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Mayors, chief in B.C.’s Interior say they’re disappointed at federal election call amid raging wildfires

The Liberal Party is defending its snap election call amid complaints from municipal and First Nations leaders in B.C.’s Interior who are dealing with wildfires raging across the region.

At a campaign event in Port Moody, B.C., on Monday, Liberal Party candidate Chrystia Freeland said she understands the threat of wildfires to British Columbians, but argued that now is the right time for an election.

“Our country is facing some big choices, some choices where Canadians have different points of view — whether it comes to a vaccine mandate, strong action on climate change, or early learning and child care.

Election day is Monday, Sept. 20.

“Our party is clear on where we stand, and I think it is entirely appropriate for us to say to Canadians now: ‘This is a democracy. This is what we stand for. It’s up to you now to make your choice,’ ” said Freeland. 

Thousands of B.C. properties remain under evacuation order Monday after high winds fuelled dozens of wildfires across the province, sending flames barrelling toward several communities. The Okanagan Indian Band near Vernon, B.C., is ordering residents to leave immediately.

Chief Byron Louis says it’s not the best time to hold an election.

“What are we thinking about? Well, it certainly isn’t about [the] federal election,” Louis said Monday to Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC’s Daybreak North. “We’re worried about every other thing and what’s going to happen with [those] fires.”

mayors chief in b c s interior say theyre disappointed at federal election call amid raging wildfires
Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis says it’s not the best time holding a federal election now. (Okanagan Indian Band/Facebook)

Ashcroft Mayor Barbara Roden — whose municipality is about 13 kilometres north of the Tremont Creek fire that has been growing since mid-July and is under an evacuation alert — says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau didn’t have a sophisticated plan in place before calling for an election.

“I think the words ‘naked power grab’ probably apply in this situation,” she said Monday to Doug Herbert, the guest host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops. “He’s taken a look at other provincial leaders who have held elections during the pandemic and managed to solidify or turn a minority government into a majority.”

“If he looks around at this area, [if] he’s bothered to look this deep into it, you’ll see that the federal ridings where most of these fires are burning are solidly Conservative,” she said. “Unless he has some sort of cunning master plan to switch these to Liberal… Well, I can’t think that he does, because if he did have that cunning master plan to switch them to Liberal, he would not be calling an election right now.”

mayors chief in b c s interior say theyre disappointed at federal election call amid raging wildfires 1
Ashcroft, B.C., Mayor Barbara Roden says the snap election call speaks to the Liberal Party’s ‘naked power grab.’ (Village of Ashcroft)

100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall — whose town is about 30 kilometres northeast of the wildfire in Flat Lake Provincial Park — says holding a federal election just a month away doesn’t make sense to British Columbians who are being mired in multiple emergencies.

“Obviously, the prime minister doesn’t care about B.C., because he wouldn’t be putting an election on right in the middle of the worst fires that we’ve had and a pandemic that’s running rampant in B.C. again,” Campsall said Monday to Gloria Macarenko, the guest host of CBC’s The Early Edition.

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100 Mile House, B.C., Mayor Mitch Campsall says Justin Trudeau’s election call shows he doesn’t care about British Columbians. (Cariboo Regional District)

Polling data from the Angus Reid Institute shows the environment and climate change are key issues for 45 per cent of British Columbian voters surveyed. 

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party says it takes climate change very seriously. It plans to gradually increase the federal carbon tax on fossil fuels, currently at $40 per tonne, to $170 per tonne by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Canada’s price on pollution quite literally is the envy of the world,” Freeland said. “We are world leaders when it comes to large industrial economies taking concrete action, and I believe the people of British Columbia know that.”

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