On Monday, October 19, Canadians will go to the polls to elect a new federal government the 42nd General Election.
The boundaries, and issues, have changed in the Kootenay Columbia riding, where four candidates — Bill Green of the Green Party, Liberal candidate Don Johnston, Wayne Stetski of the NDP and Christina Yahn of the Libertarian Party — are trying to unseat incumbent David Wilks of the ruling Conservative Party.
To help voters in the Kootenay/Columbia riding make their decision, The Nelson Daily is sending out weekly questions to quiz the candidates on pressing issues during the campaign.
The first question deals with Climate Change.
Do you agree that this summer's wildfires are related to climate change? If so, what specific initiatives would you and your party initiate in your riding to mitigate and/or adapt to the changes?
David Wilks, Conservative Party of Canada
Wildfires have been a serious issue this summer in Canada’s Western provinces. The health and safety of Canadians is our Government’s priority, and throughout the summer our Government has been working with local communities to ensure that resources are being directed to where they are needed most.
Recognizing the role of the provinces, territories, and individual communities in tackling natural disasters like wildfires, we must include them in addressing these problems.
We aim to empower communities and governments to increase their resilience and reduce disaster risks and impacts by investing in prevention and mitigation strategies and helping to secure critical infrastructure for these purposes.
We will also continue to provide affected communities with support. Earlier this summer, our Conservative Party announced that if re-elected, we will accelerate the expansion of the Canadian Forces Primary Reserves to 30,000 personnel, and will improve training to respond to domestic emergencies such as forest fires.
Wayne Stetski, New Democratic Party
I absolutely agree that this summer’s wildfires are related to climate change, and we have to be prepared for the frequency and severity of wildfires to increase.
This is why Tom Mulcair has released a three-point plan on wildfire that focuses on coordination, training and infrastructure.
An NDP government will:
- Update and implement the National Disaster Mitigation Program;
- Restore funding for the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program and training programs previously provided by the Emergency Preparedness College; and
- Establish a new Disaster Mitigation Infrastructure program in partnership with provinces and territories.
But we also have to take real action on climate change. Under a Harper Conservative government, Canada has fallen to dead last when it comes to meeting our emissions reduction targets.
An NDP government will fix in legislation a fundamental right for Canadians to have a healthy environment, promote clean renewable energy, and demand environmental standards in all trade agreements to which Canada is a signatory.
We will meet our climate obligations. We will eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and invest in transit. And we will show up at the Paris climate meeting with targets and a clear plan to achieve those targets.
It is time for Canada to have a government that they can be proud of. And it is time for Canada to be a leader on this critical issue.
Don Johnston, Liberal Party of Canada
This will be a hot topic at this week’s UBCM conference but a Liberal government would have an impact on both the national and local scale. Comprehensive environment and inter-government partnership policies are two of the strongest reasons to choose a Liberal candidate.
These commitments are detailed on our RealChange.ca website. Fundamental change would be immediate.
Locally initiatives could include Columbia Basin Treaty water level negotiations, reinstating the Kootenay Lake Fishery office, or wildfire management support since fire seasons are becoming longer, more intense, and more expensive.
Linking them to the climate change debate is less important than mitigating damage. The Federal government has been largely involved in disaster relief but our infrastructure programs are geared toward Kootenayites identifying priorities.
The existing Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative managed by BC Municipalities is a possible vehicle for involvement.
Nelson is already examining fuel management projects in the densely wooded West Arm and other towns want to minimize urban interface danger to reduce wildfire threats. These are costly but crucial.
The Liberal party wants me to raise rural issues and be the voice for Kootenay Columbia.
An MP who is actively involved with our communities will find these partnerships.
Bill Green, Green Party of Canada
Scientists agree that climate change is driving up the frequency and severity of wildfire throughout western North America. Fire seasons are longer. Fires are burning hotter and over wider areas. Fire is occurring in forests that historically burned infrequently.
As a scientist myself, I agree with their conclusions. Climate change is drying out our forests, even in wet ecosystems like the cedar-hemlock stands of the West Kootenay.
Here in Kootenay-Columbia, studies project average temperature increases of as much as three degrees Celsius by the 2050s.
These studies forecast less summer rain, more winter rain, declining glacial runoff, more frequent and intense droughts.
The result is a host of negative impacts on communities, fish and wildlife populations, and watersheds.
How do we adapt?
First and foremost, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Party’s climate action plan will reduce carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
And we must prepare for the “new normal” of a destabilized climate. Green MPs will:
- Establish task forces of stakeholders, scientists and all levels of government to prepare area-specific climate change adaptation strategies.
- Restore and enhance federal funding for adaptation planning.
- Establish a Climate Change Adaptation Fund to assist areas hard hit by natural disasters linked to climate change.
Christina Yahn of the Libertarian Party declined the invitation to respond to The Nelson Daily Question of the Week.