I have waited ten years to see Stephen Harper humbled. I thought it would take a full-blown caucus revolt or a leadership convention defeat, or a massive loss in the next federal election. It only took an act of nature. While his head was firmly stuck in the tar sands, all of Mr. Harper's climate change chickens came home to roost in the capital of his oil industry on June 20, 2013.
When he arrived in Calgary on June 21, the flood devastation was at its peak. There was no controlled media studio with seamlessly edited images of kittens and blue sweaters. This was all too real with a sombre Harper overlooking the Bow River flanked by some real leaders. The Mayor of Calgary was resolute, the Premier of Alberta was decisive, the Prime Minster of Canada was simply stunned. “I never imagined we could have a flood of this magnitude in this country. Until you really see it in person you don’t get a sense…this is an incredible event,” Harper said. No imagination. This is the same man who proclaimed that climate change was a socialist plot.
Aided by his "Friends of Science" climate change deniers like Tim Ball and Ross McKitrick and all the other signatories on the anti-Kyoto petition delivered to the newly installed PM in 2006, Harper has systematically destroyed Canada's credibility. He has denied accelerating climate change exists, has removed Canada from the Kyoto Protocol obligations, has snubbed existing environmental review policies, and has impeded the development of new ones. All the while, legitimate meteorologists and scientists have been warning about the increasing frequency of severe storms as one of the symptoms of accelerating climate change.
The insurance industry has also been vocal, serving notice that claims for severe storm damage have been steadily increasing in frequency and dollar amount. Unfortunately for Calgarians, Canada is the only G8 country that does not offer overland flood insurance. Critics of this lack of foresight have suggested that we adopt the UK model that links insurance policy coverage to the government's policies to mitigate severe climate change catastrophes. No government policy, no insurance coverage. And those policies would include severe storm disaster preparation.
Part of my heart and soul are in Alberta. I met my first grizzly in Waterton Lakes while horseback riding on the trails, and later rock climbing there marvelled at a golden eagle as it soared beneath me. I delivered my first major Global Perspectives keynote on Earth Day 1990 in Kananaskis Country to a lengthy standing ovation. I got married in 1999 in Canmore on the banks of Cougar Creek under the peaks of The Three Sisters and our wedding party walked through town along the Creek's new boardwalk. On June 20, 2013 that was all washed away. My entire wedding party lives and works in Calgary. I emailed them all as soon as we got news of the flood. Their homes were safe and the cabin in Canmore was on high ground and protected. They are also practitioners in wilderness crisis management, and their response didn't mince words: "We are fine, but the city is crippled. This is serious – there's a wide world of hurt ripping away so close to us."
Calgary and Alberta, my heart is with you. Stephen Harper, this is supposed to be your home – wake up!
Skid Crease, Caledon