Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says he’s “a little frustrated” by the public’s reaction to the impact climate change is having on the city.
On Monday, Kelowna city council received two reports that in their own ways, each address the issue of climate change. One does so indirectly, while the other tackles it head on.
“I don’t know if this (issue) is resonating with residents enough to (make a) change,” said Basran speaking to one of the reports.
The first, the latest citizen’s survey, shows transportation issues are the second highest concern for city residents and respondents specifically want to see the city do more to keep the growing amount of traffic on local roads moving. The second is a community trends report that talks about climate change that says the city needs to take more action to help combat climate change after a year of floods and fires.
While not known to be the specific cause of the flooding or fires, city staff say climate change likely played a part in causing the conditions for both.
Basran said taking action like building more roads to accommodate more traffic will only exacerbate the issue of climate change. He added that if a spring and summer like the one Kelowna just experienced is not enough to prompt the public to rally behind change, he does not know what is.
“There is a huge disconnect,” said the mayor.
He pointed to the impact of the flooding on private and public property, the fact many in the community could not go outside due to severely smoky skies for lengthy periods during the summer and the impact on city water (a water quality advisory was issued for a brief time) as proof climate change is real and having an effect here.
“But higher traffic flows are called for in the citizen’s survey,” said Basran, expressing frustration.
The mayor said more traffic on local roads will add to the problem. Automobile exhausts emit carbon dioxide into the air, a greenhouse gas that, in turn, plays a part in climate change.
Following the council meeting, Basran said if residents are not prepared to make changes after the summer the city experienced this year, “when will they ever?”
He urged everyone in the city to play their part, no matter how small.
“Every little bit counts,” he said.
He added he realized some may criticize him for still driving a car but said he needs one for his job most days. But, he added, he has taken steps in other parts of his life to make changes. Last week Basran and his family moved into a new home they bought specifically to be closer to both his and his wife’s work.
While his wife can now walk to work and “not drive around looking for a parking place,” Basran said he can also walk to city hall or ride his bicycle on days when the weather is good and he’s scheduled to be in the office all day.
But while council welcomed the trends’ report on climate change, it was not embraced by all.
One of the city’s loudest critics, local environmental consultant Richard Drinnan blasted the report as “bogus,” saying it is inaccurate and ignores real scientific data describing local environmental changes that have occurred “during Mayor Basran’s watch.”
Drinnan said the city has lost almost 600 metres of riparian shoreline habitat along Okanagan Lake between 2009 and 2016. (Basran was elected mayor in 2014 after serving one term as a city councillor.)
Drinnan questioned the reports’ statement that the city has made significant infrastructure investments through enforcing riparian protection and protection of natural areas.
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