Voters on Vancouver Island are heading into a federal election on the heels of an unprecedented heatwave, drought, and a wildfire season that started earlier this year than ever before.
As a result, it’s no surprise that one of the key issues for many this election is surrounding climate change.
It’s not just Islanders, either. Polling data from Angus Reid shows that for 45 per cent of British Columbians, climate change is an election priority.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau knows that, announcing his environmental policy in Richmond on Tuesday.
“We need to stand strongly on a plan to fight climate change and grow the economy,” said Trudeau, standing shoulder to shoulder with Andrew Weaver, the former leader of B.C.’s Green Party, who endorsed the Liberal climate plan.
The Liberals are promising to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45 per cent.
The NDP is promising bigger cuts to emissions, albeit with a less detailed plan. Even the Conservatives are promising to reduce emissions by 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, one Island Green politician vying for a seat says high-speed trains into city cores and restrictions on cars, would be a start.
“The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) came out with a report just a few weeks ago, saying ‘code red’. Usually, when people say there’s an emergency there’s a response. We don’t have a plan and we need one,” said Lia Versaevel, the Green Party candidate for the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
“We should have had one in place 20-30 years ago.”
So why have Canadian climate change policies been so weak?
“The short answer is, what we actually have to do, is probably not going to get anyone elected,” said Robert Gifford, a UVIC professor of psychology and environmental studies.
Climate scientists say the changes we need to make are massive.
“Canadians use about 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year on average. But at least one expert says we need to cut down to a tonne or a tonne and a half per year,” said Gifford.
That’s a 9-10 fold reduction in our average, individual consumption. It would be a complete change in the way we live, and Gifford says the majority of people aren’t ready to do that.
“The root of it is, whether we like it or not, is self-interest. We disguise it in different ways, we make token attempts,” said Gifford. “The average person is using more carbon than he or she should because it’s justified for personal growth.”
Gifford argues that because the majority of Canadians are unwilling to make the changes, they’re not asking them of their politicians.
“People like to say the government isn’t doing a good job. But hello, at least here in Canada, the government is us! It’s who we vote for. I don’t actually blame the politicians because if they made statements of what’s really necessary they would just lose their jobs,” said Gifford.
“This really comes back to us, as voters and citizens, not really governments or politicians.”
Step one, he says, is self-reflection and identifying the gaps in your green, like where you choose yourself now and the environment later. Then, vote accordingly.