When it comes to combating climate change, the Capital Regional District must put forward a united front.
That message came through when the CRD board voted against Central Saanich’s request to opt out of the region’s climate action and adaptation service.
That program facilitates how the entire region reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, provides communities with data and scientific expertise and coordinates preparation for the impact of climate change.
While individual communities fund the program, the service is supplemented by grants. Every CRD municipality agreed to increasing the amount they contribute to the service, except for Central Saanich, which requested to withdraw as of 2023.
Its exit would mean every other CRD local government would have to pay 4.5 per cent more to cover the shortfall. Mayor Ryan Windsor said his municipality has a comprehensive climate plan mainly focused on building and operations emissions.
“I think there’s an emotive belief around this table that the regional district has a bigger role to play than in fact it does, that is our view,” he said at Wednesday’s CRD board meeting.
Director Colin Plant said he usually tries to be agnostic on issues due to his position as board chair, but this prompted him to speak up on the matter.
“If there was ever something we want to stand together and say we want to work together, it is climate action,” he said. “Climate change impacts all of us … This is a time when we say as a region, ‘no, we stand together on climate change and climate adaptation and mitigation measures.’”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps worried allowing the withdrawal would cause a domino effect of communities leaving regional initiatives.
“I think it’s a very dangerous precedent to let one local government out,” she said.
Windsor pushed that Central Saanich can’t have a lot of influence on transportation efforts and as a small rural centre, it feels the impact of the money contributions more than others.
Both Helps and Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell – noting she would normally support a community prioritizing its interests – were concerned the region not showing unity would lead to losing out on funding from senior governments.
“What they always tell us when we look for money on transportation is, ‘if you’re not all in this together, we don’t know how much to give you, and we’re going to stop giving you this money,’” Blackwell said.
While in the stark minority, a few directors said Central Saanich should have the autonomy to represent its residents by opting out, regardless of its climate action position.
Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said he believes in municipal sovereignty where appropriate, but not on an issue where ownership of assets within Central Saanich are shared by the CRD.
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