By: Korie Marshall, Editor
If Premier Christy Clark got on a helicopter to check out the Little Bobtail Lake fire back in May, I guess it’s no surprise that she showed up for a photo op with the people fighting the fires in her home riding of West Kelowna. I haven’t heard any reason for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to show up, except that it is coming up on election time, and it sounded like a good opportunity to get some cool photos. He apparently also met with the Premier of Saskatchewan, which is also burning, and made some vague promises that coordination of wildfire fighting might be something the federal government looks into in the future. The federal government has had a history of offloading responsibilities to the provincial and municipal governments, so I find it highly unlikely that Harper’s government will decide to take on more responsibility now.
InfoNews.ca took some flak for their coverage of the press event because their story didn’t refer to Harper by name, just as the “man in blue suit.” Their photo shows a firefighter in focus in the centre, with Clark and Harper both out of focus in front of him. If the Premier and the Prime Minister showed up to thank these folks for their tireless and dangerous work, and not for a political show, I think that coverage makes sense, because it should be about the firefighters and not about the politicians. It should be about the facts, and not the show. The problem is the facts are much harder to get to than the show, and they are not as easy to understand when you do find them.
CBC News quoted Clark at the event saying “Climate change has altered the terrain. It’s made us much more vulnerable to fire.” She blamed the $100 million cost overruns for fighting fires so far this year on the parched conditions in the Interior, and said the province could spend $400 million, when only $63 million was budgeted.
Interesting that she blames climate change for fires, but continues to push for an LNG industry in BC which will not stop the emissions causing climate change. Maybe she can delude herself by saying Site C will provide clean energy. It might be clean compared to natural gas or coal, but it’s not without impacts. And there are alternatives that could be much better. Geothermal is one I talk about a lot, but there is also solar, wind, biomass and tidal power, and maybe other sources too. The province’s largest solar project just opened up in Kimberly. BC has just partnered with Nova Scotia on developing tidal energy (the first turbines placed in the Bay of Fundy in 2012 were ripped apart because we humans had totally underestimated the power of the tide). There’s an integrated geothermal biomass plant that just came online in Italy, using biomass sourced from within 70 km of the facility.
We have options. It’s not as simple as blaming climate change for our fires, and saying “Don’t worry, we’ve got a surplus in the budget, we’ll spend what we need to fight fires.” It’s not as simple as showing up for a photo op, or listening to residents and panels and then making the same decision anyway – which I think is exactly what the provincial and federal government did with approving Site C. They gathered the evidence, listened to concerns and then ignored most of it. They quoted the little bits that proved their point and swept the rest away. Dealing with climate change, which is real, and is surely affecting our forests, our recreation spots, our food availability and costs, and myriad other things in our lives, is not simple.
The sound bites, the photo ops, the quick quotes, the funding announcements, are so easy for the public to accept. The truth is harder to find, and harder to understand. Dealing with climate change is going to require some complicated decisions.