Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith Now Says She Believes in Climate Change

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith Now Says She Believes in Climate Change

Article excerpt

Wildrose leader Smith embraces climate change

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RED DEER, Alta. - Alberta Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, under fire by critics as a weak leader and climate change denier, announced Friday she now believes climate change exists and that mankind is at least partially to blame.

"I accept that climate change is a reality, as do our members. I accept that there's a human influence on it," Smith told reporters as her party delegates opened a weekend policy convention.

"I leave the debate about the details to the science about (to) what extent it is and how fast it is occurring."

Smith has been sharply criticized this week for refusing to say if she believes climate change exists, echoing disastrous statements she made in last year's election campaign.

Smith said Friday she has hedged in the past because she wasn't sure where party rank and file stood on the issue, and said what opinions she did hear were across the spectrum.

"I really didn't have a gauge of where our members were at because it had never come forward for debate," said Smith.

"Remember, we are a grassroots party and I do take my marching orders from our members. When our members are silent on particular issues, I try my best to interpret. Sometimes we get it wrong, and in this case I'm pleased to see our members want us to move forward on a policy."

Party delegates will vote Saturday on two resolutions to direct the caucus to push for measures to reduce greenhouse gases, which lead to the extreme weather anomalies associated with climate change.

Smith said a straw poll of delegates on Friday indicated those resolutions will pass overwhelmingly, and said she takes that as a green light to speak out on climate change.

"It gives me a mandate," she said.

The science of climate change has bedevilled the right of centre Wildrose party for more than a year.

According to some political observers it was the single biggest reason the party's surging popularity fell through the floor just days before the vote in last year's election, after Smith announced the science of climate change was not settled.

Earlier this week, Smith declined to spell out her stand on climate change when asked by reporters about the upcoming environmental resolutions.

That led NDP Leader Brian Mason and Environment Minister Diana McQueen to sharply criticize Smith as a poor leader for refusing to stake a stand on a matter of clear importance to Albertans.

McQueen also stated that Alberta would be seen as a "joke" on the international stage if it was represented by a party that didn't believe in climate change.

Those comments rankled Smith.

"I don't accept a lecture from a do-nothing environment minister like Diana McQueen," she said.

"If you look at our neighbours in Ontario and Quebec, they're already below their 1990 levels (while) Alberta has increased its greenhouse gas emissions by 46 per cent. …

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