Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic the greatest concern for many Canadians was the growing threat of climate change. While rising temperatures may mean longer growing seasons, a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Climate Services and the Climate Atlas of Canada warns it will bring with it more severe weather, rains and flooding, and periods of drought. The impact to the agricultural sector from climate change is likely to have serious impacts on productivity, costing billions in lost production. With 40% of Canada’s croplands, the impacts of climate change on farmers should be a concern. In addition to agriculture, flooding threatens cities and towns built along rivers, as well an increasing number of pests which could damage Saskatchewan’s forests.
One concern related to climate change is Saskatchewan’s reliance on fossil fuels to provide its energy needs. 43% of Saskatchewan’s power is derived from the burning of natural gas, and another 40% from the burning of coal. While this distribution is marginally better than that of its neighbour to the west, Alberta, which relies on 91% of its energy from fossil fuels, it is significantly higher than the other western provinces, British Columbia and Manitoba, neither of which generate any significant generation from fossil fuels relying instead on hydro generation. Moving away from fossil fuel generation for Saskatchewan’s energy needs will need to be a part of any plan to tackle climate change.
These issues of climate change do not seem to be a top priority for the leaders of the two main parties in this election. Neither Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe or NDP Leader Ryan Meili brought up climate change or energy policy in their leader’s debate. Further, according to environmental economist Brett Dolter, most recent large-scale climate change related project in the province have been driven by federal policy and programs. Moreover, the issue of the federal carbon tax program remains an issue of contention in Saskatchewan, with the provincial government bringing the federal government to court over the issue.
In this election however, many younger votes indicated that climate change was a serious concern for them placing it as one of their top three priority policy issues for this election in a poll conducted by Angus-Reid.