Andrea Gunner, Green, at the SENS environmental forum Sept. 2, 2021, at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

North Okanagan-Shuswap candidates talk about the region’s greatest environmental threat

Four candidates running for the MP seat in the riding meet to discuss green questions in forum

After a summer of devastating wildfires and record-breaking heat waves across B.C., the climate and how it’s changing is at the forefront of many voters’ minds in Canada — specifically those in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding.

People’s Party of Canada candidate, Kyle Delfing, however, said it’s not the number one issue from the riding’s voters. According to him, that spot goes to vaccine passports.

But while many residents within the riding’s boundaries are still displaced from their homes due to the more than 80,000-hectare fire that devastated the community of Monte Lake and destroyed homes and businesses along Westside Road, residents are asking if natural disasters can be managed better.

Delfing credited the devastation to the provincial government’s “mismanagement” of natural disasters. He said the red tape and bureaucracy is “detrimental to our communities,” and Canada should leave the Paris Accord and the UN.

“We need to bring local solutions to local problems,” he said.

Conservative candidate and incumbent MP Mel Arnold said while the federal government has no “overarching power to make changes, it must be able to work with local governments,” including First Nations groups.

NDP candidate Ron Johnston agreed, noting working with provincial and Indigenous partners is key, as is mitigating forest fuels by preventive measures.

Andrea Gunner, the candidate for the Green Party, said she would use federal funding to train firefighters and peacekeepers in the ways of Indigenous defence.

Four of the five candidates were given the opportunity Sept. 2 to field environment-specific questions in a live-stream event from the stage of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, moderated by CBC Daybreak host Chris Walker and presented by the Sustainable Environment Network Society (SENS).

Shelley Desautels of the Liberal Party of Canada was unable to attend.

Gunner said Canada should focus on collaboration rather than competition with other countries and use technology, such as geothermal energy, to reach climate goals.

Johnston spoke of the NDP’s climate goals, including net carbon-free electricity and enshrining an environmental bill of rights that protects 30 per cent of land, freshwater and oceans by 2030.

Arnold touched on the low-carbon savings account and levelling the playing field for Canadian companies with greater tariffs on imports produced at a greater human and environmental cost.

Delfing discussed the importance of Canada becoming more self-reliant in its oil production and the need to stop relying on international expectations, like the Paris agreement.

Candidates were asked what they believe was the “single most environmental threat” to the riding, and each provided a unique response.

Delfing said the “inaction of the provincial government” in disaster situations, such as wildfires, is the No. 1 threat.

“They (wildfire) should have been dealt with better,” he said. “It’s not climate change, it’s how we accept the government’s response to climate change.”

Johnston pointed to June’s record-setting heat wave that scorched crops and “led to wildfires being far worse than they could have been.”

Gunner said the biggest threat to the North Okanagan-Shuswap is “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” She said elected representatives must act on constituents’ interests rather than rely on party platforms.

Arnold looked to the lakes, he said aquatic invasive species is a threat, especially as there is no solution to ridding bodies of water of Quagga and Zebra mussels that could cost millions annually.

“The disbelief or lack of education to take threats to our environment seriously,” he said is another concern. “That education piece, if we don’t do that right it could be the biggest threat.”

Candidates were asked what personally changed their minds about climate change, Arnold and Johnston both said listening, learning and reading more studies helped form their opinion.

Gunner said feeling “depressed about the inability to change the way we think,” led her to research — specifically soil biology — which sparked a sense of hope.

Al Gore’s “ridiculous predictions” made in 1999 was Delfing’s answer. That, and elections politicizing the issue. By politicizing it, he said he got to thinking that maybe the crisis “isn’t exactly a crisis,” but rather, it’s about money.

“There are too many organizations making millions and billions of dollars on it,” he said, after previously saying, “Let’s stop lying to Canadians about a climate crisis and start talking about climate change.”

The two-hour live stream is available on the SENS Facebook page:

The next all-candidates forum will be hosted by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Sept. 8 via Zoom.

READ MORE: White Rock Lake wildfire ‘held’ 52 days later

READ MORE: Fire-evacuated Westside resident catches bear swimming in pool


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Election 2021


Ron Johnston, NDP, at the SENS environmental forum Sept. 2, 2021, at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

Mel Arnold, Conservative, at the SENS environmental forum Sept. 2, 2021, at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

Kyle Delfing, People's Party of Canada, at the SENS environmental forum Sept. 2, 2021, at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

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