Katrine Conroy

Katrine Conroy

Kootenay West candidates on extreme weather events

How do you and your party propose to plan for the region’s safety and sustainability given these extreme weather conditions?

B.C.’s provincial election is May 9 and Kootenay West has three candidates in the running. Incumbent Katrine Conroy, NDP; Jim Postnikoff, Liberal; and Samantha Troy, Green Party.

Two weeks ago, the Castlegar News began a three-part Q&A with the candidates, addressing three different election issues over three weeks leading up to the election. The first two questions we asked was about health care, and jobs and the economy. For our final week, we asked about extreme weather events.

Castlegar News: Extreme weather events in the West Kootenay led to a high number of wildfires in 2015 and more recently to flooding and slide events. How do you and your party propose to plan for the region’s safety and sustainability given these extreme weather conditions?

Katrine Conroy:

Extreme weather conditions that have happened recently in our area are a part of the changes that are occurring due to climate change. As a political party, we understand that climate change is one of the most significant challenges we face. We need to take action to modernize our economy, improve transportation and lower our impact on the environment.

By protecting our environment and taking action on climate change we will build a sustainable economy and create good jobs in every sector and every region of our province, for the present and the future. As a part of our platform, we have announced that we will invest in public transit, energy efficiency, clean technology, and other major initiatives that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We will invest new carbon tax revenues in measures that help families and reduce carbon pollution.

We will also renew the Climate Leadership panel within our first 100 days of being in office and work towards implementing their recommendations under our core principles for climate action. We will put B.C. on a path to meeting B.C.’s legislated 2050 greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 80 per cent below 2007 levels and will set a new legislated 2030 reduction target of 40 per cent below 2007 levels.

From investing in reforestation, to building new rapid transit solutions, to a comprehensive clean energy program called PowerBC, the BC NDP will invest in the long-term success of our economy, while doing our part to fight climate change. Together, these programs will create thousands of jobs, and strengthen our economy for today and into the future.

Most of the safety planning that occurs within the region happens at a local government level. We are committed to working in partnership with our local governments to develop proper processes and planning for these types of events.

Jim Postnikoff:

Our protection personnel are trained to the highest standards and they possess some of the highest skills in the world towards wildfire mitigation. We are very fortunate to have such outstanding professionals serving throughout the province. I salute the women and men for their hard work and dedication.

Flood mitigation is an ongoing effort with the provincial government providing funding alongside the federal government and local governments. The government will work with UBCM and communities to develop emergency response plans and preventative projects around floods. Areas identified as slide risk areas are always being monitored by geotechnical personnel and plans are put into place to deal with the situations as they arise.The public is always asked to report on any area that may be of concern. The government is providing emergency management funding with more than $26 million in annual funding for the next three years. Will create a $3000 tax credit for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue workers. Also implement an early warning system for schools, hospitals and other emergency operations sites.

Samantha Troy:

Our climate is changing, and while it is important to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we also need to also acknowledge the reality that we have already committed ourselves to rising global temperatures and extreme weather events for years to come; and that without proper preparation, the economic and social consequences are potentially catastrophic.

While the biophysical impacts of climate change on ecosystems, forests, agriculture, fisheries and water are quite well understood, there has been limited integration of these risks into planning.

Communities must be protected from bearing the costs of negative environmental impacts and be assured that they are benefiting from the exploitation of nearby resources. A B.C. Green government will make the resilience of our natural asset base a priority. We will work with industrial sectors that will be impacted by climate change to develop integrated climate risk management and resilience plans to preserve long-term economic and environmental sustainability, and promote best practices. Sectors affected by climate change include forestry, mining, tourism, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture and energy. The plans will not only be internal to the industry, but will consider competing interests of the different industries.

A B.C. Green government will re-establish the integrity of the environmental assessment process and establish clear criteria for decisions that fully factor in sustainability and cumulative impacts. We will establish a natural resource sector-wide compliance and enforcement unit that will be responsible for the continuum of compliance and enforcement activities from inspections to prosecution. Twenty million dollars will be allocated to enhance monitoring, compliance and enforcement.

A B.C. Green government will establish a Natural Resource Commissioner who will lead a Natural Resources Board ( NRB ) that is responsible for reporting on the state of B.C.’s environment and natural resources. The NRB will conduct cumulative impact assessments, and oversee the professional reliance model.

A B.C. Green government will rebuild the scientific and technical capability of the B.C. Public Service. We will enact a modern, evidence-based, multi-objective B.C. Forest and Range Ecology Act. The legislation will implement global best practices in forestry, and be focused on restoring wildlife habitat, improving forest productivity, reforestation, and addressing priority forest health issues.

Protecting water quality and quantity requires good data to be able to determine the quality of the water and how much is available, and to identify where there are problems. It also requires ensuring that all water users, and all activities occurring in close proximity to water sources, are following the requirements to keep water clean, and there must be strict compliance monitoring and enforcement when regulations are contravened.

A B.C. Green government will work with professional associations and local governments to ensure that the design of stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water infrastructure fully accounts for the risks of a changing climate.

A B.C. Green government will review the water allocation and licensing provisions of the Water Sustainability Act to ensure that they fully protect B.C.’s water quality and quantity, so that it is sustainable for future generations. We will initiate a comprehensive, province-wide water and watershed planning process, in collaboration with local governments, First Nations, and other government agencies, stewardship organizations, water use sectors and community stakeholders. The plans will address water supply and demand, protecting drinking water quality, integration of land use planning and water and watershed planning, and conflicting water use demands.

These actions are part of the integrated bold plan that B.C. Greens are committed to implementing in order to best position our communities for a sustainable, safe and prosperous future.