Organizers of a climate protest Thursday in Penticton couldn’t have picked a better time to help drive home their point.
Smoke-tinged air offered the approximately 30 people in attendance at Nanaimo Square a constant reminder of climate change in a province experiencing unprecedented heat and wildfire activity.
“I grew up here. I spent my first 17 years living on the West Bench and I remember one forest fire in the whole South Okanagan in that time. And now, we have multiple fires every year, every year we have smoke – and this is happening all over the world,” said MP Richard Cannings, who was the willing subject of the protest outside his constituency office.
“We’ve known climate change has been a real thing for a century, we’ve known it’s been a serious problem for 40 years, and we have done nothing about it – very, very little about it.”
Cannings signed a three-part pledge committing him to doing everything in his power to stopping climate change; calling for a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects; and supporting a just transition for energy workers – particularly those of Indigenous descent or in remote communities – to an economy built entirely on renewable energy.
First elected in 2015, the New Democrat said he’s frustrated by the Liberal government dragging its feet on climate action while at the same time purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and committing billions more to its construction.
Cannings pitched his party’s plan to build 500,000 new units of affordable housing across the country and undertaking a massive energy efficiency retrofitting program as a more responsible way to create hundreds of thousands of jobs while also greening the economy.
“This won’t make the climate better, but it will stop it from getting worse,” said Cannings. “That’s what we’re facing.”
Lori Goldman, who hosted the protest, said it was one of 36 planned across Canada on Thursday in a bid to raise the profile of environmental issues ahead of a looming federal election.
“We’re dying. Trees are dying. Species are dying. People are dying. This is a very scary time,” said Goldman.
“We want voters to come out and vote for the climate, which means voting for (Cannings) because he’s the only one in this riding who understand the crisis we’re in.”
In late June, all-time heat records were shattered in communities across B.C., including Penticton, which saw the temperature reach 44.2 C.
And as of Wednesday, 1,252 wildfires had scorched 456,000 hectares across the province since April 1. That compares to B.C.’s 10-year average for full fire seasons of 1,352 blazes and 348,900 hectares burned.