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Editorial: Bill C-365 is a time-wasting distraction

Member of Parliament Mel Arnold

Conservative Member of Parliament Mel Arnold wants to make theft of firefighting equipment, which theft causes "actual danger to life,"  a specific Criminal Code offense with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life. That's the same maximum penalty as mischief causing actual danger to life.

Anyone who was evacuated from their homes during the raging progress of BC's record-breaking spate of wildfires this past summer, fearing for their homes or losing them, or even just breathing wildfire smoke, can applaud the intent of Arnold's proposed bill (Bill C-365).   

Firefighting equipment was indeed stolen during the summer. Those thefts were despicable, even more so than many other thefts of equal value, in that they did hamper firefighting efforts, and that increased the level of community danger. Did those particular thefts cause "actual danger to life"? One can imagine the arguments about that in court ― and the time and lawyers' fees incurred to convince a court one way or another, about any specific incident of theft of firefighting equipment.

What bothers me is that while Mr. Arnold is laudably keen to deter thefts of firefighting equipment, he is less keen on taking measures to curb climate change, which drives the conditions that exacerbate record-breaking fire seasons such as the one just past. Not to mention some record-breaking hurricanes. In fact, unless his views have changed since the 2015 election period, he isn't at all convinced about climate change.  

In response to Arnold's climate-change doubting statements, Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz said the science of climate change and the effects of human-caused green-house gas emissions, is “unequivocal” and that people are already feeling the effects of higher global temperatures. 

NDPcandidate Jacqui Gingras accused Arnold of “actively denying climate change” and said it is “outrageous and dangerous to hold the view” that humans and our activities are not contributing to increasing global temperatures.

Green Party candidate for the riding, Chris George, noted that the increasing extremes of weather, including drought and rainfall, are “easily linked to climate change.” He commented on the adverse effects of these extremes on tourism and agriculture, which are both economically important.  He also expressed surprise that a candidate would question how human activities exacerbate climate change;  “I was a bit astonished that that’s still a position out there.”   

Did the 27,490 voters in North Okanagan―Shuswap who voted for him actually agree with Mel Arnold's doubts about humanity's influence on climate change? Or were they just voting for their traditional party without paying much attention to details?

The total number of votes cast in the riding was 69,953.  Arnold, with his 27,490 votes, had as his closest competitor  the Liberal candidate, who had 20,951 votes ― she lost to him by a margin of 6,539 votes.  Arnold won his seat with less than one-third of the votes cast.

Mr. Arnold,  I hope you no longer think that humanity doesn't really have much to do with climate change.  I hope you no longer think it's a matter for "belief" or debate.  And I hope that you and others can shift your legislative efforts  toward understanding and curbing climate change, because climate change is a much  more active and immediate danger to life than theft ― even the despicable theft of firefighting equipment. In terms of what really needs to be done, I'm afraid your bill is just a time-wasting distraction for Parliament. 

Climate change has already caused deaths from extremes of heat; the World Health Organization notes that during the 2003 heat wave in Europe, "more than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded."  It also lists a plethora of other adverse effects on human health and life from various impacts of climate change, and predicts more than a quarter of a million deaths per year from climate change from 2030 to 2050.

Wake up, Mr. Arnold.  Your bill seems well-intentioned but it targets something relatively trivial.  We need real action on climate change and we need it immediately.