Despite demonstrations since March by youth across New Brunswick, and a Green Party motion in the New Brunswick Legislature to declare a climate emergency, the government is refusing to demonstrate urgency on the climate crisis. Recently, it even voted against a Green Party bill to develop renewable energy in the province. However with the support of the opposition parties the bill did pass its second reading vote to move it to committee discussion.
On May 24, youths and their supporters rallied at the fourth student strike for the climate in Fredericton outside the NB Legislature. Climate strikes were also held in Moncton, Sackville, Saint John and Sussex, and in cities in all other provinces across the country on the same day. According to national media reports, the global climate strike was held in more than 1,600 cities and towns in more than 124 countries.
The crowd in Fredericton was smaller than previous climate protests at the Legislature but Moncton had a large turnout. According to a report in Acadie Nouvelle, hundreds of people marched through the downtown, effectively blocking Main Street.
As in previous rallies at the Legislature building, a number of brave young people went up to the microphone to explain why they had come and what they hoped for the future.
Tamara and Annabelle, both age 16, spoke together. In a video interview after their speech, Annabelle explained: “Change needs to happen, and it’s not going to happen on its own. We need to fight for it, and the government’s not going to do it if we don’t ask.” Tamara said: “I’m here because I’m scared every single day for my future. It’s important that we come here and make a change. You know there’s a big problem when the leaders act like the children, and the children act like the leaders.”
All the political parties were invited to speak. Green Party NB leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon brought a message of hope and support to the youth gathered and asked everyone to contact their MLAs and ask for specific actions to address the climate crisis. The Greens have been the only provincial party participating at the climate strikes. On May 24, for the first time, a federal politician participated. Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey relayed his Liberal party’s commitment to climate action, over several shouts from the crowd of “no pipelines.”
Also at the microphone was Jenica Atwin, who won a local Green Party election the previous evening to be the Party’s candidate in the October 2019 federal election. Atwin will run against DeCourcey; the candidates for the other parties have not yet been selected. Currently the election poll aggregator site 360.org for the Fredericton riding has the popular support for the federal parties at 31% for the Conservatives, 30% for the Greens, 28.5% for the Liberals and 7% for the NDP.
Susan O’Donnell is a member of the NB Media Co-op editorial board and a researcher with the RAVEN project.