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City of Whitehorse mayoral candidates partake in youth-led climate forum

The youth-led climate forum posed questions to the mayoral candidates about their plans to tackle climate change
Mayoral candidates Samson Hartland, Patti Balsillie and Laura Cabott, left-right, are asked questions by the Mayoral Candidates Forum at the intersection of Climate and Youth co-moderators Bruce Porter and Kluane Adamek on Aug. 24. (Photo by Asad Chishti)

On Aug. 24 at the Heart of Riverdale, a Mayoral Candidates Forum at the intersection of climate and youth was held.

It was a community-led collaboration between BYTE - empowering youth society, chairs and tables dot org, and Heart of Riverdale.

The questions for the three mayoral candidates who have declared their intentions to run in the Oct. 21 municipal election - Samson Hartland, Laura Cabott and Patti Balsillie - were collected from youth.

Sruthee Govindaraj is a co-chair for the Youth Panel on Climate. Govindaraj said youth want to see initiative and accountability from their elected officials.

“The state of climate emergency was declared a couple of years ago and there hasn’t been much work done after,” said Govindaraj. “The main thing that we are looking for is not just election promises, but rather action that’s taken based on those promises.”

Emily Ross, the Youth Panel on Climate Change coordinator, said there were about seven questions prepared for the three potential candidates.

“They asked about priorities as mayor, about the climate emergency declaration, and if they felt the city has done enough,” said Ross. “They also asked about cleaner, greener transportation, creating opportunities to engage youth and how’d they rank the importance of climate change to other issues.”

Govindaraj said Whitehorse is developing quickly and the youth panel would like to see that development done in a sustainable way so “we’re not affecting our surroundings in a detrimental way.”

“I think that’s one of the biggest things we should really focus on because right now, the governments play a big role in climate action,” said Govindaraj. “There needs to be proper communication between all levels of government that ensures work is being done at all levels.”

The city declared a climate emergency in Sept. 2019 and Govindaraj said they haven’t done enough.

“The Whitehorse municipal sustainability plan is a step in the right direction,” said Govindaraj. “But, more action needs to be taken.”

Govindaraj said her age demographic will be the next wave of voters, they will also be the ones being more affected by climate change.

She said the IPCC Sixth Assessment report should be a wake-up call for everyone.

“This is our last chance to do anything,” said Govindaraj. “We are worried about our future. We’ve seen the flooding and how bad and unprepared we were. Then there’s the fires in B.C. and it’s just getting worse each year.

“Every year we hear it’s been the worst in 100 years, then the next year, it beats that record.”

Govindaraj said the youth are motivated to help and fight climate change and they want to be consulted by government officials on climate action plans.

Ross said the youth have the energy and the drive to help tackle the climate crisis, they just might not have the knowledge to get involved.

“By providing this forum, it helps you learn more about municipal politics and the candidates,” said Ross. “It might be sort of a stepping stone to be able to get more involved at the municipal level with climate action.”

Ross said the rate of climate change is scary for a lot of people, especially since the latest IPCC report.

“I think that the youth are starting to really focus their energy on political change and societal change rather than just personal change,” said Ross.

Ross said all involved are thankful for the three mayoral candidates for coming with “great ideas” and introducing themselves to youth voters.

Contact John Tonin at