They are young, politically savvy, and ready to vote. Members of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition launched their national day of action in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in an effort to grab the attention of politicians and encourage the public to vote.
“Green Jobs Now” read the signs, marking the CYCC’s event where residents were able to change their environmental concerns into action by joining a petition.
The coalition was formed in 2006 and is made up of 13 youth organizations across Canada, with over half a million members. It is a non-partisan and non-profit organization of young Canadians concerned about climate change and poverty.
The coalition launched its event during election time to gain public support and talk to people about the benefits of shifting to a greener economy with a job program model, originating from work done by the Canadian Labour Congress.
CYCC director Barbara Hayes said the goal of the national day of action on September 27th was to “change the channel during this election from perceived negative economics of climate change.”
Volunteer Aftab Erfan said: “We are asking people to think about when they go to vote, which candidate they think will make the right decisions that will address climate change.”
“We want to talk to people about bringing this idea to Canada and getting our federal, provincial, and municipal leaders to develop a really comprehensive program,” said event organizer Jodie Martinson.
The event did grab the attention of some politicians. Green Party candidate for Vancouver Centre Adriane Carr, NDP candidate for Vancouver East Libby Davies, and Vision Vancouver’s mayoral candidate Gregor Robertson, all attended the event.
Other politicians, who weren’t in attendance, agree that group effort is an effective way of getting their attention.
Hedy Fry, the Liberal candidate for Vancouver Centre, said joining a youth organization is a first step to grabbing the attention of politicians.
“Youth are intellectually valuable and offer fresh perspectives,” said Michael Byers, the NDP candidate for Vancouver Centre. He added that a group called Action Canada had offered him a detailed proposal on environmental action bonds, which is now part of the NDP’s environmental platform.
The day of action also gave people a first-hand look at the group’s “Green Jobs Now” model, which would offer environmentally friendly jobs and training to people in low-income communities. They would like to start this program in the Downtown Eastside.
However, the CYCC’s green jobs model would ultimately be dependent on governmental approval and funding.
“Green jobs are things that are good for people’s pocket books but are also good for the economy,” said Martinson. “This is an area that obviously needs employment opportunities.”
Martinson said the idea of green jobs came from the US. People in low-income communities were offered job training programs such as installing solar panels, retrofitting houses, and converting cars into biodiesel.
The CYCC set up an information booth where residents lined up to get information. Supporter Julie Nelson said: “I think it’s really important to be involved in the Downtown Eastside, it’s an area that needs a lot of love and attention.”