Why isn’t climate change the number one election issue?

I understand that when the economy is in a downturn it becomes the number one election issue – humans need to focus on fulfilling their basic needs first. Food, clothing and housing are all easier to obtain when the economy is doing well. But what I don’t understand is why fixing the economy is not intertwined with the biggest economic threat to Canadians: climate change.

Consider how many Canadians have been affected by the changing climate this year and the effects it has had on our economy.

B.C. is experiencing twice the number of fires as usual and they are twice as intense due to the unusual dry conditions; the Maritimes had record and paralyzing snowfalls this past winter; and the prairies are experiencing drought conditions that threaten not only crops but the ability to feed cattle. It is no longer an issue that will be addressed in the future. Climate change is affecting Canadians and having a detrimental effect on our economy today.

Port Alberni, BC.  Reuters/BC Wildfire Service

Port Alberni, BC.
Reuters/BC Wildfire Service

The cost of the fires raging across BC is currently estimated at $140 million and could reach as high as $300 million. This does not include property and business losses. The fire fighting estimate also does not include the health costs of those nearest the fires whose health suffers due to the smoke or the stress of being evacuated.

Saint John, NB CTV News Atlantic

Saint John, NB
CTV News Atlantic

Storms are becoming more intense as the climate changes. Nova Scotia alone spent $17million over budget to dig out of the record snow that fell this past winter. This does not include the business losses (and lost tax income) due to closures caused by the storms. Where do the funds come from to pay for this additional expense? The taxpayer.

Farm near Sovereign, Saskatchewan. Brian Cross photo

Farm near Sovereign, Saskatchewan.
Brian Cross photo

With each drought, food becomes more scarce which drives prices up across the nation. People begin to choose what they can afford buy and what they can access from food banks to supplement their meals. Others choose less expensive foods which are generally less healthy. A population that eats less healthy alternatives tends to be less healthy. These actions lead to increased government funding of food banks and health services.

Climate change is not just an inconvenient truth, it is an expensive truth. We must demand our next government make the environment a top priority. Not only will this eventually ease some of the effects of climate change, but we could actually become a world leader in green energy – boosting Canada’s economy in the process. What Canada currently lacks is the political will to make it happen and a population that is demanding change.

Social media can be a great tool to demand change. I have been a part of Facebook groups organized by parents to voice concerns over school board policies and organize protests. I watched Egyptians use social media to organize Arab Spring protests. And I have seen attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community change as social media stars George Takai and Caitlyn Jenner told their stories. I just don’t see it being used for this critical issue.

I wonder what will be the catalyst to provoke serious action for climate change. I hope it comes before the next election so Canadians make this a priority and elect a government that takes the issue seriously. Right now I have heard little about the environment from the three main parties. They are taking their lead from the public. And I think we Canadians are all becoming a bit too acclimatized to the ever changing weather. Like the proverbial frog in the frypan, we may becoming so accustomed to the slowly changing environment that we might not take action until it is too late.

4 thoughts on “Why isn’t climate change the number one election issue?

  1. Sadly, climate change issues are going to have to be marketed to us in simpler terms if they are to elicit more widespread activism. While most people are aware of climate change as an ongoing concern, and perhaps even hinge their political backing on it, climate change still isn’t a prevalent concern to Canadians.
    I would love to see the government of Canada develop stronger campaigns to bring awareness to younger audiences. When I was in elementary school in the 90’s, The Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) became a recurring slogan at the same time as the implementation of recycling services in many urban areas. Therefore as a child, my parents had to school me on how to use the recycling box, but I was able to school them on why we needed to uphold these practices even when they slacked off and threw recyclable material into the regular trash out of laziness. I would love to see this type of thing implemented so that young children would be able to identify climate change risks easily and to monitor the behaviour of older generations when we are making poor consumer choices, etc.

    • I agree that the marketing has to be simple. There are a lot of smart people fighting climate change. I can’t figure out why they haven’t been able to get their message out in a clear and interesting manner that speaks to people.

  2. Unfortunately, environmental factors and climate change research is a hard sell for political parties. Voters want concrete plans and calculated changes. It is difficult for any political party to commit to making changes as part of their platforms considering possibles solutions would be long term costly and unproven. Even thought climate change has had a significant effect and cost increases this year, I sadly do not believe it will be enough for any government make this a priority.

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