Candidates for mayor and council were grilled about climate change in front of a packed room Monday night at the Nelson United Church.
A forum organized by the West Kootenay EcoSociety, Nelson Interfaith Climate Action Collaborative, and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby brought candidates together to debate five resolutions following a presentation by local scientist Greg Utzig. Of the three mayoral and 19 council candidates, only Bernie Brown and Rob Richichi were absent.
Five candidates were given the opportunity to speak before those in attendance voted for or against each resolution. Below is each resolution, and a roundup of what was said.
Resolution No. 1:
Be it resolved that in order to protect taxpayers from these expenses, Nelson sign on to the campaign to hold the 20 biggest fossil fuel corporations accountable for their share of climate change costs.
Rik Logtenberg and Laureen Barker spoke in favour of the resolution, while John Dooley said council would need more information and mentioned possible penalties to the municipal gas tax income. Charles Jeanes ignored the question and spoke about the Leap Manifesto, which calls for an end to fossil fuel use in Canada. Cal Renwick also spoke but declined to take a side in his speech before voting against the motion. The motion passed.
Resolution No. 2:
Be it resolved that Nelson council direct staff to develop and implement a strategy at the community level for meeting the 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 goal. This plan would be in place by 2020 and include specific milestones for each five-year period.
Keith Page supported the resolution and said he wants a long-term plan. Michelle Hillaby agreed with the resolution, so long as it is affordable within the municipal budget. (Hillaby later voted in favour of the resolution.) Jesse Woodward told residents that real global change is beyond Nelson’s capability, but supported the resolution on the grounds that the city can be a model for other communities. Leslie Payne said plans are already in place to meet the 2050 goal, and that consequences outweigh budgetary concerns. Brian Shields cited his public works experience and spoke in favour of the resolution. The motion passed.
Resolution No. 3:
Be it resolved that climate change cannot be dealt with at the municipal level, and the city and taxpayers should not be burdened with resolving this problem.
Margaret Stacey spoke on the resolution but did not take a side in her speech. Brittny Anderson opposed it, as did Janice Morrison who cited the development of a municipal emergency plan as an example of local climate change efforts. Stephanie Wiggins also opposed the resolution, and said the mental health of residents forced to stay indoors during smoky summers puts the onus on the city to deal with climate change. The motion was unanimously opposed.
Resolution No. 4:
Be it resolved that Nelson actually implement the existing active transport strategy by a) eliminating some car parking and road space to provide room for bicycle lanes and bicycle parking, and b) enacting a bylaw that declares downtown Nelson an Idle-Free Zone with penalties for unnecessary car idling.
Robin Cherbo suggested electric streetcars be added to downtown, that High Street become a one-way for cars and bikes, and that bike lanes be installed on Nelson Avenue. Robbie Kalabis said he would favour bike services set up for commuters coming into Nelson, and suggested blocking off part of Baker Street to vehicles. Travis Hauck spoke about different models of bikes that can make travel uphill easier, and suggested better signage for drivers and roundabouts that could help with traffic flow. Bob Adams said he wants to reduce the number of cars, not parking spots, and encourage carpooling. Joseph Reiner spoke in support of bike lanes, and Jesse Woodward said a model for bike sharing similar to the Kootenay Carshare Co-op could be implemented. The motion passed unanimously.
Resolution No. 5:
Be it resolved that Nelson consider a special one-time municipal tax increase to ensure adequate resources to prevent a wildfire disaster in the city, and that Nelson develop a sufficiently funded program to work with the RDCK and private landowners to decrease fire risk, provide incentives for those taking action and penalties for those who are not.
Deb Kozak said this motion should be deferred for information on provincial grants she said are on the way, and that FireSmart rules could be stiffened. Kalabis opposed, and said lobbying and collaboration between services would be more effective. Anderson didn’t support the motion as it doesn’t specify the amount of taxation or its exact use. Keith Page opposed and asked for a plan first from city staff. He did, however, say he would consider it if provincial grants were not available. Cherbo opposed because he said he believes provincial and federal grants should pay these kinds of costs. Logtenberg supported the motion by suggesting the provincial government won’t take Nelson seriously unless it is considering taxation. Morrison opposed the resolution on the grounds that provincial funds are already in place to do such work around Nelson. Dooley supported the resolution. He said some taxation is already going to fire mitigation, and that more can be done to clean up fuel in alleys and interchanges within the city limits. The motion passed.