By-Election candidates tackle climate questions posed by First Things First Okanagan

Advance voting: 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., Penticton Trade & Convention Centre, Wednesday, June 16. 

QUESTION #1  The “City of Penticton Community Energy & Emissions Plan” is in preparation. Over 90% of Penticton’s emissions are from transportation and buildings. Do you think it is important for municipalities to act on climate change, and if so, what kinds of initiatives would you like to see Penticton City Council promote to reduce emissions?

(Candidate responses are listed in the order they were received.)


Keith MacIntyre

    I do not think it is the role of the government to take the lead on these issues.  I promote personal responsibility.  We as citizens can take the lead, and if we have more tax money in our own pockets, we can better direct our money into things that matter.  I believe that focusing on this at a municipal level distracts from more important issues.


Katie O’Kell

    It is important for all levels of government to put battling climate change at the forefront of their policies. Penticton needs to work on making the city more transit-friendly. Our transit system is under-utilized and not optimized. The City needs to work on improving routes, as well as working with other municipalities to create a functional inter-city bus system.
    I would also like to see the City promote community gardens and land trading. Growing food instead of grass reduces our emissions, lowers food costs for everyone, and has been proven to reduce the overall temperature in places where it is widely implemented. Community gardens and land sharing puts our water to actual work growing food that can be available to everyone in the community. In my opinion, improving transit and promoting functional green spaces will go a long way to fighting climate change.

 

Isaac Gilbert

    Climate Change is the most important challenge the world is facing, especially our municipality. If elected, I will motion and support the declaration of a climate emergency for the City of Penticton and take action to reduce our emissions in the city from transportation and buildings.
    The 2019 Official Community Plan (OCP) lays out the road map we must follow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. To make this cultural shift I will hold the City accountable to their hierarchy of transport in the OCP when designing, investing, and renewing transportation infrastructure. I will get the city to install charging stations in street parking and partnering with local cafes and businesses to invest in charging stations to encourage and promote electric vehicles. I will also get the City to bring in a car sharing cooperative program to reduce the amount of car ownership and vehicles on the roads.
    The City of Penticton's Energy & Emissions Plan will give us a baseline to work from. Still a lot of our homes rely on natural gas or wood for heat. Electric heating is not our only resource. There is a high potential for geothermal heating in the Okanagan Valley and I want the City to seize this opportunity to encourage and grow this industry and make it sustainable and affordable The City must take leadership to support and collaborate with home builders to build greener homes and use green technology so we can show leadership in the Province that we are taking Climate Change seriously.

Karen Brownlee

    It is very important for municipalities to act on climate change.  As the city continues to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings (energy efficient heating and cooling systems or solar panels for starters), we are also taking steps to encourage people to use other modes of transportation such as pedal bikes, e-bikes and so on.  Not only will this mode of transportation save on emissions, it will give the residents an opportunity to slow down and see other parts of the city, taking routes they may not have used in the past.
 

Steve Brown

    Yes, it is important for municipalities to act on climate change as they are the government closest to the citizens and must show guidance and leadership in this regard. They are also the closest in terms of affecting our day to day lives as they control the services that are most affected by climate change, water, sewer, utilities, garbage and transportation through our roads and sidewalks.
    I believe in the phase out of fossil fuels; promotion of electric vehicles, wind and solar energy and the many innovations for the construction of new buildings… Buildings are an obvious target for improving energy-efficient regulations and changes to the building codes. [The City] can however encourage some of these innovations by having a system of incentives to offset against development costs for the inclusion of such elements in new builds.
    Retro fit of old buildings requires an ongoing promotion of incentives offered by manufacturers for many of these elements. The planning department can play a role in that process again by looking at incentives to reduce permit costs or additional discounts on utility billings or property taxes to encourage owners to incorporate these new technologies into their renovation plans.
    Transportation – there needs to be an ongoing program to promote and expand our sidewalk system to encourage utilization. Bike lanes should be incorporated into all road upgrades so that we eventually end up with an entire bike lane system throughout the city and bike trails can be improved for usability and connectivity and are generally less intrusive than bike lanes on roads.

 

Jason Cox

    It is good that the City is engaged in a Community Energy & Emissions Plan. If elected I would work with council and staff to initiate several important changes.   First, retrofitting municipal buildings to low carbon energy sources as well as to be more efficient in their use and containment of energy.  Second, moving the city fleet to electric vehicles. Third, to implement green building standards. Fourth to move to solar, wind and micro-hydro energy production to supplement the city’s electrical utility. Fifth, moving to net metering for the city electrical utility so that residents can produce energy and sell it back to the grid. Sixth, working with the energy suppliers and the province to encourage community uptake of home improvement and appliance upgrades.
 

Kate Hansen

    I believe that it is absolutely necessary to act – and act now – on climate change. Penticton City Council plays a major role in community climate action, through building infrastructure, community planning, and conducting educational activities to influence changes in areas such as land use, energy use in buildings, transportation choices, solid waste diversion, and water use.
    The current Penticton Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) includes improving the energy efficiency of buildings, improving alternative transportation methods (such as bike routes), and reducing and diverting waste from landfills.
    I support the initiative that the City is currently driving to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as a corporation, such as energy efficient upgrades and changes to fleet.  As well, the City is helping to reduce community GHG emissions by expansion of sidewalks, bikes lanes, planting trees and waste reduction programs.


James Miller

    Yes, municipal climate action is important. Penticton’s 2019-2045 OCP provided guidelines for reducing emissions, outlining a hierarchy for transportation infrastructure investments showing pedestrian, cycling and transit uses at the top, with single occupant vehicles at the bottom. Bike lanes, more sidewalks and transit improvements are beginning to be implemented, and I support those initiatives. Encouraging reduced vehicle use will also require shade on walking routes, given our hot summers. I’d like to see more shade trees planted on municipal property, similar to the inexpensive and successful tree canopy program done by the City of Kelowna in recent years. 

     Building retrofits such as installation of roof solar panels and solar-ready new builds are initiatives I would encourage.  Support by municipalities for emission-reducing building code changes is of increasing importance. The City should certainly have responsibilities for climate action, and residents can also help.

 

James Blake (Did not answer questions but made general comments.)

    I have a few ideas I would like to propose that will move us forward, set the pace for other communities to follow and make us more kind to the environment while making our daily lives brighter.
    1. Wind mills. Denmark uses windmills placed out in the water to generate huge amounts of power. We could place windmills out in the lakes, out of the way, and not only create carbon neutral energy but ultimately lower our cost of power for everyone.
    2. There is a dam at the start of the channel. Why don't we build a new one that could not only control the flow of water better during times of high water but be a hydroelectric dam generating power for the entire city.
    3. Urban forests. There are many small bits of land throughout the city going unused. These areas could become part of an Urban Forest. The thought being that insects and birds could be aided as they travel through the city. 
    4. I believe we need to have an environmental expert on City staff permanently to ensure that we miss no opportunity to manage and enhance our environment.
    5. We have these huge polluting busses [sic] traveling the city that seem to only ever have one or two people on them. We need to replace these with smaller more efficient busses [sic] that run on something other than gas. Maybe we could even save some money running smaller busses [sic] and then increase the service times and stops helping the seniors and many others.
    6. Lake to Lake trolley. We could build an electric trolley from Downtown to Skaha Lake. It could be red and we could call it something like the OK Flyer (Okanagan Flyer) or the Penticton Flyer. It would be a great tourist attraction also.

QUESTION #2 
Climate change is adding to Penticton’s vulnerability to droughts, forest fires, and seasonal flooding. What can the municipality do to address these threats and to encourage citizens to take defensive action?


Keith MacIntyre

    I do not agree that climate change is adding to those issues.  The big flood was caused by government mismanagement of the channel.  Forest fires are a complicated issue.  Continued extinguishing of natural forest fires causes larger and more devastating fires.   Forest fire activity is not necessarily related to drought.       This year, I predict we'll have less fires because of a drier spring and less ground fuel with smaller grass. What we should be doing as citizens is taking care of the surrounding area and local communities to keep the ground fuel low.  If the municipality was to do anything, it should be to educate on that.   We can also, as private citizens, fund non-profits to increase availability of data for snow packs, precipitation, weather and fire detection.
 

Katie O’Kell

    Climate change and urban sprawl are the trifecta for forest fires. Increased temperatures means things dry out faster, creating more timber. Climate change has also increased lighting storms, meaning we have more sparks. Urban sprawl and an increased demand for lumber means we are also encroaching on forests. When you combine those three factors together it can become an unmitigated disaster.
    The first thing we can do to decrease our risk of forest fires is stop urban sprawl. Sprawl requires more lumber, more space, more carbon emissions from people driving further to and from work, and more use of our natural wilderness. Density should be encouraged on all fronts when looking at housing.
    The City should create additional water reserves in the form of water towers or large ponds. During flooding season water can be diverted to these reserves to reduce flood capacity. The reserves can then help to ‘tide us over’ during droughts and fire season.
    The City has a duty to its citizens to take proactive action to prevent further climate catastrophes both here and worldwide.

Isaac Gilbert

    Floods, fires, and droughts are all symptoms of Climate Change and are affecting our livability and the economy in the City. We must cultivate a culture in Penticton to live with the environment around us and regain the history of the land, especially collaborating with the Syilx Okanagan people, so we can become adaptable to the symptoms of Climate Change. When it comes to forest fires I want the City to collaborate with PIB, Wildfire, and RDOS to promote controlled burning projects to reduce the fuel load and also restore the land back to an open forest grassland landscape. To manage flooding I want the City to re-examine our environmental set backs and look for opportunities to increase the green spaces around oxbows and lakes.
     Finally the City must encourage new developments and residents to design
garden spaces with native plants that are adaptable to drought conditions in our valley. Following the City of Penticton's Energy & Emissions Plan, Official Community Plan, and collaborating with stakeholders we can start to seriously address climate change and take defensive action from droughts, fires, and flooding.


Karen Brownlee

    Unfortunately it seems like fires and floods will be a going concern for awhile.  As fires burn up the dead tree and ground fuels, this creates a natural barrier prevention for another fire in this area. 
    As for floods, oftentimes we are at the mercy of the weather, such as the time in 2017 when Okanagan Lake water level rose 30 cm a week for 5 weeks.  So we need to be knowledgeable in the timing of when to release excess of water through the dam.  We need to ensure we are keeping the creek barriers in good repair. Homeowners who live in a flood risk area can prevent water damage by placing sandbags early on in the season if it looks like flooding may occur.

 

Steve Brown

    Water conservation is critical to the Okanagan. I believe the city has been a leader in this program to bring water awareness to the public. A thorough review of the city website lists many water conservation ideas. The city continues to promote these practices. I would suggest a school program to educate the students on water conservation.
    The use of Xeriscape methodologies should be encouraged and incorporated into development plans approved by the city planning department. Along with appropriate tree species to encourage shade.
    Our creek restoration program which has been ongoing for years to help control flooding. Along with the dams and the river channel system to manage the pool in both our lakes has been reasonably effective, given that the larger control of the flood system is not the City’s alone.  A continued collaborative effort between the various authorities and our first nations is essential for this to be successful.
    Like our water system, the city is not the sole authority on forest management and wildfire prevention. The province plays a much larger part. However, the city is once again taking a lead role in the education and planning of wildfire prevention and preparedness. While not directly a city mandate, a coordinated effort between City Fire Services and Wildfire Services could prove useful.

 

Jason Cox

    The city can build on its program to reduce the use of water for watering lawns and washing vehicles to encourage residents and businesses to clean up dry combustibles around their property, to design more xeriscaping and less traditional lawns and plants that require a lot of water. The city can also build design and materials requirements into neighbourhoods that interface with green space to allow for less risk to the forests and the homes. The city can also build and maintain fire and flood buffers. We also need to be ready with appropriate fire, flood and drought education as well as emergency response services.
 

Kate Hansen

    For anyone living in the Okanagan – the threat of forest fires is very real.  Last summer saw the evacuation of hundreds of homes in the Penticton area, I am a big supporter of the FireSmart program. The goal of the FireSmart Canada program is to reduce the wildfire risk to property, infrastructure and public safety in the Canadian wildland/urban interface, by helping communities become fire adapted. n order to combat the change in our wildfire situation provincially, FireSmart needs to be embraced as a shared responsibility.
 

James Miller

    Reducing fire and flood risk will require staff and Council’s advocacy for intergovernmental cooperation on forestry and watershed issues. Cities have a role to play in advocating for protection of community watersheds, not only for drinking water safety and supply, but for moderation of spring runoff, which can lead to flooding.  Hillside subdivisions in forested areas should be discouraged.
    I will also support the City’s evolving food security plans and policies, including encouraging more community gardens and local food growing. We have significant amounts of agricultural land within City limits, and as food prices and the desire for quality, locally grown food rise, the City’s strategy will increase in importance.    Penticton’s grocery stores appear to be making an effort to stock more BC and local produce.  The City’s support of local food growers would help increase the availability of local food.  Less reliance on trucked-in, flown-in and imported food will help Penticton reduce our carbon footprint.