Nelson mayoral candidates grappled with climate and environmental issues at a forum in Nelson on Oct. 5.
About 160 people attended the session at Nelson United Church, sponsored by the Nelson Chapter of the Council of Canadians, West Kootenay Climate Hub and Nelson Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health.
All 10 council candidates and all but one mayoral candidate attended. Mayoral candidate Mike Zeabin was not present.
Candidates were given three questions in advance and one minute to answer each.
Question 1. Nelson has a traffic, pollution and parking problem. The Nelson Next plan on climate change states that we should lead the country in public transit, easier cycling and walking routes, and electric transportation. What will you do to make this happen?
Mayoral candidate Tom Pryor has said he will make downtown Baker Street car-free.
Mayoral candidate John Buffery said he wants to reduce the dangers of cycling on the Orange Bridge (owned and operated by the provincial government) and would like to extend an (already planned) bike path from downtown to Rosemont, in order to reduce parking problems. and pollution.
Outgoing councilor Jesse Woodward said he would support the city’s climate energy team that has been hired to implement Nelson Next, the city’s climate plan.
Outgoing councilor Rik Logtenberg said he was pushing for more public transport, including a daily trip to Salmo and a card payment system for fares. As a member of the West Kootenay Transit Committee, he said he advocates an electric bus for Nelson to begin the transition to electricity.
Outgoing councilor Keith Page said council needed to find ways to make public transport the most “practical, appropriate and superior” option. He said the active transportation route from downtown to Rosemont is a priority and that anything developed must be equitable and accessible to everyone, including tenants.
Outgoing Mayor John Dooley said transportation is a complex issue because in summer Nelson’s population temporarily doubles due to foreigners arriving by car, and they arrive in response to our marketing of the area to tourists. As for the transit system, Dooley said the planned transit interchange for Victoria Street will help.
Council candidate Glen Sutherland said all modes of transport must be an integrated system. He said the crosswalks at Nelson and Orange Bridge are dangerous for cyclists. Predictive technology, Sutherland said, could be used to solve traffic problems.
Mayoral candidate Janice Morrison added that the system should be regionally interconnected and that there is money available for bus shelters. She said she wanted to see park-and-ride facilities for daily out-of-town commuters.
Council candidate Leslie Payne said the council should legislate designated places in new developments for car-sharing vehicles. She also wants to see more snow removal enforcement on major roads and the e-bike funding scheme extended to those who may not currently be eligible.
Other candidates have all said that public transit is an important issue and that they would work to improve it.
Question 2. Several municipalities in British Columbia, including Victoria, Comox and Vancouver, are phasing out natural gas and introducing fossil fuel-free heating in all new buildings by 2025. Do you support Nelson making even and, if so, how would you do it? help him move forward?
Three candidates – Page, Prior and council candidate Brenton Raby – said they did not support that.
Raby said he would support private innovators working in this area, but not the city, as the city has allowed the installation of gas heaters to heat outdoor restaurant patios.
Page said he wanted to focus on renovating old buildings instead, citing plans for the Civic Center as an example, which “will wrap an envelope around this old building.”
Prior said the city should heat all new buildings with geothermal energy instead and should have done so decades ago.
Logtenberg and Woodward said they support this, but it’s a complex issue because natural gas is the cheapest available fuel and any change risks making heating less affordable for those who have the least the means. They said the Nelson Next climate plan provides a framework for reducing emissions from buildings.
Dooley said provincial and federal funding for it is inconsistent and he would work for more consistency.
Other candidates answered “yes” to this question, suggesting an unspecific mix of realistic timelines, incentives, rebates, education, consulting with experts and expanding Nelson Hydro.
Question 3. What is your idea of a major project that would put Nelson on the map as a leading environmental/climate action community in Canada?
Morrison said she wanted to see more extensive renovations to the civic center, funding for which has already been secured by the current council. She said Nelson already has two nationally recognized made in Nelson programs, the EcoSave program and the e-bike loaner program.
Payne said she doesn’t care about putting Nelson on the map, but rather that Nelson should provide solutions for people who live here, now and in the future.
Council candidate Kyle Wilkinson also said he doesn’t care about putting Nelson on the map. He mentioned food security but no specific project.
Council candidate Jesse Pineiro said Nelson should use its public spaces for food production.
Sutherland said no specific project on its own will put Nelson on the map for more than one news cycle. He praised the current council for its climate initiatives and said the city needs to build a culture of climate awareness.
Dooley said it was important for us to be on the map because it helps the city secure provincial and federal grants for climate initiatives. He did not propose any specific project.
Raby said Nelson Hydro should install “advanced metering infrastructure” (smart meters) to help the utility manage usage spikes and help customers save energy and money. He said there should be appropriate confidentiality safeguards.
Council candidate Ainsleah Hastings has advocated rooftop gardens, saying buildings are the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and citing research that shows many of the benefits of rooftop gardens, including that they lose less heat in summer and are cooler in summer.
Page advocated restoring the wetlands between Cottonwood Lake and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek, with a walking/cycling corridor that would connect to the rail trail.
Logtenberg said Nelson was already on the card or he wouldn’t get the grants Dooley was referring to. He said his plan would be to share Nelson’s big ideas with the rest of the world, and he cited the federally funded Youth Climate Corps as an example.
Woodward said Nelson is already on the map because of his Nelson Next climate plan and the staff that are in place for him, and now the plan is to implement it.
Buffery wants to see the unoccupied land near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek and the old transfer station (contaminated land owned partly by the city and partly by CP Rail) returned to its natural state.
A forum for Nelson City and School Council candidates will be held at the Wildflower School Gymnasium at 811 Stanley Street at 7 p.m. on October 11, sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women.
A debate for candidates for city council and mayor sponsored by the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce will be held at 7 p.m. on October 12 at the Prestige Lakeside Resort at 701 Lakeside Dr.
Nominations, for city council and mayoral candidates in which candidates circulate tables at Torchlight Brewing at 125 Hall St., are sponsored by the BC Greens, will take place at 6:30 p.m. on October 13.
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