The May 6 federal by-election in Nanaimo-Ladysmith was a shocker for New Democrats.
They were running a strong candidate with impeccable environmental credentials, Chief Bob Chamberlin. Yet he was thumped by a former New Democrat turned Green, Paul Manly.
In the 2015 general election, the NDP won the seat by nearly 7,000 votes over the Liberals, with Manly coming fourth.
No doubt, the B.C. NDP government's decision to approve the LNG Canada plant near Kitimat undermined the party's environmental brand.
It didn't help Chamberlin that the provincial government had also approved the $10.7-billion Site C dam, which will deliver a body blow to the renewable-energy sector in B.C.
Previous NDP and Liberal voters shifted to the Greens, leading to the Manly landslide. Support for the Conservatives in Nanaimo-Ladysmith rose slightly between 2015 and 2019 from 23.35 percent to 24.88 percent.
This week, the NDP decided to "green up" for the October general election by nominating a young environmental activist, Yvonne Hanson, in Vancouver Granville.
A recent Simon Fraser University grad, retail worker, and renter, she proudly declares that she's volunteered with several environmental groups, including the Dogwood Initiative and Extinction Rebellion.
ER, as it's sometimes called, has been involved in militant, albeit nonviolent, street actions in Europe, the United States, and Eastern Canada.
"I grew up learning about the wonders of our Earth as the same time as I learned about their imminent destruction," Hanson says in the slickly produced video below. "Watching leaders fumble, and delay necessary action pushed me to join the ring and fight for the future that my generation will have to face. I'm here to prove that politics doesn't need to be dominated by a certain class of career politicians."
In the video, Hanson forcefully argues for a Green New Deal and a post-carbon economy.
It's a sharply tuned anti-establishment, pro-environmental message. And it's perfectly calibrated for those who love the politics of the youngest member of the House of Representatives, rookie New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a.k.a. AOC.
"I firmly believe that housing is a human right, as is the right to a clean, healthy environment," Hanson declared to the Straight. "I also believe that climate justice is inextricable from social justice, and we must address them with interconnected solutions."
The federal NDP's new environmental militance is also on display in Burnaby North—Douglas.
That's where former NDP MP Svend Robinson is attempting a political comeback with a campaign revolving around the climate crisis.
If Hanson is the federal NDP's version of AOC, then Robinson is its Bernie Sanders—an aging politician with a long history of environmental activism who isn't afraid to describe himself as an ultra-green socialist.
Where does that leave the Greens, who were able to trounce the NDP in the recent Vancouver Island by-election?
They have their own young voices running in Vancouver.
Bridget Burns is campaigning as a left-wing, environmentally attuned AOC-like Green candidate in Vancouver East.
She's going up against NDP incumbent Jenny Kwan, who's been an elected politician since 1993.
Like AOC, Burns has worked as a server and bartender. She's also been a vegan for more than 10 years.
And like Manning in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Burns can be expected to play up the B.C. NDP government's approval of the LNG Canada project, fracking of natural gas, and the Site C dam when she's talking to voters in Vancouver East.
In Vancouver Centre, Friends for Life executive director Jesse Brown is hoping the Green brand will carry him to Parliament against another long-time politician, Liberal Hedy Fry, who won in 2015 by more than 20,000 votes.
"Think about it," Brown says in the video below. "While other politicians are just talking about the climate emergency, the Greens are the only ones ready to act.
"I'm fighting for our green vision to press for aggressive climate action, reject pipelines, end reliance on fossil fuels, and support renewable energy projects."
Climate crisis galvanizes Canadians
This year, Canadian pollsters have noticed that climate change is increasingly becoming a ballot-box issue.
Back in March, Abacus Data posted an article on its site saying almost eight million Canadians are "extremely worried" about this.
Twelve percent declared that it will be their most important consideration when voting in the October federal election; another 19 percent said climate change is their second-most important issue.
In June, Nanos Research also found that this issue was resonating with the electorate.
“For the first time in 15 years, the last four weeks have had the environment as the top national issue of concern,” Nick Nanos told CTV News in June. “More important than jobs, more important than health care, more important than immigration.”
Despite mounting scientific evidence that rising greenhouse gas emissions are trapping heat in the atmosphere, leading to melting ice caps and extreme weather events, the Conservatives remain fairly blasé.
The Liberals under Justin Trudeau are arguing that to pay for measures to address environmental degradation, the government had no choice but to buy a pipeline system for $4.5 billion and spend another $9.3 billion to complete an expansion project.
This will lead to annual downstream emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents of more than 70 million tonnes, exceeding the entire yearly output of the province of British Columbia.
The Trudeau government also approved the massive liquefied natural gas plant near Kitimat, which has been described as a "carbon bomb" by one of its critics, even as the proponent claims it will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
That leaves the field fairly wide open for the NDP and Greens to compete for the growing number of young voters who feel that the climate emergency means that new fossil-fuel infrastructure projects can no longer be justified.
The Greens won the first battle in Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
But the nominations of Hansen and Robinson suggest that the federal New Democrats are not going to surrender without a fight.