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Justin Trudeau seeks to highlight climate policy in visit to Canada's Far North

Last Updated Aug 1, 2019 at 8:10 am PDT

FILE - Sea ice melts in Frobisher Bay, Iqaluit, Nunavut on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the creation a new marine protected area

Canada now has protection measures in place for almost 14 per cent of Canada's marine and coastal areas

Trudeau took aim at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's policy on the North during his announcement on Thursday

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in Canada’s Far North to witness some of the more dramatic effects of climate change, part of an effort highlight his Liberal government’s record on climate action ahead of the federal election.

He’s announced the creation of a new marine protected area near Arctic Bay — an Inuit hamlet on the northwest corner of Baffin Island — called the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area.

Melting sea ice and increased shipping traffic have posed increased threats to many important local species, including sea birds, narwhals and bowhead whales.

Canadians got a pre-election preview of how the divisive political debate over climate policy is likely to play out on the campaign trail last month when a spat erupted over the Liberal plan to introduce a clean-fuel standard.

The fuel standard would require cleaner-burning fuels as a way to reduce overall carbon emissions by 30 million tonnes a year.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused the Liberals of plotting to levy a “secret fuel tax” on Canadians by enforcing a standard that would increase the cost of gasoline. The Liberals wasted no time firing back, accusing Conservatives of hurling smears, while also calling the Conservative environment policy “anti-climate action.”

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, says climate change has already had devastating impacts on local infrastructure in the territories — a trend that is projected to continue if emissions and global temperatures continue to rise.

A recent report by Canadian scientists warned that most Canadian Arctic marine regions will be free of sea ice for part of the summer by 2050 and that most small ice caps and ice shelves in the Canadian arctic will disappear by 2100, even if emission reduction measures are enacted.

That’s why Obed says he hopes political parties will not simply bicker about the merits of a carbon tax as they debate climate policy during the campaign, but rather that they will look more broadly at the real-life, “drastic” effects of climate change on northern communities.

“Fixating on one or two pieces of a climate action policy sometimes overshadows the larger picture,” he said.

“People should be very concerned about the reality of the Canadian arctic and the fact that it is a part of Canada. Just because somebody might not see massive changes in their backyard today doesn’t necessarily mean that there shouldn’t be urgent concern from all Canadians about the arctic and the Inuit portion of the climate discussion.”