Climate Change Canada Town Hall with Terry Sheehan MP

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An invitation to attend and share ideas about Climate Change and the impacts locally, regionally and federally to Canada took place on Monday, Aug.29, 2016 in the Russ Ramsay Room at City Hall in The Sault.  MP Terry Sheehan, (Sault Ste. Marie) hosted a thoughtful group of citizens from Sault Ste. Marie and area, who generated plenty of discussion on the Climate Change front.

20160829_202931Saultonline was there, and found Erin Heineman, ‘350.org’ as she was heading into City Hall. “I hope a lot of people come out for this tonight.” she said.

As it turns out, there were empty seats, but that certainly didn’t diminish the robust discussion that took place over the course of two hours or more.

Sheehan said “We (Government of Canada) are pleased to be holding a consultation on Climate Change. A number of us (MP’s) have been asked to host town hall consultations to generate discussion and comments about the issue of Climate Change. I’m here to listen, and to bring your views and suggestions back to the task force.”

Concrete ideas on ways to create meaningful pathways to reducing our climate change footprint came from concerned individuals, non-profit organization members, and the business sector.

“One of the priorities of our government is to combat climate change. Climate Change Canada’s Minister Catherine McKenna, has developed a task force where information we gather, will help them deal with climate change. The secondary piece,(to hosting consultations) is that it raises awareness in the community and the country. Your feedback and ideas will contribute to Canada’s approach on climate change and will ensure that our riding of Sault Ste. Marie is part of the conversation.” said Sheehan. “Climate Change is a global problem. It’s one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime.”

“We’re witnessing corporations having more control over our resources, especially in the mining industry.” shared Karrie Oliver, one of several concerned citizens who took the time to head to City Hall for the town hall meeting.

20160829_184907“Individuals often feel like they have no individual impact.” shared another citizen. “Part of this, is education. What it is (climate change). Hopefully, by educating people,  individuals and families can take some of the responsibility for their own impact on the environment. We can take steps to change our behaviour. People feel helpless sometimes, but it is important to get educated on the subject.”

The Sault Ste. Marie and District Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Rory Ring said, “One of the things that we need to grapple with, is that greenhouse gases are not confined within a border. The reality is that Canada only contributes 2 % of greenhouse gases globally. When public policy is implemented we have to understand the level of impact that we’re taking, and what we’re willing to give up. Understanding the economic impacts of how public  policy affects the economy.”

Regarding ‘Cap and Trade’, Ring said  “This would withdraw 5 million dollars out of the residential consumer potentially. 80% of energy usage is non-residential, equating to 20 or 30 million dollars being extracted from our community’s economy. If the federal government layers on another level of taxation, what is that going to do in terms of extracting economy from our local community, which is stressed as it is?”

Sheehan stated that the ‘Cap and Trade’ issue is a portion of what the task force will be looking at, and a number of corporations have made suggestions through this consultation process. That discussion is ongoing.”

Ring further said that from a business perspective, the vast majority of businesses he has engaged with, would support a federal system, over a provincial system, where a comprehensive federal policy is implemented fairly. “Interprovincial organizations will only have to deal with one accounting system, one level of administration.” he said. “There’s a need for mechanisms to be put in place, where those dollars being extracted are cycled back in to our community to ensure prosperity for the Sault, for example.”

20160829_190014York University, (Toronto, Ontario) Osgoode Hall Law School published a research paper by Gus Van Harten, in ‘Social Science Network’, titled  ‘Foreign Investor Protection and Climate Action: A New Price Tag for Urgent Policies’.

Abstract excerpt as follows: ‘From a climate perspective, not all investment is equal. Desirable investment in clean energy needs encouragement and protection, while undesirable investment in fossil fuels needs clear policy signals to avoid further investment in destructive activities and stranding more assets. In this paper, evidence is presented on how foreign investor protection provisions in trade and investment agreements tilt the playing field in favor of entrenched incumbents and against urgent action on climate; on the potential for a massive expansion of investor-state litigation and risks to climate policy in proposed trade deals; and on key flaws in recent European Commission proposals to reform investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).’  The entire document can be found here: digitalcommons

Kieran O’Neill Smart Energy Business Strategist, Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre raised discussion around implementation of ‘green’ initiative programmes, especially provincially, where complicated processes create challenges for business and organizations to undertake. He spoke about the solar industry where fluctuating government supported programmes and policies have created ‘solar-coaster’, leaving many businesses having to cease operation in uncertain times.

One participant said, “Fear of other countries not doing their fair share to reduce their impact on climate change, doesn’t negate our responsibility to do so. Transportation costs are the ones where we need to make investment. It is a regional issue. Urban sprawl, and the car culture that we are accustomed to, have consequences. Northern municipalities need to start investigating solutions that mitigate our dependency on cars. Cycling and rail, are two examples of where we can make huge gains in conservation initiatives.”

Another individual said, “We’re losing ground on (municipal) bus transportation in the Sault. Further to that, we have a greatly reduced schedule with the Greyhound Bus and those connections. It’s not working well. There are only two buses a day (from Sault) running with Greyhound at this point. You basically need a car to live in this city.”

Expanding on the transportation issue, Linda Savoy Gordon, PhD, Nordik Institute and C.A.P.T. (Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains) said that Canada could benefit from a multi -modal transportation policy.

“We need to be focused on more than air and roads. Rail transportation, rail lines, both passenger and freight, especially for long hauls, are much cheaper to maintain, and there are less carbon emissions. We can’t afford to keep investing in roads as our principal mode of transportation. Roads are unforgiving with temperature change. Rails are much more forgiving. Every time you re-pave a road, the emissions from asphalt are essentially destroying the climate, not to mention the machines that are brought in for road work and construction. All of that creates a burden on the environment.”

“Even in the short term, there are things that the federal government can do.” she said.  “We’re at risk of losing the ‘Canadian’ train; The train that comes from B.C. (British Columbia) to Toronto and Montreal. It’s slated to have it’s subsidy reduced. Without a subsidy, rail can’t function.  VIA Rail could be running our Huron-Central line. VIA’s mandate is to provide rail passenger service throughout Canada. We should be able to get on a train here and go to Sudbury, Toronto or Thunder Bay and points west and east.”

Gordon further said,  “We’re so isolated here. VIA rail could be supporting rail transportation in the North. The A.C.R. is our only remaining line. Not only do we need more rail, we need to keep the small amount that we do have. With highway closures that happen, especially in winter, we need another way to get to places like Health Sciences North, for example, in Sudbury.  We should really be a northern hub for transportation connections from places like Wawa, Hearst, Elliot Lake, White River and more. We should be looking at a Regional Transportation policy and mechanism. Switching to more rail will help immensely in reducing our climate footprint.  Switching to more rail is one of the best ways to tackle emissions from the transportation sector.”

20160829_185547(0)Anshumali Dwivedi, CEO, Port of Algoma  shared insight as well.

“Major corporations and smaller corporations need to be more concerned about their impact on the environment.  When we talk about the environment, it’s not just about greenhouse gases which are  emitted into the air, but also about the emissions that are going into the water and land. A lot of focus globally is on GHG but there has to be awareness of contamination happening to the land and water, especially from major industries.”

Dwivedi went on to say, “Newer and modern (industrial sector) facilities and plants being built are better at mitigating environmental impacts, and are more compliant with industry standards.”

“In terms of water transportation, the per ton emissions going up into the air  in road vs. water or rail is a fraction. The per tonne emission is something like 300 times.” adding  “If you take a tonne of freight off the highways, that’s the amount of emissions you’re taking off in a proportionate basis.

“Heavy transports put a lot of pressure per square foot on highways.” he said. “Moving freight  to cleaner means of transporting it, is something we should be doing better.”

Dwivedi expressed concern about the pressure freight could have for our waters. “We have pristine waters here, and we want to protect what we have. If we’re putting more freight on the waters, what are we doing to the water. We need to control what is going into the waters. We need to be thinking about regulations around ballast water control, invasive species and other things.” he shared.

“At The Port of Algoma, there are a couple of things we would like to achieve. In the present and near future, we are looking at what can be done to improve the infrastructure we have presently.” said Dwivedi.

“The second thing is,  As we build facilities, are we building them for the future. It may cost more in the beginning, but the environmental impact is lower, and we are protecting the next generation. Corporations  need shareholders that support the corporation spending a little more now, ensuring that environmental protection and mechanisms are in place, not just for today, but for the future as well.”

Robert Rattle, Crane Institute for Sustainability, challenged the climate change task force to look at industry standards for renewable energy, sharing that Scotland (as one example) is way ahead of Canada in terms of utilizing renewable energy.

“From the standpoint of fuel, we need to look at what we are doing in Canada. We waste 2.3 billion dollars, or 200.000.000 litres of fuel annually through needless (vehicle) idling. We need to take collective steps as a nation to reduce those numbers, especially where air quality is concerned. We need to ensure that Canada, as a global leader, incorporates climate change  into every decision government makes.” (http://craneinstitute4sus.wixsite.com/ci4s)

To take The Crane Institute for Sustainability’s Climate Change Survey go here: http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/andrew-brown-DGK/climate-change/.

Other issues raised were the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and Energy East Pipeline.

As one person stated, “This town hall is democracy in action.”

To exercise your democratic right and share you ‘two cents worth’ on the subject of Climate Change, go to:

www.canada.ca

Sheehan said that the task force will be receiving comments on the website for a period of time, and all comments will be organized and shared with the task force for consideration.

You can also submit your ideas by mail at:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Climate Policy Office

14th floor, Fontaine Building

200 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard

Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @environmentca. Participate in the #ClimateChange conversation using hashtag #CANClimateAction .

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