In the midst of wildfires ravaging Alberta’s north and sending harmful smoke to communities across Canada, it’s not a stretch to expect issues of extreme weather and climate change would be central in Monday’s election. But they aren’t. Our new study shows environmental considerations are more or less absent from the political debate.
It’s shocking that parties campaigning to lead one of Canada’s most populous provinces are convinced they can chart a path to victory while ignoring the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century. We know who will pay the price for this head-in-the-sand approach: our kids and grandkids.
Alberta is failing younger and future generations
Younger and future generations won’t have any choice but to shoulder the growing costs and burdens of reducing emissions and adapting to extreme weather risks. Insufficient action on climate change by those who preceded them means the youth of today (and tomorrow) will be stuck with a bill today’s aging population isn’t willing to pay — despite having made the mess in the first place.
Trust has been a key theme in this election: which party people can trust to deliver the prosperity and services they want now. Yet, both parties have ignored the sacred trust of preserving the safe and healthy environment young people and generations of Albertans to come will need to realize their potential and achieve well-being. That’s not the kind of leadership that will serve Alberta well.
Climate change is the mother of all intergenerational injustices — the largest debt ever to be passed from one generation to the next. That this hardly merits a mention on the campaign trail should be especially alarming to Alberta parents, since their kids will be living longer in an unpredictable and changing climate. It’s little wonder younger generations report less optimism about the future, declining mental health and growing eco-anxiety.
Albertans can’t vote informed when parties aren’t transparent
For the first time since Generation Squeeze set out on our mission to help inform voters about promises on offer from political parties across Canada, we were stymied by the absence of platform content from both major Alberta parties. This is especially noteworthy on climate, given the complete absence of relevant policy in NDP commitments. For its part, the UCP delivered an aspirational Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan in April, but it falls short on concrete actions.
The effects of extreme weather are here, seemingly to stay. Communities across Alberta are struggling with fires, floods, and droughts — and their impacts on economies, infrastructure and health. Yet, neither the UCP nor the NDP has the backs of Albertans, helping protect them from these threats via concrete plans, funding, timelines and accountability mechanisms.
To be clear, Alberta voters are also implicated. Expectations for lower taxes and more and better public services ramp up pressure on governments to count on revenue from fossil fuel extraction — despite the price tag for the safety of Alberta’s air, water and soil.
Vote like a good ancestor
Albertans should expect more from future provincial leaders. But we’re unlikely to get more until candidates can count on voters to think long term, looking backwards and forwards. We need to be brave enough to admit we’ve taken more from our environment than we leave behind. On our watch, we’ve created the climate risks our kids will inherit.
To fix this, we must vote as good ancestors, using our ballots to protect and restore what is sacred for those who follow — including the ecosystems upon which we all depend.
Dr. Paul Kershaw is a University of British Columbia policy professor and founder of Generation Squeeze. Andrea Long is Gen Squeeze’s senior director of research and knowledge mobilization.
They are the authors of a new study of housing commitments made by the UCP and Alberta NDP in the 2023 election. This analysis is part of Generation Squeeze’s non-partisan, evidence-based Alberta Voters Guide. The guide helps to inform Albertans about actions parties are proposing to address key issues in the 2023 election, like affordability, health and protecting natural resources. Follow us at www.gensqueeze.ca, Twitter, Facebook and listen to our Hard Truths podcast.
It’s not too difficult to
It’s not too difficult to understand why Alberta’s political parties are avoiding this most critical issue; it is a reflection of the current, seemingly prevalent attitude of the province’s populace to forge ahead with more O&G development and dismiss the science of climate change. To actually address this issue in a mature and rational manner would be political suicide in the current political environment.
The election result may well hinge on whether or not the younger generations are concerned enough about their future to vote accordingly, and whether or not they will bother to vote at all. It’s not enough to discuss the need for transitional measures to mitigate climate change; it is absolutely necessary to be proactive and vote for that change in direction.