Todd Lewis considers himself lucky.
The farmer lives in a part of Saskatchewan that received enough rain to produce an average crop, the best he could hope for on a late July day. This summer was marked by one of the worst droughts seen in decades, after a winter of little snowfall, leaving fields with little soil moisture.
“It’s not even hot and windy, it’s just hot,” said Lewis, sitting on the deck of his house about a half-hour drive south of Regina, where he’s the fourth generation of his. family to cultivate this land, growing canola, durum wheat and canary seed.
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Like almost everyone in agriculture, the President of Saskatchewan Farmers is used to changing skies and harsh seasons.
And experts warn that climate change means extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent in the years to come.
For environmental leaders, this summer’s deadly heat wave and wildfires in British Columbia, combined with drought on the Prairies, could shape how voters view the issue in the September 20 federal election.
“Climate change is completely out of its environmental locker,” said Rick Smith, president of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.
“For many more Canadians than before, climate change is about the health and well-being of their families right now, as opposed to a distant concern at some point in the future. “
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He thinks the way people even think about the issue has evolved over the past few years and is much less controversial.
The Liberal carbon price was at the forefront in the 2019 federal election, with the Conservatives promising to remove the policy if they were elected, which did not happen.
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Since then, the Conservatives have released their own carbon price on fuel, with leader Erin O’Toole acknowledging the party needed a better climate plan if it hoped to win.
The Liberal government also raised Canada’s 2030 targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution and passed legislation to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and only sell less polluting vehicles. like electric cars by 2035.
Smith says that not long ago most of those concerned about climate change were environmental experts and bureaucrats.
“And all of a sudden, the capital markets are fully engaged with the finance ministries at net zero. All the big companies in the country are trying to find a way to integrate net-zero into their operations. “
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The Climate Action Network reported that around 63% of voters voted for federal parties with “strong climate platforms” in the last election.
Executive Director Catherine Abreu expects it to be even higher this time around and believes the way people think about climate change has matured, with more and more people asking themselves, ‘Okay, what is the plan? “
“What does net zero mean? And how are we going to develop a real strategy to identify the sectors in which we are going to invest so that they ensure the future of prosperity and jobs in Canada?
“And I think that’s really where the conversation is heading right now.”
Abreu believes this is why the Liberal government has finally launched consultations on how to transition workers to a low-carbon economy, which was first promised several years earlier.
Federal NDP and Green Party of Canada say Liberals are not ambitious enough with their climate agenda, and believe the country must respond to how it will wean itself off its dependence on fossil fuels if it hopes to reduce emissions fast enough to stop the worst of climate change.
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O’Toole Tories voted against the Liberals’ net zero plan, saying members of an advisory body assembled to guide government decision-making were “climate activists” and that it did not include representing the oil and gas industry.
Back at Lewis’s farm, he says he saw longer stretches of wet and dry, and wonders what climate change means for agriculture.
He says it’s important to make sure crops have proper access to irrigation to combat dry conditions. He adds that paying a price for carbon on the fuel used to dry grain, especially after a generally wet harvest like in 2019, doesn’t help matters.
“It’s a complicated issue, this climate change, and what’s going to happen,” he said.
“I think we’ve been nimble enough to be able to make adjustments and I think we’ll see that more and more. “
© 2021 The Canadian Press