Town of Qualicum Beach council has agreed to declare a climate emergency.
It was a motion made by Coun. Teunis Westbroek at council’s regular meeting on Aug. 10 that also directed staff to provide a report outlining potential actions relating to the climate emergency, including priority goals for greenhouse gas emissions and other sustainability goals.
But prior to the vote, Coun. Scott Harrison made an amendment to the motion to also include housing crisis and health care in the emergency declaration.
Westbroek didn’t agree with the amendment as he felt it would dilute the true intention of his motion, which is to address the issue of climate change.
“You can build houses, we can attract doctors, but if we don’t do something about climate change, none of the other stuff is relevant,” said Westbroek. “So I think, the environment that they come to live in is more important right now than providing for them a place to live. That’s the overriding umbrella, is to make sure we have a safe environment. That we have a place where people can live and breathe and eat food from local food production. That is the idea.”
Climate change has been a hot topic in town and was highlighted during the third annual March for our Future last month. The event also honoured the dedication of students from the Fridays for Future group from Kwalikum Secondary School, who have continued their strike against the lack of action to stop the climate crisis. They have been protesting near the entrance of the Town of Qualicum Beach’s municipal office for over 50 weeks every Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The issue was also discussed by residents at the committee of the whole meeting on July 27, where Westbroek made a recommendation that council declare a climate emergency. He commended the members of the Friday for Future group.
“They’ve shown remarkable leadership and done it very professionally, very democratically,” said Westbroek. “They didn’t insult anybody. They didn’t get angry with anybody. They’re just trying to educate people. This is wonderful that our youth is educating us. Because they’re going to be living with the pieces after we will be gone. So I admire them and I think this is the least we can do.”
Coun. Robert Filmer calls the declaration of a climate emergency a huge deal that would require immediate action. He said he respects and supports the group raising the issue of climate change, but he is not in favour of Westbroek’s motion and the proposed amendments.
“I apologize for the people that it may upset, however, we need to make sure that the message we’re sending is very clear,” said Filmer. “We have many plans and bylaws that are coming into place to support these issues. That’s what we can do. That’s what we do. We have climate adaptation plans, we have tree management bylaws. We have things that we can put in place to mange our climate and do what we’re doing.”
Filmer said they don’t need to add the town to a list that already includes other major cities, towns and communities across the country and the world calling for ways to stop climate change.
“Have these big leaders and their big governments made any changes,” Filmer asked. ‘No. At the end of the day I am not interested in just adding our name to a list thank you.”
Council eventually voted in favour of Harrison’s amendment to Westbroek’s motion 4-1 with Filmer opposed. Then they voted 4-1 again to support the amended motion with Filmer the only one against it.
“My preference, it would be the climate emergency that is declared, but if it means having that adopted along with the others then I would be willing to compromise rather not having it declared at all,” said Skipsey.