Forest Fires and Empty Promises: Trudeau’s Climate Emergency

It was two years ago this week, on August 18th, amidst a general election, that the Liberal Party of Canada made a slew of promises from Vancouver. The calculated move was significant due to the province’s ongoing forest fires at that time.

The document, titled “Liberals move forward on training 1,000 new firefighters” still graces the Party’s website like a hollowed-out tree, bearing the weight of empty rhetoric. Its promises serve as a stark reminder of the way politicians manipulate public sentiment to further their agendas. Here are some of these lines:

“The extreme heatwaves and wildfires across Canada this summer have underscored the urgency of fighting and adapting to climate change. Canada needs to take strong action to prepare for future extreme weather events, and keep Canadians safe and healthy” (my emphasis).

This orchestrated performance preyed on the fears of Canadians. The narrative it constructed is purportedly based on the notion that Canada must undertake massive efforts to brace for the future and ensure the safety of its citizens.

Yet, the irony lies herein. Justin Trudeau declared, “We are in a climate emergency.” Standing along the Vancouver waterfront, he vowed immediate action “ahead of the next fire season.” Upon closer examination, however, these words crumble.

Trudeau’s insistence on linking commonplace events like forest fires to “climate change” mirrors the political showmanship Canadians have grown accustomed to. This connection, often made without a shred of scientific evidence, is propagated by a leader who claims to be driven by facts. This blatant declaration of a “climate emergency” serves as a textbook example of how alarmist language manipulates public fears but leads to zero results.

The document is a mosaic of commitments, many of which fall beyond federal jurisdiction. Promises like reducing insurance rates and training a thousand additional firefighters hinge on the cooperation of provinces, with which the PM does not always have good working relations. Among these pledges, the commitment to have the armed forces monitor fire-prone areas and plant two billion trees stands out as particularly farcical. Recent revelations have exposed the fallacy of the two-billion tree pledge, a charade propped up by deceitful accounting, including previously planted trees to create an illusion of progress. However, this manipulation failed to conceal the reality that Trudeau’s aspirations are out of reach.

Canadians have grown accustomed to a government in which Trudeau excels in rhetoric but falters in action. For him, having a plan translates to writing words on paper, and delivering for Canadians equates to delivering speeches before a fawning yet willingly-forgetful press gallery.

The disappearance of the Ministry of Middle Class Prosperity within less than two years of its creation serves as a harsh reminder of the inability to translate words into action. Whether Trudeau is genuinely well-intentioned but inept at execution, or if he’s a shrewd individual making promises that he knows he won’t uphold, or both, matters less than the absence of pressing solutions and tangible outcomes. The oscillation between narratives of prosperity and affordability reflects, in another example, a leader who values poll numbers over genuine dedication.

The grand promises of August 2021 were, at their core, an effort to instill a sense of security in the face of raging forest fires. However, for current residents of interior BC, like those in Kelowna, security remains elusive. Trudeau’s pledges from 2021 are a distant memory, now overshadowed by the chaos of a present reality that the old promises of urgent action was supposed to avert.

Trudeau’s recent return from a vacation in BC has reignited his climate rhetoric predictably. Once again, he has linked forest fires to climate change while making new assurances of safety.

Critics may argue that this critique is unjust, citing the prime minister’s lack of control over natural events. However, therein lies the contradiction. If the unfulfilled promises of 2021 were unattainable due to the inherent unpredictability of weather patterns, they are now exposed as misleading claims. At worst, these assertions were knowingly unrealistic. The fact that similar promises are being made now without even mentioning previous ones, based on a dubious link between government action and the reduction of natural events, starkly portrays a leader lacking sincerity. And no questions from the press about the unfulfilled promises.

At the two-year mark of unmet “urgent” commitments, some might be lenient due to the timeline. However, revisiting the urgency of the proclaimed “climate emergency” unveils a somber reality—promises remain unfulfilled even in the face of declared crises. Whether the federal government’s preparatory steps were genuine efforts or mere posturing, the result remains the same: failure.

Consider the glaring example of promise failure—the glaring inaction and sheer ineptitude. The grand pledge of August 2021 to collaborate with provinces and territories to equip firefighters with essential tools, including Canadian-made planes for aerial firefighting, remains an upsetting reminder of the primi minister’s hollow words. Two years have passed, yet nothing has changed.

The renowned Canadian-manufactured planes, the CL-215 and CL-415, acclaimed worldwide for their exceptional performance in aerial firefighting, ceased production in 2015. Interestingly, this coincided with Trudeau’s ascent to power. These iconic water bombers, crafted by Quebec’s Bombardier since 1986 and now under the wing of De Havilland Canada, have undergone a transformation. Rebranded as the DHC-515, they are presently being manufactured in Calgary. If they were still produced in Montreal, Ottawa might have already pushed orders for dozens.

While legitimate reasons for acquisition delays may exist, there is no evidence that any province rejected Ottawa’s offers. To the contrary, the need seems to have increased. Amid ongoing fires in BC’s interior, thousands face imminent danger. In the crucial days following the latest outbreak of fires, the absence of water bombers underscores bureaucratic inertia and inadequate crisis management. The need for more of these water bombers is evident this year in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

Water bombers are costly, with each unit averaging around $40 million, not accounting for related operating expenses. When compared to the $32 billion allocated to Ontario-based foreign electric vehicle battery manufacturers, the government could have purchased 800 water bombers. While 800 are not necessary, the need for more is clear. The Trudeau government seems incapable of prioritizing immediate needs over distant advantages.

As Trudeau persists in making fantastical pledges and offering unscientific justifications that tie fires to climate change for the sake of advancing a political agenda, it’s crucial to remember the situation from just two years ago. If the fires were genuinely a result of climate change and truly constituted an emergency, as the prime minister asserted, swift action should have been taken. On this point alone, Trudeau again falls short.

The prime minister’s inclination for dramatizing legitimate threats of forest fires by intertwining them with contrived planetary crises only distracts and exacerbates the situation. Yet, regardless of the government’s fantasies regarding the origins of the fires, the danger posed to lives and property remains undeniably real and imminent.

Genuine emergencies demand prompt responses. Traditionally, when governments herald an emergency, swift action follows “right away.” But not in Justin Trudeau’s Ottawa. This underscores how misidentifying issues based on ideology leaves ordinary people grappling with unaddressed problems that pressingly require substantive solutions.

The Trudeau government since 2015 serves as evidence of performative governance—a façade of action that conceals its inertia. The self-righteous rhetoric of protection amounts to nothing more than virtue-signalling performance.

Marco Navarro-Genie is president of the Haultain Research Institute. He is the co-author, with Barry Cooper, of Canada’s COVID: The Story of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2023).

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