BY IAN PATTISON

Today we present another installment of short takes on long subjects.

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Still think climate change is a hoax, that what we’re seeing has nothing to do with how we’re acting, with how we treat the planet?

The Lakehead Region Conservation did something this week that it has never done before. It issued a flood watch for the Lake Superior shoreline from the head of Black Bay to the Minnesota border.

The International Lake Superior Board of Control increased the lake’s outflow to 3,170 cubic metres per second in July and is warning property owners “to prepare for potentially severe coastal impacts,” especially during strong winds and high waves.

The Big Lake has been rising all summer, as shoreline property owners can attest (full disclosure, that includes me), and is now 2 centimeters higher along our shore than the previous early August high level in 1950. It’s 35 centimetres above average for August as measured since 1918 and 22 centimetres higher than at this time last year.

Looking ahead, people should expect “a prolonged period of above-average levels,” says the conservation authority.

There are 3 quadrillion gallons of water in Lake Superior. Imagine what it takes to raise its level by a single centimetre let alone 22 since this time last year.

But wait, wasn’t the lake at record low levels just six years ago? What’s really alarming is that it’s seesawing and when something this big becomes unpredictable, there’s trouble for water supplies, commercial shipping, recreation, shorelines, property and, ultimately, people.

Researchers writing in the Scientific American call this the Great Lakes’ “new normal” and they blame it squarely on a climate being changed by human activity.

“Increasing precipitation, the threat of recurring periods of high evaporation, and a combination of both routine and unusual climate events — such as extreme cold air outbursts (remember the ‘polar vortex’?) — are putting the region in uncharted territory,” they say.

In other words, we cannot rely on history to show us what the weather around the lake is going to be like. So we have to prepare for what’s coming but we don’t know what that will be. In a word, Yikes!

• • •

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is said to be facing the biggest test of his young career. Will the ethics commissioner’s finding that he violated federal conflict-of-interest guidelines by seeking an easier way forward legally for a big engineering firm tilt October’s election away from him?

Trudeau’s political opponents would have you believe this is the crime of the century. Indeed, the optics were never good for the PMO which inserted a line in the last budget allowing for prosecution alternatives at the behest of SNC Lavalin, the company at heart of the matter. The director of prosecutions said SNC should face a court of law and then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould backed her up.

Trudeau and his office didn’t see it that way. While not arguing the guilt or innocence of SNC in its bribery case, the PMO chose to look beyond the law — the words on paper written without context — and sought to get Wilson-Raybould to do the same. She refused and is now an independent MP seeking re-election.

Didn’t thousands of employees at SNC Lavalin who had no part in seeking to get Libya to favour its bid more than a decade ago deserve consideration? Governments at all levels spend a great deal of public capital on “job creation.” Shouldn’t they spend as much on job protection when that many jobs are said to be in peril? Just look at the bigger picture, Trudeau and his minions were saying.

The law is the law, critics say. But a court of law doesn’t simply open a book and pass judgment based on the words on a page. It listens to the public prosecutor make the case against the accused and then it hears the defence. Both use the law as it is written but both argue the circumstances of the case and how the court should consider them in the context of the law and its intent.

What Trudeau and Co. did was “improper” and the PM admits he made a mess of it. But how wrong was it to act in the public interest?

This matter of interpretation now goes before the court of public opinion. Its effect on the election will depend on the veracity of candidates’ versions of events and the willingness of voters to believe them.

• • •

Maxime Bernier is right. “Canadians have the right to hear views that differ from those of the established parties.”

The leader of the People’s Party of Canada won’t get that opportunity on Oct. 7 when Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May and Yves-Francois Blanchet debate ahead of the next federal election.

The broadcast consortium televising the debate has rules, one of which is that a party must have elected someone to Parliament to be allowed onto the podium. Another is that, based on polling, a party must have a reasonable chance of winning at least a seat. The PPC fails on both counts — but how can it elect MPs if its leader isn’t allowed to put the new party’s ideas up for debate?

Bernier insists that current polling data might not be accurate given how well populist parties in other countries are doing. Some of those parties’ positions are highly objectionable to a lot of people but Bernier claims the PPC’s stands on immigration, climate change, freedom of expression, foreign aid, supply management and others “are similar to those of a large minority, or even a majority of Canadians.”

If that’s true or questionable you won’t know aside from the odd time Bernier manages to snag some media attention.

It’d be far better to let the man speak Oct. 7 and rise or fall on the strength or weakness of his words. If he’s as popular as he says he’d be, or if he’s as bad as he sometimes seems to be, we need to hear him say so alongside his rivals. Better we hear Bernier’s ideas for Canada than Blanchet’s plans for Quebec, no?

Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.

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