Four of five candidates in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding tackled more than a dozen big questions on climate Sept. 10, ranging from how to end dependence on fracking and liquid natural gas, to reducing forest fires, to consulting with Indigenous people about pipelines across their lands.
Absent for the online forum put on by Shuswap Climate Action and Vernon’s Climate Action Now (CAN!) was Kyle Delfing, the People’s Party of Canada candidate.
The whole forum can be seen on Shuswap Climate Action’s Facebook page.
Asked what candidates’ parties will do to reduce the effects of forest fires, Liberal Shelley Desautels said her government has been putting money aside to train 1,000 new firefighters, as well as $450 billion in equipment investments and a $1.4 billion top-up in the disaster mitigation fund.
As part of the BC Community Forests Association, she said she can attest to seeing how mitigation work on a Westbank First Nation community forest protected it from burning while land beside it burned.
Andrea Gunner with the Green Party said the first priority is to implement recommendations from the 2003, 2011 and 2018 wildfire postmortem reports. She urged natural seeding from local deciduous and coniferous trees on clearcut sites, as well as replanting of logged sites promptly, reducing post-logging fuel accumulation and integrating Indigenous burning practices when feasible. She also pointed to the need for a minimum of 20-year long-range planning.
Conservative Mel Arnold said “unlike the current Liberal government who promised to plant two million trees and have planted zero out of that plan,” his party would work with forest companies and with the provinces to make sure plans include forest rehabilitation.
Ron Johnston of the NDP said he agreed with much of what the Green candidate said. He said the NDP is committed to focusing investments in forest management to help reduce risk, including Indigenous burning programs and better ways to replant forests, including diverse species instead of monoculture.
On the topic of ending reliance on fracking and liquified natural gas (LNG) in order to transition to clean energy by 2030, Johnston said the NDP is committed to ending billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies, both direct and via tax credits. They would be redirected towards renewable green energy projects and skills training for workers.
Desautels said home and office energy retrofits are key in order to transition away from LNG.
She said the Liberals are offering $5,000 grants for upgrades like solar panels, wind turbines and changes to heating and cooling systems. As part of the party’s ‘national adaptation strategy,’ major improvements to electricity grids are planned, which will bring down costs. Then LNG would no longer be needed to heat homes, she said.
Arnold said natural gas has been used in Canada and B.C. “because it’s abundantly available.”
While Canada and other countries are transitioning from oil and coal, he suggested Canada produce LNG to help Asia and other parts of the world.
“We can produce it cleaner and cheaper than anywhere else in the world because of our cooler climate,” he said.
Gunner said four times the amount of energy from the electrical system is needed to replace natural gas and fossil fuels.
To make that transition within the next eight or nine years, she said Canada has vast reserves of untapped geothermal, something Northern European countries are already using. She said it requires the same kind of workers the fossil fuel industry needs.
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