By Sean Maraj
It’s a little known fact you don’t win elections on the environment or spending money on disaster mitigation projects. Don’t believe me? Ask former Liberal leader Stephane Dion about how far you get using the environment as your showpiece election policy, or take a look at Manitoba Premier Dufferin Roblin who was pretty much run out of office in the mid 1960’s for his crazy idea of building what would eventually be the Red River Floodway. A quick look at these two cases and you’ll see the political dangers of hooking your wagon to issues people like to be concerned about but don’t really want to pay for.
But perhaps the time has come for us to face a hard truth – we’re losing the environmental war. Through a combination of inaction and ignorance a concrete long lasting policy approach on climate change remains elusive and the impact will likely be with us for a very long time to come. As the climate changes, natural disaster events ranging from floods to droughts and their associated costs continue to rise – anyone living along a river in Ontario or New Brunswick will be happy to tell you all about it. In 2018 alone, the Insurance Bureau of Canada noted that climate related disasters cost $1.9 billion in insurable damage. The Federal Government’s Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements Program put in $4 billion since its inception in the 1970s to help with disaster recovery bills, but perhaps the most striking aspect of that is $1.8 billion of that money has been paid out since 2010. Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, there is a real financial cost when it comes to climate change and it isn’t just what we have to pay to gas up our cars.
The current Liberal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change represents a first step in directly linking environmental policy to Infrastructure Canada programs like the Disaster Mitigation Adaptation Fund (DMAF). Considering the increasing impact climate related disasters are having throughout the country perhaps a more aggressive approach should be taken. For instance, the controversial federal carbon tax is meant to be revenue neutral while at the same time ensuring “polluters pay”. Its inherent goal is to create a situation where people and companies reduce their carbon footprint to save money. Perhaps the tax should be repurposed where some or all of the proceeds are funneled directly to programs like the DMAF. Instead of calling it a “Carbon Tax”, change the name to something like the Climate Disaster Mitigation Tax meant to build safer and more resilient communities in the face of climate change effects. In the long term this could help lower costs and save lives and, who knows, it might even be less controversial as a public policy.