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Canada is already burning

Canada’s already on fire

Summer is just around the corner – and this year, it unfortunately might be more appropriate to call it Fire Season

So far in 2024, there have been over 200 new wildfires reported in Alberta – 50 percent more than this time last year – and another 96 in BC. In fact, in many places, last years’ fires never stopped burning. With fire season starting even earlier than usual, and unprecedented levels of drought and dryness across the country, wildfire services are preparing for more widespread wildfires than ever before. If last year is anything to go by, that will likely impact most people in Canada. 

Canada and the provinces need to address worsening wildfires – but we also need to address the root cause of these climate disasters and ensure that those responsible for the worsening climate crisis are paying what they owe. 

Wildfires are increasing – and government spending isn’t keeping up 

Across the country, communities are stepping up to address the challenges of spreading wildfires. Many northern Indigenous communities in the prairies are engaged in wildfire training, and communities across the Northwest Territories are building out emergency response plans to ensure the safety of their communities.  

Recently, the Edmonton Chapter of the Council of Canadians held a public discussion around citizen action on Alberta wildfires. The event focused on educating attendees on the basics of wildfires in Alberta and promoted citizen oversight and input on the management of Alberta wildfires in 2024 and beyond.   

But despite the incredible work of communities across the country, our governments still have their heads in the sand (bags) around the impacts of the climate emergency. Our governments aren’t spending what’s required to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis – let alone what’s required to stop disasters getting even worse. 

There is some hopeful news: the federal government earmarked $800,000 dollars for further wildfire firefighter trainings in the 2024 budget. Additionally, many provinces and territories have also announced new planning and spending for fighting wildfires.  

But this is not nearly enough. Unions and wildfire services are calling on several provinces across the country, including Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, to increase funding, training, and community preparedness. 

Communities are already adapting to the changing climate, and appropriate funding to address the increasing uncertainty and destruction of climate disasters is critical.  

Governments must address the causes of wildfires and the climate crisis 

Unfortunately, there’s a significant systemic challenge standing in the way of climate spending and action: corporate capture. 

Corporate capture, or the control of democratic decision-making by private industry, is a major issue in Canada. A clear example of this is in the recent federal budget, which shelved a windfall tax on record oil and gas profits after the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers threw a hissy fit. We know that the continued extraction and use of oil and gas are major contributors to the climate crisis we face – so why aren’t those corporations paying what they owe to clean up the mess they’ve made? 

This also took the form of obscene price gouging by airlines last year during wildfire evacuations, when for many flying was the only way to escape the encroaching wall of fire. 

Canada currently has a $100 billion/year spending gap around the necessary adaptation and mitigation measures required to transition to a post-carbon economy. Instead of spending what’s required, the 2024 federal budget only announced $2 billion in new climate funding over the next five years.  

According to a recent report by Canadians for Tax Fairness, progressive tax policies that increase taxes on corporations and the ultra-wealthy could raise more than $70 billion a year – more than two-thirds of what’s required to properly fund a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels. The corporations and people responsible for the worsening climate crisis have the money to pay to clean up and mitigate the problem they’re largely responsible for. 

In terms of wildfires, federal and provincial governments must support revitalizing Indigenous land stewardship practices including controlled burns to reduce fuel for wildfires as well as ending their support for clearcutting. The colonial practices of suppressing Indigenous forest stewardship and relentless widespread clearcutting without free, prior, informed consent are key contributors to worsening wildfire seasons. These go hand in hand as root causes of the expanding wildfire seasons, alongside the climate crisis, which is itself rooted in colonialism. 

What now?

We must demand that our decision-makers make corporations and the ultra-wealthy pay what they owe, so our communities have the resources to fight wildfires today and mitigate future impacts on our communities.  

We’re building a climate campaign that will work to do exactly that, and we’ll continue to share analysis about how to ensure that those who are responsible for the climate crisis pay what they owe. We’ll have more information soon – until then, we invite you to: 

Edson wildfire
A wildfire burns near Edson.
  • Sign up to receive climate updates from the Council of Canadians – get our analysis and opportunities for actions straight to your inbox! 
  • Read up on wildfire preparedness here and here, to be better informed on how to keep you and your community safe in case of emergency. 
  • Donate to support the work of organizers across the country pushing for climate justice!   

Chris Kruszewski and Dylan Penner

Chris Kruszewski and Dylan Penner

Chris Kruszewski and Dylan Penner are Climate and Social Justice Campaigners with the Council of Canadians.