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How will Alberta politicians respond now that Canada's nurses are demanding action on climate change?

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Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory. Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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On the last day of their national convention in New Brunswick's capital city today, the approximately 900 delegates of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Canadian governments to recognize climate change is a global crisis and a health emergency, and to act on it.

Citing such evidence as the destructive forest fires in Alberta and British Columbia in 2016, 2017 and 2018, flooding in New Brunswick and deadly heat waves in Central Canada, as well as defining climate change as a significant public health issue, the members voted to call on the federal and provincial governments "to undertake the necessary policies to meet Canada's obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," better known as the Paris Agreement.

That should mean, the resolution said, "enforceable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change."

The resolution also called for CFNU and its member unions to "support sustainable health care practices in hospitals and community facilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in health care settings" and to "raise the public's awareness about the serious health implications of climate change."

The tone of the brief discussion on the resolution was more that climate change is an obvious fact and health care professionals had better pitch in and do something about it than a hair-on-fire debate between opponents and proponents of unimpeded development of the fossil fuel industry in Western Canada.

Speaking for the motion, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory pleaded for the support of her fellow nurses from across Canada because, she said, in Western Canada even taking a moderate position on climate change "can actually get your life threatened."

A tide of "deep, dark conservative rhetoric is drowning us all," she stated. "We've really got to stand up and support each other in the places where it's so difficult to even broach the topic."

When it came time to vote on the resolution, if there were any nays, they were not audible or visible.

So at the risk of belabouring a point already made in this space, this raises the question of how effective Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's belligerent "war room" tactic of telling what he calls the truth about fossil fuel (whoops, ethical oil) extraction can be when there is a growing worldwide consensus the climate crisis is for real.

Whatever the people of Alberta concluded in April, it sure seems as if this is not the best way to get pipelines built and restore the so-called Alberta Advantage, which we Albertans will likely soon be reminded is no advantage at all.

Bullying and suing people who speak up about climate change sure doesn't sound like it will be a very effective technique outside Alberta, no matter how much it fired up the United Conservative Party base during the provincial election campaign. And that's unlikely to change regardless of how effective Mr. Kenney's attacks on the NDP strategy of gaining "social license" for pipelines and more oilsands development were in Alberta.

Assailing the previous NDP government's carbon tax might have been highly effective, but there's bound to be a price to be paid for that strategy in places less persuaded than Alberta and Saskatchewan by Mr. Kenney's view concern about climate change is merely the "flavour of the month."

Setting up fake "BCforTMX" Twitter accounts run out of Calgary with misleading claims about what's responsible for the high price of gasoline in British Columbia's Lower Mainland certainly isn't going to help.

Whatever will they do?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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