Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

GERDING: Climate change losing proposition for Conservatives

Barry Gerding is the senior regional editor for Black Press in the Okanagan

So, how would you like to be local Conservative MPs Tracy Gray and Dan Albas?

They will have to wade into the next federal election campaign and defend the new Conservative Party policy rejecting the concept of climate change as being real.

That policy coming after Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole urged party members to embrace change or risk losing against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in the next election.

O’Toole told delegates at last weekend’s party convention the environment preservation debate was over and the party “cannot ignore the reality of climate change.”

Not so fast, said the delegates, defeating O’Toole’s climate change-friendly policy by a 54 to 46 per cent vote.

Here in the Okanagan Valley watershed, where we have seen up close and personal the impact of climate change via weather extremes that have caused millions of dollars in damage and necessary mitigation steps, who are we left to turn to?

The Okanagan Basin Water Board and executive director Anna Warwick Sears have stepped up and shown leadership in addressing a concern that is obvious to all of us. The OBWB is currently rallying communities up and down the watershed to put pressure on senior levels of government to take proactive rather than reactive steps to help better prepare against climate change-induced flooding and wildfires.

So when they turn to local Conservative MPs to seek funding help for mitigation program efforts, what will be the response? If O’Toole makes a visit, what is he going to tell us – we are just imagining all this?

If you are living in your million-dollar waterfront property at Poplar Point and water is ravaging your backyard balcony next to Okanagan Lake and threatening your house, it is just your imagination?

When flooding causes mudslides and infrastructure damage to our communities, it’s just a freak happenstance even it occurs year after year?

When your docks disappear on Okanagan Lake and Kalamalka Lake from rising lake waters, is that just a mirage?

The Donald Trump philosophy to his followers in the U.S. – and Canada – do not believe what you see or hear in the media, that was kind of funny, made a good sound byte. But seriously, when is it time for the adults to take charge here.

Yes, the term ‘climate change’ has become politically toxic, an excuse to not do anything as opposed to making government decisions that reflect some leadership vision about our future.

The name we associate with volatile weather patterns can be called whatever you want, but it doesn’t change the impacts we are seeing globally – the flooding, the fires, the hurricanes, the water droughts.

We can’t afford as taxpayers to continually shell out to fix infrastructure damage, to protect our diminishing watersheds, not when more actions could be taken to help reduce that ominous bill from landing on our doorsteps in the first place.

As a parent of young kids, I think about what kind of world we are leaving for them. I am impressed by what they learn in school these days, about issues like the environment and how to be critical thinkers on these issues, to learn how to speak up and understand their voice counts. To make a difference.

But I am concerned the old-timers in power will only continue to live in the past, supported by political donors who are trying to squeeze every last dime out of our current economic paradigm before it all shatters.

Being elected to government at the provincial or federal level in Canada is not supposed to be about immediately planning how to get re-elected. We can see how that works in the U.S., where nothing gets done.

We elect people to also govern, to learn from our history and lead us into the future. If you are an MP who doesn’t believe the government has a role in that, perhaps you should not be occupying that seat in the House of Commons, to begin with.

But with the vote by the Conservative Party rank and file last weekend, that kind of thinking doesn’t appear to be on their agenda just yet.

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