Despite huge swathes of Canada and the U.S. East Coast choking on smoke from wildfires burning across Canada, Canadian lawmakers have sparked outrage by appearing to drag their feet on climate change measures even as the country burns.
Bizarrely, Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday stopped short of announcing a fire ban—instead politely urging the public to avoid campfires.
“I’m asking every Ontarian, please do not light any campfires,” Ford said, according to the Toronto Star. With mounting questions about the Ontario government’s willingness to fight climate change, the Conservative premier has accused opponents of seeking to “politicize” the wildfires and claimed lightning strikes and “people starting campfires” are to blame for the rash of blazes.
Dozens of fires are active in both Quebec and Ontario, but discussions in Canada’s Parliament on Wednesday focused mostly on budget issues and foreign election interference, according to the Star. Even as smoke from the wildfires made its way into the halls of Parliament, Conservative lawmakers in the House of Commons were reportedly more hung up on the budget, with one using the unfortunate metaphor of pouring “fuel on the fire of inflation.”
The country’s New Democrats sounded the alarm over the fires—to accuse current leadership of dropping the ball.
“Today is supposed to be Clean Air Day and at the same time, our country is burning,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was quoted as saying. “We can even smell the smoke in this chamber. Our country is literally on fire and the current Liberal government thinks that business as usual is fine.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for his part, accused the Conservative Party of ignoring the disastrous wildfires. “Forest fires are raging. It is the worst year on record for forest fires already,” he said, blasting Conservatives for working “against the climate action we have been taking, and… against the investments we are making to support families and to support first responders.”
Natural Resources and Forestry Minister Graydon Smith defended the government’s handling of the fires, noting that there are fire restrictions in many areas and municipalities have the ability to impose their own restrictions.
The government acknowledges that “climate change is real and happening,” he said.