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RDCK director pushes back against petition opposed to Climate Action Plan

Aimee Watson is responding to what she calls misinformation
Regional District of Central Kootenay director Aimee Watson says residents have the wrong idea about the Climate Action Plan. Photo: RDCK

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

A local politician is slamming the content of a petition circulating in Kaslo and area calling on the regional government to halt plans to move forward on a Climate Action Plan.

The chair of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Area D Director Aimee Watson, says the petition is “fear mongering” and spreading “fake news.”

“While neither the creator of the petition against the Climate Change Plan, nor any of the people who have signed, have reached out to ask any questions, clarifying intent or to directly express their concerns, this petition is increasingly spreading fear and misinformation,” said Watson in a Facebook post. “I am all for public discourse but have a very hard time fielding the very concerning fear-mongering-based statements being made that are all false.”

Watson was reacting to a petition being circulated around Kaslo and the north Slocan Valley warning that the RDCK’s Climate Action Strategy was being implemented without proper public consultation.

“Conformance is assumed, and public silence is viewed as consent,” the preamble of the petition states. “Alignment of local bureaucracy is assured through higher-level government bank-rolling of grant streams and incoming legislation, rewarding us for compliance.”

The preamble states that the goals of the plan were being set by the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, two common targets for all nature of complaints.

The petition also notes that the two sessions held in February were poorly advertised and poorly attended by the public.

Saying the Climate Action Plan prescribes “lifestyle choices made FOR us” [their emphasis], it calls for “a halt of ‘the Plan’ approval by RDCK Board, until RDCK residents are adequately and fairly addressed, and are able and willing to give informed consent.”

False assumptions

But Watson, who represents the rural areas around Kaslo where the petition originated, said the preamble was filled with false and misleading claims.

She noted the Climate Action Plan has been in development for four years, and in fact a first draft was rejected by herself and other directors because it didn’t meet rural needs or her belief that programs have to be participatory, not compelled through punitive measures.

“I am no climate denier but how it is addressed is critical. I do not believe punitive measures nor urban-centric ones will help and my main focus as an elected representative is to support and enable resilient communities,” she writes. “Actions must be realistic, accessible and in concert with the major industrial impacts being addressed.”

She pointed out the action plan being contemplated by the RDCK includes no bylaws legislating actions, and the actions would be primarily funded by climate programs from other levels of government – not with new local taxation.

Rumours the plan was going to prohibit woodstoves and diesel engines were also false, she said.

Watson also points out the RDCK – or any other Canadian government – does not take its orders from international government and non-government organizations.

“This plan takes input from those several years of engagement, that included several in-person community meetings in Lardeau Valley and Kaslo and creates a plan that is more suitable for the rural areas,” she said. Even when implemented, she noted, it won’t have much to do with residents of Area D or Kaslo.

“For Area D, climate change actions have been primarily focused on the [electrical] Grid Resilience Project and the Farmer Innovation Program in partnership with LINKs, as Area D’s climate change projects,” she said. “I am directly funding this work.”

‘Fear and misinformation’

Watson also notes that 60 per cent of the projects envisioned in the Climate Action Plan – nearly 100 are outlined in general detail in the plan – are already underway or completed.

“This plan is combining all of the work so we may report out, which is more and more required for any funding, on our efforts to reduce impacts to the climate,” she says.

Watson says the last few years, with weather-related emergencies becoming more frequent, has demonstrated the increasingly vulnerable climate we live in.

She concludes her comments by noting the difficulty in communicating local government business to a busy and distracted public.

“It is very easy to not be up-to-speed when participation is so low,” she says. “I cannot force you to read what is provided as updates and attend meetings, but engagement is a two-way street.

“This petition is a great example of running on assumptions that missed the years of public releases and engagements, thus public discourse is running on fear and misinformation, which is highly inefficient and wastes everyone’s time while instilling fear and anxiety no one needs.”

She called on citizens to learn about what the RDCK plan really is and represents, and says citizens are more than welcome to give their input on the plan. Directors have still to approve the final proposal from staff.

Dozens of concerned citizens attended the RDCK’s monthly board meeting on April 20 to register concern about- or support- for the new policy . The board of the RDCK voted to postpone final adoption of the Climate Change Action plan until its August meeting, to allow more opportunity for public engagement.

Watson thanked the crowd for attending online and in person.

“Again, we are here on the ground with you folks and we hear you,” Watson said after the vote to delay. “While it’s hard to gauge when you are noticing or not noticing, we know when you are paying attention. So thank you.”

Directors will work with staff to set a schedule of public meetings on the Climate Plan over the next four months.