Friday Focus: Another Hazy and Hazardous Spring

Smoke has once again darkened Alberta’s skies. We just passed winter, and wildfires have already forced some Albertans from their homes. Experts expect another year of thick smoke hiding the sun and making it hard to breathe. Luckily, rain has come to the rescue for most forest fires recently. But Fort Mac is still under threat.

It didn’t used to be this way. I grew up in Alberta, and this was not my childhood. Climate change is drying our forests, making them easier to ignite and turning what used to be smaller fires into larger, unstoppable infernos. 

The impact of these fires this year is likely to be devastating. Families will be displaced, wildlife habitats will be destroyed, and the health risks posed by the smoke will send people to hospital. The direct cost of wildfires last year in Alberta was nearly $3 billion. 

Despite the impending disaster, Danielle Smith isn’t taking wildfire readiness seriously enough, whether it be fire fighting capacity or tackling the pollution that causes climate change. We can’t count on rain to always rescue us. Many wildland firefighter jobs are currently unfilled and with other provinces increasing pay to tackle their own shortages, some current ones may leave. Every year, about half of firefighters are new to the job in Alberta, meaning that we are losing a critical resource–experienced people. 

Some possible solutions include:

  1. Offering full-year contracts to firefighters. Wildfires are now a year-round phenomenon, with the first wildfire notices coming out in the first week of January of this year. Full year contracts encourage firefighters to stay for the long term, preserving important skills and experience.

  2. Pushing for provincial cooperation in creating a national firefighting reserve. Keeping tons of firefighting equipment on standby is expensive, so individual provinces do not do it. But by sharing the cost and the equipment, firefighting costs can be lowered while still providing additional capacity.

  3. Letting the private sector invest $11 billion in renewable energy to help combat climate change. Businesses around the world want to invest billions into generating renewable energy in Alberta, but Danielle Smith is standing in their way. Not to mention costing rural communities thousands of well-paying jobs.

Alberta Liberals believe in practical and sensible solutions. Please join us in debating alternatives, finding the right ones, and pushing for them to be implemented. Together we can build a better Alberta. Thanks for your help and support.