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Liberal candidate Terry Lake, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend a Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Liberal nomination event at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in Kamloops, B.C., on May 21, 2019.

Murray Mitchell/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party’s action plan on climate change has brought one former British Columbia politician out of retirement and back into the arena.

At his nomination event Tuesday night for the riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, Terry Lake, a former B.C. health minister, described to the prime minister the conditions the area faces every summer with the wildfires.

“It is like a war zone here, prime minister, in the summer,” he said. “People leave so they can breathe clean air.”

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Lake said locals are worried because they suffer physically and mentally due to the raging wildfires.

“And that’s what brought me off the sidelines,” he said. “It was your and your government’s commitment on taking action on climate change.”

With B.C. expected to be a key battleground in October’s federal election, Lake is considered a high-profile candidate for the Liberals in the province.

He called climate change a “ballot question” and a “threat to our communities and our families.”

The October federal election is going to come down to a “stark choice” between the Conservatives and the Liberal party, he said.

Lake didn’t seek re-election for the B.C. Liberals in the last provincial election after serving three terms in the legislature.

He has spent the past two years as vice-president of corporate and social responsibility at Quebec-based marijuana company Hydropothecary Corp.

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He said he will take a leave of absence beginning in early fall.

Nearly three-quarters of the riding’s population is centred in Kamloops, where Lake, a veterinarian, also served as a city councillor and later mayor before jumping into provincial politics in 2009.

As the province’s health minister, Lake oversaw the declaration of a public health emergency amid the deadly fentanyl crisis. He has been urging more research on the effects of marijuana on opioid addictions. Before he was appointed health minister, he served as minister of the environment.

Lake also touched on the fentanyl overdose crisis that is affecting the country.

While the situation in B.C. is improving, he said it is getting worse in Ontario where the Conservative government cut public health funds and closed down overdose protection sites.

“The thing that concerns me most of the possibility of an Andrew Scheer government is the complete abdication of responsibilities such as action on climate change and helping Canadians deal with opioid epidemic,” he said.

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“They somehow think that is personal responsibility. They don’t understand the challenges that people face.”

Trudeau told the crowd of supporters that the Liberal government has given Canadians confidence to face the future by investing in education, skills training, families and the future.

“The reality is in 2015 we put forward a very different vision than the Conservative government had for this country,” the prime minister said.

“We said the way to grow the economy, the way to help people is not to give tax benefits and advantages to the wealthiest in the hope that it trickles down.”

Lake said the Liberal party has the pulse of the people and stands for things they need such as action on climate change while developing the economy in a way that doesn’t strand the resources.

“That gets us to a lower carbon future,” he said. “That’s pragmatic and that makes sense to me.”

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