British Columbia

B.C.'s Sea-to-Sky region is feeling impacts of climate change. Here's how federal candidates plan to fight it

Wildfires, rising sea levels and warming temperatures have some voters concerned this federal election.

Wildfires, rising sea levels and warming temperatures have some voters concerned this federal election

Wildfire smoke obscured the mountains along Howe Sound in Horseshoe Bay, just outside of Vancouver, in the record-breaking 2017 season. (Deborah Goble/CBC News)

Against the backdrop of the towering Stawamus Chief, Ben Bethune launches his kiteboard into the teal waters of Howe Sound.

Like many adventurers in the B.C. Lower Mainland, the 24-year-old spends his days enjoying action sports throughout the Sea-to-Sky region year-round.

He's already looking forward to the ski season on the slopes of nearby Whistler, but he admits that over the years the winters have become much milder.

"The ski seasons are a lot shorter, I find. The powder seasons are a lot shorter," Bethune said. "It used to be early in the year, you'd get some huge dumps in November, and it would be snowing right down to the [Whistler] village ... and now it's only winter for two or three months, instead of four."

Ben Bethune, 24, worries that warming temperatures have led to less snow atop B.C.'s mountains. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Concerns of warming weather due to climate change are shared by municipalities throughout the federal election riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. Risks of wildfires, heightened sea levels, and increased temperatures threaten the ecological and economic fabric of the region.

Squamish and West Vancouver have both declared a climate emergency, while Whistler has launched a climate action plan.

CBC News reached out to the riding's candidates from the main political parties to find out where they stand on the climate crisis.

Kiteboarders take on the winds inside the Howe Sound outside Squamish, B.C. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The Liberal candidate

The Liberals currently hold the riding, however incumbent Pamela Goldsmith-Jones won't be seeking re-election. Candidate Patrick Weiler, an environmental and natural resource management lawyer, is the party's new candidate.

Weiler, 33, told CBC News he commends the Trudeau government's Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change — a federal strategy aimed at meeting 2030 emissions reductions targets through carbon pricing, a switch to electric vehicles, and by phasing out coal.

"I really see this suite of policies as quite groundbreaking, and one that took a lot of political capital to negotiate, and it has the key items of the addressing climate change," said Weiler.

Locally, Weiler says his party would look to invest in local green technology companies, like the Squamish-based Carbon Engineering, to meet its climate goals.

Dana Taylor, riding candidate for the Green Party, said Howe Sound has taken years to recover from the environmental damage of previous decades — but fears more will be brought on by climate change and big energy projects. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The Green candidate

Dana Taylor, a former North Vancouver city councillor and member of Save Howe Sound Society, is the Green Party's candidate for the riding.

He's been part of local environmental cleanup projects in the area for decades, and has stood against the Woodfibre LNG project, claiming that developing liquefied natural gas runs counter to the environmental interests in the region.

He stands behind his party's Mission Possible platform to reduce federal greenhouse gas emissions to 60 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

"That would immediately involve cutting off subsidies to fossil fuel industry, transitioning the economy to other forms of energy, renewable energy," he said.

Taylor said the area is becoming increasingly vulnerable to unpredictable weather events associated with climate change. Last year, a severe windstorm slammed the area, causing millions of dollars in damage and knocking machines and pollutants into Horseshoe Bay.

A toppled barge was among the wreckage following a windstorm in February, 2019. Some candidates fear unpredictable weather events like this could become more common. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The Conservative candidate

Gabrielle Loren is the Conservative Party candidate for the riding. She is the founder of a local accounting firm and previously worked for the Canada Revenue Agency.

In a statement to CBC News, she re-iterated her party's plans to tackle climate change by investing in technology. Under the Conservative platform, Canadians who make their homes more energy efficient will receive tax credits, while encouraging "green research, development, and innovation."

She also doubled down her party's plan to axe the carbon tax.

While noting that climate change is an issue that affects her community, she said she also has other environmental concerns, like sewage contamination and abandoned vessels in the Howe Sound.

Loren says she would ramp up law enforcement to ensure the area is protected.

As global temperatures rise, environmentalists are concerned wildfires in the Sea to Sky region — like this one that ignited earlier this summer — will become more commonplace. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The NDP candidate

The newest addition to the riding, Judith Wilson put her name on the ballot for the Sea to Sky riding last week. She previously ran in 2006.

"When I knock on doors and talk to people in our community, it's clear that folks are worried about the future," she told CBC News via e-mail.

The NDP government's New Deal for People claims it will take on big polluters and manufacture zero emissions vehicles on Canadian soil.

At the centre of its $15-billion program is an emissions reduction of 60 per cent below 2005 levels over the next decade.