Wildfires and the 2017 B.C. election

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      Why did Barack Obama win the 2012 election?

      Commentators have offered many explanations. His campaign did a tremendous job appealing to the Hispanic vote, helping him win swing states such as Colorado and New Mexico.

      Obama was also credited with saving the U.S. auto industry, which helped him capture Michigan. And the Republicans did a poor job of reaching out to women and African Americans.

      But I would argue that a major turning point was the arrival of Superstorm Sandy in late October 2012.

      The hurricane reached a diameter of 1,800 kilometres before it walloped New York, 24 other states, parts of Ontario, and several Caribbean countries. It paralyzed Manhattan and caused billions in losses, attracting massive media attention around the world. 

      The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, had by then put himself squarely in the camp of climate-change skeptics. He looked foolish in the face of an extreme weather event that many linked to global warming. And Romney lost the election.

      This May, Canadians have witnessed a different extreme event: a massive forest fire that whipped through Fort McMurray, burning 2,400 structures.

      Here in B.C., the forest-fire season has started early with huge blazes in northeastern B.C. not far from Fort St. John.

      Most experts are saying the forest-fire season is starting earlier and lasting longer because of climate change.

      Now, flashforward to B.C. election day, which is scheduled for May 9, 2017. If this pattern continues, we can expect the province to be in the midst of another wildfire crisis as voters go to the polls. That has become the new normal in this part of the world.

      If any of those fires reach populated communities, this will undoubtedly dominate television newscasts. And if there's anything resembling the tragedies of the Kelowna, Slave Lake, or Fort McMurray fires, it will re-create the conditions that existed prior to the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

      It's something that provincial politicians might want to keep in mind as their parties craft political platforms to sell to the electorate.