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UCP Leader Danielle Smith makes her victory speech in Calgary on May 29 following re-election.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Canada’s wildfire summer of 2023 has already made it into the record books, long before summer officially begins. This past week, as the calendar flipped to June, the country, east and west, was on fire. In Nova Scotia, wildfires have destroyed homes and sent people fleeing through walls of smoke and flames. This is happening not only in remote areas, but in the suburbs of Halifax. In British Columbia and Alberta, fires have been raging for weeks, displacing thousands.

In a week when hundreds more Albertans had to evacuate their homes, voters in that province elected a Premier whose stance on climate change should concern every Canadian.

Danielle Smith’s “track record on the issue spins like a greatest-hits playlist of the past 15 years in climate-denial talking points,” Chris Turner, the award-winning author of How to Be a Climate Optimist: Blueprints for a Better World, wrote in The Globe and Mail days before the election.

This is a Premier who, on the campaign trail as wildfires raged, told UCP supporters at a political rally about the declaration of a state of emergency before announcing it to the wider public.

A leader who, in her victory speech Monday night, called out Ottawa for what she said were soon-to-be-announced environmental policies, including new restrictions on electricity generation from natural gas and a de facto production cap on the oil and gas sector.

“As Premier, I cannot, under any circumstances, allow these contemplated federal policies to be inflicted upon Albertans. I simply can’t and I won’t,” she said.

Even if those circumstances are the wildfires ravaging her province, apparently.

Without any sense of shame or irony, she made this declaration (to cheers) three weeks after asking Ottawa for relief funding to deal with the wildfires. While a funding request is entirely reasonable, Ms. Smith so consistently and unjustifiably bites the hand that she is asking to feed her that it is hard not to listen to her and think: hypocrisy.

To deny a connection between the climate crisis and Canada’s increasing wildfire crisis is folly. John Vaillant, author of Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast, argues with force and facts that we have to reduce our emissions as soon as possible in order to minimize the climate emergency’s already lethal effects.

“Wildfire seasons have been lengthening, and fires have been burning with a greater destructive intensity,” wrote Mr. Vaillant in the Globe in May.

Mr. Vaillant, a Governor-General’s Literary Award-winning author, said he’s angry. We should all be. Not just about government policies that don’t do enough to fight climate change (or in fact actively fight against the fight). But also about government decisions that hurt our ability to deal with emergencies when they hit.

In Alberta in 2019, the UCP government cut the elite team of firefighters who were trained to rappel from helicopters to tackle wildfires early, before they grow. What difference could that team have made this spring?

In Nova Scotia, three of the municipalities affected by the Halifax-area Tantallon fire had been identified by the auditor-general as having inadequate water sources to fight fires.

When there is an emergency, you want the person in charge to be smart, diplomatic and fair. Someone who doesn’t burn bridges in the name of bravado and vote-courting. Someone who will abandon partisanship for leadership. You don’t want a disaster trying to lead you through a disaster.

With her party shut out of Edmonton ridings, Ms. Smith announced this week that she would create a council of defeated UCP candidates from that area to advise her on all things Edmonton. Rather than listen to the MLAs Edmontonians elected, she’s going to go to the losers for advice.

If you want something else to be depressed about in Alberta, the UCP candidate who compared trans people to feces in chocolate-chip cookies handily won her riding on Monday.

Another news item that may have caught your attention during Canada’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week concerns artificial intelligence. A group of top AI researchers and executives released a chilling warning: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” their statement read.

Terrifying, right? But the apocalypse need not be AI-generated. We are on track to do it ourselves, as we continue to elect not serious people (to borrow a term from Succession’s Logan Roy) because we don’t want to pay a few cents more to gas up our cars or power our homes.

We’re not going to need AI to cause our extinction event. We just need to keep electing politicians who don’t take the climate emergency seriously, even when its effects are ripping through the province they are supposed to govern.

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