts.”

Asked why more young people don’t vote, Boyes replied that he thinks for a lot of young people that it’s just not in their priorities.

“But I feel like through Greta Thunberg [4], Youth Strike for Climate [5] and Fridays for Future [6] movements, they’re seeing more young people speaking out about the climate crisis,” he said. “They’re seeing it go more mainstream which kind of makes them feel more compelled to jump in and help out.”

While the town hall event wasn’t tied to any particular political party, members of the local riding for the Green Party [7] were speaking about climate change and how people need to demand climate action.

“It’s a lot of the youth that are really concerned with what’s going on because we’re seeing that it’s our future,” said Sari Watson, 33, Green Party candidate. Photo by Brittany Woodcock, QNet News

Sari Watson, a 33-year-old registered massage therapist and Green Party candidate for the Stirling-Rawdon [8] township, said that the Green Party is attracting more young voters.

“The youth is really realizing that if we don’t take care of our resources we have left, then we’re going to have nothing left for future generations,” she said.

She added that letting youth know their voices matter and that progressive politicians want to hear them is an important part of her parties platform.

“I think a lot of times, the youth are sort of brushed aside as not informed but the youth that I know and that we’re seeing rise up are phenomenal,” Watson told QNet News after the event.