Canada had the 'most polluted' air on continent due to Trudeau's bungled wildfire response in 2023: report

Canada had the most polluted air in 2023 of any North American country, according to a new air quality report. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is blamed for last year's bungled federal response to the annual fire season, which burned roughly 18.5 million hectares of land.

Canada had the 'most polluted' air on continent due to Trudeau's bungled wildfire response in 2023: report
The Canadian Press / Spencer Colby and The Canadian Press / Arlyn McAdorey
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Critics of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are having a field day as Canada had the most polluted air in 2023 of any North American country, according to a new air quality report. 

"Wildfires in the summer of 2023 devastated air quality throughout not only Canada, but also the United States as well due to transboundary haze and air pollution that drifted across borders," Natasha Ganes, public relations manager for IQAir North America, told Fox News

Canada recorded a jump in fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5) concentration from 7.4 to 10.3, which a spokesperson attributed to the extreme fire season. Raging wildfires near Yellowknife jumped the concentration from 4.63 between 2017 and 2021 to 20.8 in 2023, prompting the evacuation of 20,000 residents.

PM2.5 particles are fine particulate matter that measure 2.5 microns or less in diameter — commonly produced by combustion of gasoline, oil, diesel fuel or wood — and measured in concentrations of micrograms per cubic metre air.

Trudeau has repeatedly expressed concern over ‘climate change,’ claiming that "climate action can’t wait" and that Canada must "cut pollution and build a cleaner future for everyone." 

Yet, his critics argue Ottawa’s scatterbrained response to the record-breaking wildfire season added fuel to the fire unnecessarily. Roughly 18.5 million hectares of land burned last year, surpassing 7.6 million hectares scorched in 1989, reported Global News.

"2023 marks the first time in our report’s history that Canada had such high levels of PM2.5," added Ganes. The vast majority of the 10 most polluted cities in Canada came from Alberta, reads the 2023 IQAir World Air Quality Report.

However, the Minister of Emergency Preparedness Harjit Sajjan defended their record on wildfires in a written statement to the publication.

"The government of Canada believes in science," writes a spokesperson. "Climate change is real and knows no borders. Denial is no longer an option."

They claimed Canada took "several steps" to adapt its climate policy to the "unrelenting impacts" of ‘climate change’ but did not specify what measures had been taken.

At the onset of last year’s fire season, the prime minister disregarded concerns that his failure to update federal forest management policies, upgrade firefighting facilities, and implement a national firefighting service contributed to the carnage.

The Emergency Preparedness spokesperson writes that the provinces and territories operate 90% of government-owned forests, and that the feds only coordinate a wildfire response with them.

In August, well into the wildfire season, the Trudeau finally admitted to issues with the Liberals' infrastructure funding.

"I think we need to start looking at that around emergencies, we certainly need to look at that around infrastructure investments," Trudeau said in conversation with British Columbians. "This is something with which we are fully seized and our minister of infrastructure, among others, will be fully engaged with," he added. 

"I look forward to continuing to work closely with provincial and municipal leaders in a collaborative way to respond to these challenges."

Last September 7, Sajjan told reporters that Ottawa was looking to streamline how best to tackle extreme weather events moving forward.

"We’re looking at all different types of disasters, doing the lessons learned and we’ll come out with the appropriate response," he said at the time. However, Sajjan did not reveal specifics.

On Canada’s strategy to counter future emergencies, the Emergency Preparedness spokesperson suggests that its "preparation is solid and continues to evolve."

"In collaboration with provinces and territories, we have invested heavily in firefighting training and in the purchase of specialized firefighting equipment needed … including for First Nations and are identifying barriers in training," the spokesperson said.

Last July, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault specifically commented on how the wildfires have impacted Indigenous Canadians. He said nearly half (42%) of evacuations affected communities with overwhelmingly Indigenous populations.

However, Indigenous groups have complained that forest management officials prevented them from performing prescribed burns. Alongside forest experts in B.C., they have been calling for more resources to combat wildfires.

"It's as simple as lighting a match. But the way the province deals with things, they want heavy equipment on the site," said former Yuneŝit'in government chief Russell Myers Ross in a 2021 interview.

"They want big hoses; they want a lot of equipment and high-priced personnel."

The Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, penned that solely attributing global warming as the cause of forest fires, which Trudeau did last summer, ignores prevailing infrastructure issues and domestic quarrels on policy. 

Citing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, officials from the international body assigned "medium confidence" to ‘climate change’ being the cause of Canada’s wildfires last year.

However, an April 2021 CSIS brief that claimed, 'climate change' presents "a complex, long-term threat to Canada's safety, security and prosperity outcomes."

A subsequent RCMP report anticipates "extreme weather events and drought" will intensify scarcity in Canada, partially due to wildfires.

"We know that climate change makes the wildfire season worse," said Guilbeault at the time. "And we're working to [ensure] keeping people safe this year while getting ready for years to come."

When asked about measures they implemented to combat wildfires, Trudeau's environment minister said Parliament green lit over $65 million since 2021 on the National Wildfire Management Program at Parks Canada to improve wildfire risk reduction efforts.

"To reduce wildland fire risks, we are enhancing the FireSmart Canada program, and are creating a Centre of Excellence for Wildland Fire Innovation and Resilience," said a government spokesperson. 

"We have also released the National Risk Profile to better understand risks across the country and increase our preparedness."

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