Kelowna candidates talk about climate change

Candidates answer the question: Is the city doing enough, and what more needs to be done?

In light of the most recent UN report on climate changethe Capital News asked Kelowna civic election candidates: Is the city doing enough to deal with climate change at the municipal level and what more do you think the city should do to address the issue locally?”

Kelowna mayoral candidate answers:

Colin Basran

Kelowna has suffered deeply from the impacts of climate change, with the increasing intensity of fires and floods that have cost homeowners, businesses and our local economy millions of dollars. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to take strong action to reduce Kelowna’s emissions. Through extensive community consultation during the Imagine Kelowna process and through the recent updating of Kelowna’s Community Climate Action Plan, the city has set realistic and pragmatic short-term goals and ambitious long-term targets, to put Kelowna on a low carbon path that will slow absolute emissions growth, four per cent below 2007 levels by 2023 (28 per cent per capita), 25 per cent by 2033 (50per cent per capita) and 80 per cent by 2050 (90per cent per capita). It is critical that the city stays the course on this plan to ensure a high quality of life in our community for future generations. The majority of Kelowna’s greenhouse gas emissions, 55 per cent, come from transportation, 36 per cent come from buildings, and the remaining nine per cent comes from waste. With energy, waste and resource costs rising, the good news is that there is significant economic opportunity as an outcome of implementing this plan. Homes, buildings and businesses will become more efficient and cost less money to operate. The advancement of electric vehicles will play a significant role in the reduction of transportation emissions, as will the significant investments the city has and will continue to make in creating a more walking and bike-friendly community while improving public transportation; all of which are more cost-effective than conventional transportation.

Tom Dyas

No. The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Kelowna comes from vehicles. Investing in bike lanes, sidewalks and transit is nice but what about the other 85 per cent of residents who rely on vehicles to commute? Our city transportation network needs serious investment—immediately. We need to synchronize traffic lights along Highway 97 so that cars are not stopping and starting all the time, which causes pollution. Mission-area residents who drive the “Lakeshore crawl” are still waiting for the south perimeter road to be built. Once this road is constructed, the Frost and Gordon Road shopping centre will open, allowing residents to walk or drive a short distance to stores, thus reducing GHG’s. The Highway 33 Extension / North End Connector would help to reduce gridlock at Spall and Enterprise, which would also reduce GHG’s. We need to work with the B.C. government, and rather than increase regulations and costs on new homes, have the Energy Step Code focus on developing incentives to renovate existing older homes first, which use 80 to 100 per cent more energy than new homes. Reduced energy consumption leads to lower energy bills. Currently, 72 per cent of existing residences in Kelowna were constructed prior to 2000. For water, especially wastewater, Kelowna can lower the effects of climate change through increased recycling and efficiency measures. Kelowna is experiencing more natural disasters (fires, floods) than ever before. Enable Kelowna residents to live with a smaller carbon footprint and lower energy costs by implementing a well-planned urban growth and infrastructure development plan. We should review the economic viability of a long-range vision of a potential light rail system.

Bob Schewe

The city, I feel, could do more to help with the issue of climate change, but recognize Kelowna, and indeed Canada, is a small fraction of the world’s problem, and we have one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, our vast forests and ecosystem which helps remove carbon from the atmosphere. Kelowna can help with making our transportation infrastructure more efficient and improving public transit. Green spaces are also a vital component to the inner-city. Utilizing new technology with our waste products, landfill practices, and re-cycling are also areas where we improve.

Kelowna councillor candidate answers:

Maxine DeHart

The City of Kelowna adopted the Corporate Energy and GHG Emission Plan this year which supports the policies of the Official Community Plan. This plan is well balanced with environmental protection, economic growth and development. Climate change will continue to play havoc on our ecosystems as we have seen in recent years with extreme weather conditions. In saying this, the city does need energy in order to operate and maintain a wide variety of equipment and services. The city’s goals that were adopted for a sustainable future were improving energy efficiency and performance in buildings, reducing greenhouse emissions and strong financial management. From 2007 to 2016, the city has reduced corporate emission by seven per cent. By doing this, we will create a long term sustainable city.

Mark Boyer

I think Kelowna is off to a good start. As a city, there is only so much you can do. That being said it could be improved. Working with the province, install left-turn signals at all intersections on Harvey Avenue 24/7. Arrows at Guisachan and Gordon would be another example where keeping the flow of traffic could cut down on emissions. Administrative vehicles that the city uses by inspectors and by-law could be changed over to hybrid or all electric. Perhaps the fire department could invest in smaller medical assistance trucks based on pick ups instead of rolling out the large engines for medical calls.

Gail Given

Kelowna has demonstrated significant commitment to this area through the council endorsed 2018 Climate Action Plan and the Corporate Energy and GHG Emissions Plan. These documents currently direct the work of staff. In the past four years we have focused our energies on developing and encouraging efficient compact communities through urban densification, support of alternate transportation opportunities, LED Street Light Conversion and retrofitting city owned facilities to name a few. To ensure we continue in this positive direction, the 2040 OCP update, Transportation Master Plan and Energy Step Code requirements must all align with and support the goals of the Climate Action Plan. This work is currently underway but most importantly will require the strong support of the next council. By aligning our future land use and transportation planning we enable a sustainable growth pattern, ensure major transportation investments reinforce our growth management strategy, reduce our carbon footprint and provide our citizens options to reduce their reliance on vehicles. Aligning these plans allows us to move from a reactionary approach to a holistic long-range plan for the next 20 to 30 years. It is critical that the next Council endorse and support the implementation of these strategies.

Jeff Piattelli

Moving forward, it is vital that we consider greener and more eco-friendly solutions whenever possible. Kelowna has potential to be very accessible by simply adding or improving bike lanes and re-evaluating our transit system. The goal of this is to lower the amount of people needing to drive their vehicles. I have also spoken with residents in wheelchairs and scooters who have told me that our sidewalks have not been built correctly and in many areas and are difficult to maneuver. We must consider all residents needs and try to accommodate them. Improving our bike lanes, sidewalks and reforming our transit system, will allow for easier access to greener means of transportation, as well as help those with disabilities. On a municipal level, I believe this is a great place for us to start.

Craig Hostland

The UN IPCC report identifies four global systems that must change and then states people should “buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter and more locally sourced seasonal food—and throw less of it away.

• Drive electric cars but walk or cycle short distances

• Take trains and buses instead of planes

• Use videoconferencing instead of business travel

• Use a washing line instead of a tumble dryer

• Insulate homes

• Demand low carbon in every consumer product.

My fellow candidate Gord Lovegrove from UBCO identifies lifestyle and municipal changes such as these are necessary. How has the city done to date? Not that well as the it has backed off from carbon reduction goals and initiatives its own in-house planners called for. I will be a steward of our city, our economy and our environment. I will use climate facts when assessing projects for approval and ensure economical sustainability. The most recent Nobel prize winners in economics state we can do this without stifling growth. I will work to make this happen. Attainable solutions include creating highly densified city hubs, as intended more than 20 years ago. With that come efficient, effective, and economical multi-mode transportation, the same location jobs and services and more green space. Council in the past has reneged on their own high cost strategic planning initiatives. Why? You can guess, but I can state, I will not allow short-term gain variances to impede our existing and future quality of life in this wonderful city.

Amarjit Singh Lalli

Climate change is real and we all have to do our share to protect the environment. I am not familiar with the policies that the city has put forward. The city’s role is to make sure that we encourage building energy efficient homes and buildings, also reduce packing waste so it does not end up in the landfill or the lake and streams. The city needs a transit system that is efficient and effective. A well-funded system will get people out of their cars. Bike lanes that are secure, convenient and cost effective to use will also get individuals out of their cars. The city and province should also mitigate the risk of forest fires by removing the fuel from the forest floor. City staff should be directed to find best practices from other municipality’s that we could model after.

Gordon Lovegrove

The UN IPCC report paints a pretty dire picture indeed—unprecedented action in my vocabulary means drastic changes from business as usual. Today, Nobel prize winning economists shout it is “absolutely possible to better protect the environment without stifling growth.” More motivation—Spring floods, Summer forest fires and smoggy skies—have hit Kelowna pocket books, health, and quality of life. More can be done at the municipal level, but here’s the problem, in the last month council has backed off on its STEP Code program, climate change targets, and growth management scenario 3, and, council has also said no to to light rail. Kelowna council backed off ostensibly (in their words) because progress to date will not meet climate change goals, and to sustain investor confidence. Despite investing in more than a year of consultation, involving more than 4,000 resident surveys. Do we want an “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them business as usual approach? Our Nobel laureates and IPCC beg us; we must take drastic action to protect our environment and we can preserve a thriving economy at the same time. My website, lovegrovekelowna.ca, details short- and long-term proven strategies I will push for including the B.C. STEP Code now to reduce emissions and homeowner energy costs by 40 per cent, a resident U-Pass (ComPASS) now to triple transit ridership and reduce congestion, a plan for valley e-rail, which would takes 30 per cent of cars off the road and cost less than a new highway. Come out to an Oct 18 meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the Innovation Centre for more information.

Loyal Wooldridge

Everyone is responsible for taking action to preserve our natural environment. As a municipality, we can make decisions that allow us to grow in a responsible way. The key is collaboration and consultation with residents and experts to ensure our efforts are maximized and in line with the goals of Imagine Kelowna. I would advocate for the following:

• Implement restrictions on single-use plastics and styrofoam products • Development of great gathering centres like parks and plazas where people can meet and connect with others. • Healthy neighbourhoods in urban centres with varied inventory styles to support varying income levels to limit urban sprawl and CO2 emissions. • Advocate for incentives from senior governments and utility companies to update old homes to the new BC Energy Step code. • GPS tracking of buses and increased frequency on rapid routes to increase ridership. • Preserving mature trees when property is under re-development.

Brad Sieben

The city is on the right path, but certainly more can be done. The City of Kelowna was an early user and supporter of the OGO car share program (now Modo), helping to establish this option for residents and communities. Many of the vehicles in this fleet are now electric or hybrid models. This has been a successful program. The city also offers a modest incentive for those who have electric vehicles or high-efficiency hybrids. The hiring of energy efficiency analysts has also yielded positive operational results, improving efficiencies in city owned buildings, while saving money. Discussions about the electrification of the transit fleet has commenced and should continue to be explored. As buses are scheduled for replacement, we need to encourage B.C. transit to assess this option. The Energy Step Code has been discussed and we are currently awaiting a report from the Canadian Home Builders Association. The intersection between housing affordability and the early introduction of the energy step code must be balanced. I would like to advocate to higher levels of government for greater incentives to retrofit older homes and commercial buildings (not just new construction) to make them more efficient. Furthermore, there should be incentives. In addition, the threshold for the two-tier rate structure for electricity is unrealistic and hydro billing is punitive for the use of a clean, renewable resource—electricity. Under the current regime, I believe the continuation of other, less environmentally friendly energy sources (eg. wood stoves) is encouraged and perhaps even expanded. I believe this needs to be re-examined provincially.

Mohini Singh

The Okanagan Valley has been at the forefront of floods and fires over the past few years, highlighting the results of extreme weather patterns. Much attention has been given to defining these types of events as the “new normal”. Having lived in Kelowna for more than 25 years, I believe that the “new normal” is indicative of climate change, alongside many other extreme weather events around the globe.

At the municipal level, I believe we have the ability to improve our efforts to address climate change through grassroots and macro-level initiatives. Ongoing initiatives (in partnership with the RDCO) such as the hazardous waste round-up, tire recycling program, etc. are current offerings that focus on reducing our community carbon footprint. However, we can do more. To that end, I support:

• Advocacy/incentives for our industries to implement measures promoting sustainability and green-friendly operations

• Adoption of green-design in new developments (e.g. LEED Gold), including new civic buildings

• Managing community growth with the concept of “live, work, play, shop” at the forefront)

• Promotion of our local agricultural products.

At a grassroots level, I support promotion of day-to-day green-friendly practices to reduce our individual carbon footprints, e.g. taking pubic transit, car share/carpooling, following the 3Rs (reduce, re-use, recycle), reducing water consumption, supporting local agricultural (e.g. Buy BC), and being environmentally conscientious consumers. In order to be good stewards of our environment for future generations, we must put forth our best efforts in reducing our carbon foot print and making environmental sustainability a priority.

Dustin Sargent

The answer is we can always do more—by not being more accommodating, lobbying for solar collection on ALR land, making it easier for local food farmers to sustain a livelihood rather than creating more bylaw obstacles so our food needs to travel further to get to us. How about xeriscape neighbourhoods in the future for development incentives? Don’t remove the parking incentives for people who drive electric vehicles simply because they’re becoming more available. Isn’t that the idea? Create incentives for people to be more green, don’t remove them. We will end up paying more. Are we prepared to save more for flooding, and fires? I think a number of small things can make big changes for our future. All that being said, we need to be careful and not run headlong into construction step codes that could increase an already difficult housing situation. So I support the current rate of incremental steps for energy-efficiency requirements leading to net-zero by 2032. Lets be practical, proactive and smart.

Greg Dahms

Yes, I think the city is doing its part to deal with climate change. But we can always do more. Kelowna is not a huge contributor to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That blame goes to the oil, coal and manufacturing industries across Canada and around the globe. Locally we can do more. Our local government can put pressure on our provincial and federal governments to work with these industries to be more globally respectful to our environment. Locally, we can look at new construction using green technology. We can look to ourselves when we use our vehicles and by purchasing local items before we buy imported goods.

It will always be important for our local government to look at ways to deal with climate change as we all are contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

Graeme James

I think we can always do more, and there is room for improvement. I think the city is on the right track in developing urban centres such as City Centre, South Pandosy, Rutland, and Midtown.

Developing urban centres reduces the cost of infrastructure upgrades and reduces urban sprawl, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the road. The cost reduction in mid-range electric vehicles coupled with federal and provincial grants makes electric vehicles for the city of Kelowna fleet vehicles a viable alternative to the current fleet of regular gas consuming vehicles. I believe the city should gradually move towards the use electric fleet vehicles. The city should continue to lobby for provincial and federal grants to improve the energy efficiency in the city’s older homes and should also support FortisBC to continue their work to upgrade aging appliances and lighting in homes and businesses.

Lindsay Bell

As we all know, there is continued proof we must do more as a city and a country. To address if we are doing enough as a city, I believe we should enhance plans that are in place to keep up with evolving information on climate change. The city has been known to be progressive but the question is, can we do more? The answer is yes. Everyone in the community, along with major corporations like the city, should continue leading the way they have for many years. I think leadership from the federal and provincial levels, with incentives for moving to become greener, is also crucial as it will require support from higher levels of government to address the larger issues.

Mo Rajabally

United Nations Scientific evidence abounds that there is negative climate change.

Similarly, we also have a lot of deniers. The federal government has a solid base of support for a carbon tax, though with clear pockets of opposition. Unless I am incorrect, the BC NDP government supports the carbon tax. What City of Kelowna can do, I am not sure. I remember a few years ago seeing smoke belting out from a manufacturing plant’s chimneys near Okanagan Lake. Ontario has joined Saskatchewan in a court battle arguing Ottawa is exceeding its jurisdiction by imposing a carbon tax. Alberta, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Nova Scotia now also oppose the tax. A NANO poll commissioned by The Globe and Mail, found some 60 per cent of respondents supported the need for a carbon tax to encourage Canadians to consume less fossil fuels, with 41 per cent strongly endorsing that policy. (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau is facing backlash from both sides of the debate. The federal NDP said he was not doing enough to push the climate change agenda forward despite commitments made in Paris last year, while the Conservatives characterized the still-to-be unveiled carbon tax as a “cash grab” and a piece of job-killing legislation. Now the federal government is scaling back its carbon tax plan over concerns about competitiveness, a move being hailed by Ontario’s environment minister as a welcome “climb-down” and decried by environmentalists as putting short-term economic interests ahead of the health of the planet.

Ryan Donn

No we are not doing enough but I am proud of the new climate action plan that the city recently updated. I believe that building up not out is one of the top three steps we need to focus on to be environmentally responsible. The other thing I believe we need to do is create an electric car strategy. Our biggest GHG emissions in Kelowna come from our cars, so shifting to electric cars is the best way to reduce that. As we densify, we lose some of our tree canopy. I believe that we need an updated tree by-law that requires landowners to plant three trees for every one they chop down.

Luke Stack

Probably not. I would argue that we, as individual citizens are also not doing enough either. The city has been actively working toward reducing CO2 levels for many years. Staff are upgrading buildings to be more energy efficient and we are changing the transportation model to use more energy efficient vehicles. We are creating multi-modal corridors for bikes and pedestrian use. The city just replaced all its street lights with LED lights to reduce energy consumption. The city has set CO2 targets and checks in annually to see how much progress has been made. Generally, I think the city is on the right track, but we can always do more.

Wayne Carson

The city is not doing nearly enough. In fact, it is exacerbating a bad situation with their lack of a plan to get people out of their cars and onto a reliable public transportation system.

I will work tirelessly to research, cost and implement a transportation plan that will relieve gridlock and make the densification of the city something we can live with and still maintain mobility in this beautiful city.

We have the 97 corridor and we must use far more effectively if we are to reduce the pressure on the cross streets and residential roads.

(Responses not received from mayoral candidate Bobby Kennedy and councillor candidates Charlie Hodge and Kevin Bond.)

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