B.C. Liberals are doomed if they don't do an about-face on climate change

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      This morning, I heard B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver on the radio citing climate change as one of the reasons why he's decided to support an NDP minority government.

      According to Weaver, the B.C. Liberals abandoned "climate leadership" in recent years.

      It was never something that interested Christy Clark that much.

      That was apparent in her love of all things LNG, grand road and bridge projects, and her insistence that new rapid-transit lines needed to be subjected to a referendum

      Her predecessor, Gordon Campbell, made some significant moves on the climate-change file, such as trying to create carbon-neutral government operations and introducing North America's first carbon tax.

      Campbell was supported by his then chief of staff, Martyn Brown, and Weaver, then a professor and highly regarded climate researcher at the University of Victoria. Campbell also received the seal of approval from environmentalist David Suzuki.

      Once Clark indicated that she wasn't overly concerned about meeting legislated climate targets, Brown and Weaver became two of her sharpest critics. And they and other former B.C. Liberals, including lawyer Paul Doroshenko, inflicted heavy damage on a party that they previously supported.

      Suzuki campaigned publicly for the Greens.

      Near the end of the provincial campaign, I suggested that the B.C. Liberals had perhaps more to fear from Weaver than the NDP did. That's because climate-conscious free-enterprise-oriented voters were in a mood to abandon the Clark party.

      I'll repeat a section from that column:

      "These people can do the math. They, unlike the premier and many of her B.C. Liberal colleagues, know that when carbon dioxide emissions exceeded 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, we were collectively on the road to ruin as a species.

      "And there has been no one in the B.C. Liberal caucus who's been willing to champion their concerns. Not Peter Fassbender. Not Rich Coleman. And certainly not Andrew Wilkinson, who should know better, given that he's a Rhodes scholar."

      And now, Clark is likely soon out as premier and it remains an open question whether she'll be driven out as B.C. Liberal leader.

      Former prime minister Stephen Harper suffered a similar fate. A long-term skeptic on climate change, he was forced out of office by urban and suburban millennial voters eager to support the best option for getting rid of him, which turned out to be Justin Trudeau.

      Anxiety over federal government inaction on climate change was one factor that helped the federal Liberals. They promised to introduce evidence-based policies (even if they didn't always keep their promise after the election).

      The signs are clear: politicians in urban and inner suburban areas who acknowledge and appear to be willing to address rising greenhouse gas emissions are enjoying tremendous electoral success.

      Gregor Robertson has won three consecutive mayoral elections in Vancouver. The mayors of Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, the City of North Vancouver, and the District of North Vancouver are all climate keeners and repeatedly win by landslides. They get it. As do the mayors of Victoria and other coastal communities.

      But the B.C. Liberals have been too financially and psychologically wedded to Big Oil to recognize the political risks in not appearing to care about the future of humanity on earth.

      This complacency has been reinforced by the legislative press gallery. With the exception of the Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter, it has not highlighted rising greenhouse gas emissions with the seriousness that this issue deserves.

      It's not just the journalists in Victoria who have been paying lip service or, in the case of press gallery president Tom Fletcher, downplaying the problem. The same can be said of most of the central Canadian media with the exception of Mike D'Souza. He sometimes seems to be the only one who recognizes that we're facing an existential threat.

      If there's any doubt, check out the recent flooding in Kelowna, Montreal, and Ottawa and then look back at news footage of last year's forest fire in Fort McMurray. Or review the flooding in Calgary in 2013. Or the repeated news stories about tornadoes ripping through the U.S. Midwest or southern states.

      Clark wasn't the first to fritter away political power by failing to take climate change seriously.

      And she won't be the last. I suspect that the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer, will also die politically on this hill. As will Donald Trump.

      The B.C. Liberals have a choice. They can maintain their ostrich act and keep losing elections, like Vancouver's NPA, or they can seriously re-evaluate their position on climate change.

      That will alienate some of their strongest financial supporters, such as the Independent Contractors & Businesses Association of B.C., which never met a nonunionized road or bridge project that it didn't love.

      A B.C. Liberal about-face on the climate will irritate the aging directors of the Fraser Institute, some of whom have also been large party donors. And it won't go over well with Clark's friends at Resource Works, which is an industry-funded organization advocating on behalf of purveyors of fossil fuels.

      If the B.C. Liberals demonstrate that they have learned the folly of their ways and show a suitable level of contrition, perhaps they can win back disaffected former supporters who've moved on to the Greens.

      But it will require being more truthful about LNG and admitting that fugitive emissions from fracking and transporting it to Asia does not make it the environmentally friendly bridge to a better atmosphere.

      If they do these things, the B.C. Liberals might even have a chance one day of forming another government. But it won't happen until they realize that politicians have to do far more than offer ride-sharing to millennials to convince young voters that they care about an issue that's central to their existence.

      Young people aren't stupid. They're fed up with climate inaction. And they won't give a party their vote if all it means is that they'll have an easier time getting home from the bar on the weekend.