Hanging over our heads is one overwhelming issue. It’s not the pandemic, and it’s not the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. It’s our rape of the planet, the most immediate aspect being climate change. If a political party can’t get a grip on this issue, they aren’t of much use.

And the conservatives just don’t seem to be able to get a grip on it. At the party’s convention this week, delegates voted to reject adding green-friendly statements to their policy book including a line saying “climate change is real.” Indeed, according to a CBC report, they rebuked their climate-minded colleagues, rejecting a green policy shift proposed by a Quebec riding association, one of only four out of a list of 50 riding association proposals that were rejected. The bulk of the opposition came from Ontario and, not surprisingly, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Leader Erin O’Toole told his party they “cannot ignore the reality of climate change” and insisted, “We must also recognize that Canadians expect us to have a real plan for the environment. We need to boldly reclaim the environment as an area where Conservatives are leaders.” I seem to remember there was a day when conservatives were environmental leaders—conservationist and conservative is practically the same word—but that must have been a long time ago.

O’Toole went on to say he doesn’t want Conservative candidates branded as “climate change deniers” in the next election campaign. Well, they may not be deniers, but if they don’t have policies to deal aggressively with the challenge, they might just as well be.

The leader doesn’t seem to be quite in tune with his party, almost plaintively begging his comrades to accept the reality of a climate crisis while seeking to expand Conservative support. And yet he doesn’t seem to quite get the seriousness of the issue himself. He says, “As important as climate change is, getting our economy back on track is more important,” not realizing apparently that the economy depends 100 percent on the environment. If we don’t have a healthy environment in the future we won’t have a healthy economy.

If the party can’t deal with climate change, how are they to deal with the other environmental issues that increasingly confront us: species extinction and the exhaustion of the planet’s resources. They are simply not presenting themselves as a party of the future.

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