Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh received applause from a group of residents, politicians and activitist after announcing his hopes for a ban on single-use plastic bags.
Singh spoke about the environment to a group of about 25 people, including activists, residents and local politicians, at Parksville Community Park Tuesday, March 6.
“When we talk about the environment, the vision has been for too long, ‘We need to protect it for our children, for our grandchildren, for future generations.’ That puts the problem off into the distance,” Singh said. “We know the environment is a question not of tomorrow, it’s a question of today, right now.”
Singh told the crowd the commitment should be learning how to stop emitting gases into the environment, how to stop emitting pollutants into the water and how to stop plastics.
He said he believes in supporting marine cleaning, and wants to push in the coming months for federal government funding for marine cleanup in areas including ocean plastics.
“But let’s get at the symptoms; let’s ban single-use plastics once and for all.”
Sheri Plummer, Communities Protecting Our Coast member, said she wasn’t prepared for Singh’s views on banning plastic bags, but she said she was impressed by how in-depth Singh spoke on the topic.
Plummer said what’s happening in the oceans is beyond a tipping point.
“We just don’t realize how much in crisis our ocean is,” she said.
But with the help of politicians such as Singh, Plummer said, CPOC can get its message across.
Lois Eaton, another CPOC member, said groups such as CPOC can educate people, but they need to get the politicians on board.
“The way to keep politicians in our pockets is to educate people to the environment so the politicians have to do the right thing to get back into office,” Eaton said.
In an interview with The NEWS, Singh said he was impressed by the passion the people of Parksville Qualicum Beach have about the environment.
“You’re at the doorstep of the ocean and folks (in Parksville Qualicum Beach) are talking about the ocean like it’s a playground, the way we would talk about monkey bars and swings,” he said.
“Coastal people feel it in a more direct way that we share this planet with so many other lifeforms. (They have) that passion that we need to protect the environment because it’s wrong of us to think that it’s just here for us; we should share it and take care of it together.”
Singh said coastal people see plastic washing up on shores the way people in the Prairies might not be able to experience in the same way, which he said fuels their passion about how people need to take on these issues.
“This is a great ‘ground zero’ to really talk about the importance of banning or moving away from single-use plastics because it’s not a sustainable way to live, it’s not a sustainable way to run our society. I think people here are in a really good position to be champions for that because they see it and they can talk about it from a lived experience.”
Before Singh spoke to the crowd, Courtenay-Alberni NDP MP Gord Johns made a timely connection to the ocean plastics problem: the herring run.
“The herring feed on krill,” said Johns. “Unfortunately, a lot of that krill is eating our plastic and that goes up the food chain to our salmon, to our orcas. It’s so important that Jagmeet’s here to learn from you, to see why it’s so important to us, to our ecosystem.”
In his first visit to the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, Singh said he was touched by how well-organized and committed locals are to pushing these issues.
Singh said he hopes to come back, but he was happy to be here and witness the herring run.