As Manitobans head to the polls tomorrow to choose their next provincial government, it's the perfect moment to reflect on the impactful journey that climate advocates have embarked on during this election campaign. We've joined hands with numerous partner organizations, including Manitoba’s Climate Action Team, engaged in enlightening discussions on strategic priorities with the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, and Better Manitoba, and partnered with 26 organizations to host an environmental and climate forum.
Our journey in Manitoba was driven by two key inspirations. First, we were inspired by the success of a diverse coalition in hosting a mayoral candidate forum during the 2022 Winnipeg Election. This success ignited the idea of a similar initiative for the provincial election, even though we knew it would be challenging since climate change was unlikely to be a top election priority.
Secondly, we learned from the Alberta provincial election, where climate issues received minimal attention from provincial leaders. Despite tireless organizing efforts, climate simply did not become a prominent issue, even during a season marked by visible wildfires and emergencies across the province.
Our aspiration in Manitoba was clear: to at least secure commitments from political leaders to take action on climate. This would provide a starting point for post-election policy discussions and inform voters who cared deeply about climate action. However, a fundamental question loomed large - how many Manitobans actually care about climate change?
Instead, education, healthcare, crime, and affordability topped the concerns of Manitoba voters. In contrast, many Canadians saw climate change as a distant problem. Given this perception, it's not surprising that Manitobans prioritized issues like addressing surgery backlogs over commitments like homeowner retrofit grants and electric vehicle subsidies. These problems simply felt more immediate and pressing to Manitobans.
Hence, the challenge was to convey that climate change is a complex issue that transcends individual actions and impacts all aspects of life in the prince. The question became: "Considering the issues facing Manitoba in the next four years, how important is it that the provincial government incorporates climate change into everything it does?"
The poll results were enlightening. An overwhelming 76% of Manitobans felt that it was crucial, with only 23% considering it unimportant, and 2% remaining unsure. Breaking it down regionally, 83% of Winnipeggers believed it was important, while 64% of rural Manitobans shared the sentiment. A demographic breakdown revealed that women between the ages of 18 and 34 were the most concerned, with 84% prioritizing climate action, while males aged 35 to 54 showed the least concern at 64%.
Armed with this understanding of the significance of integrating climate policy into government actions, the next challenge was to make this silent majority visible enough for leaders of all political stripes to take notice and include climate change in their election discourse.
As the Regional Engagement Coordinator for the Prairies, I supported two crucial initiatives during the election. Firstly, I convened a group of collaborators to organize the forum I mentioned earlier, and I lent my support to a non-partisan grassroots campaign called Consider Climate, Manitoba, in collaboration with Manitoba’s Climate Action Team.
Through the dedication of an incredible team of volunteers and a committed steering committee, we executed a highly successful signage campaign throughout the summer. We placed signs not only across Winnipeg but also in other parts of the province, including The Pas, Winkler, and Falcon Lake.
During the summer, we engaged with the community at farmers' markets, hosted climate conversations online, and knocked on people's doors, recorded interviews (on Instagram) with everyday Manitobans expressing their desire for government action on climate change. At our campaign launch, I reflected on what it meant to be an expecting father in an uncertain future, alongside the concerned voices of a grandfather, a retired nurse, and a young climate activist. Consider Climate also distributed pamphlets, reached out to all political parties with five important questions
Even though my son arrived earlier than expected (thankfully, he is healthy and happy), I was immensely proud of our collaborators for bringing the forum together and hosting an incredible event. Held at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall at the University of Winnipeg, the event saw lively discussions with representatives from various parties, providing valuable insights into their stances on climate issues.
While it's impossible to measure our exact impact, I am confident that our campaign became visible to the public and provincial parties alike. We were frequently quoted in local newspapers, our forum garnered over 1000 views, and nearly 250 people attended the event - but most importantly, we gave people a platform to declare that climate matters in Manitoba. Organizations with diverse goals, mandates, and tactics worked together, and new individuals joined the climate movement, contributing their knowledge and talent.
It's not too late to familiarize yourself with what the parties are saying. Here are some resources you might find interesting:
“Young voters disappointed by lack of concrete climate plans in Manitoba election”Rest assured that no matter the results on October 3rd, we will continue the conversation on climate action in Manitoba, because as the poll results show, it's a concern that resonates with most Manitobans. Together, we can drive change and make climate a central issue in our province's future.