03/19/2015 03:38 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan government fails to tackle climate change in provincial budget: NDP

REGINA - Saskatchewan Party candidate Bronwyn Eyre says she believes climate change exists, even though she wrote a newspaper column to the contrary four years ago.

"There are many threats in this world. But climate change doesn't appear to be one of them," Eyre wrote in 2011.

Her opinion piece was raised in Thursday's question period by the Opposition New Democrats, who say the government isn't taking climate change seriously.

Environment critic Cathy Sproule said budget cuts in the last several years have shown the government's lack of action.

"Climate-change deniers exist and ... that's something that is disappointing when we see that kind of attitude within our government," said Sproule.

The NDP will have "a lot more questions" if Eyre is elected in Saskatoon Stonebridge-Dakota in the next election, she said.

Sproule pointed to a $1.7-million cut to environmental protection and a $1.2-million cut to reforestation in Wednesday's budget as examples of the government's attitude.

"We have the highest per-capita emissions in the country, which is embarrassing."

Eyre said the column was meant to be light-hearted.

"We had experienced the wettest, coolest spring on record," she said, adding the damp weather inspired the last line of her column: "As for me, I remain cautiously optimistic that 'global warming' may someday return to the Prairies. I miss it."

Eyre noted in her column that there have been several extreme weather events in history — from extensive flooding in Saskatchewan in 1974 to tornadoes in the mid-western United States in the 1930s.

"Could it be the weather's always been a bit wacky and prone to periods of extremes?" she wrote. "Ontario may have roasted last summer and a 40 C day there last week inevitability made the evening news. But the province has always been prone to high heat."

"Of course, it's important that we as humans take care of our environment," Eyre said in an interview Thursday. "And we can have an impact."

"This was kind of meant in fun."

Environment Minister Scott Moe cited a commercial-scale, clean-coal project launched in Estevan last year as proof the government is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The initiatives of this government, and the Ministry of Environment, are starting to produce some results," he said.

The tight budget included a reduction in the use of outside consultants for climate-change programs, he said.

He also explained that the environmental protection program appeared to have more funding last year because it included one-time costs such as an abandoned mine site assessment.