No climate emergency in East Ferris

East Ferris joins North Bay in modifying widespread declaration

Fourteen trailers were lost at Sid Turcotte Park in Mattawa after rising water levels flooded the well-known tourist destination early May, causing an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the site itself. Supplied Photo

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CORBEIL — In a similar move to its neighbour in North Bay, the Municipality of East Ferris affirmed its commitment to fight climate change but opted not to declare an emergency as other municipalities have done.

Council voted Tuesday during a meeting at the Corbeil Park Hall to remove all references to a climate emergency from a motion introduced by Coun. Erika Lougheed, in part because many municipalities have referred to the resolution as “symbolic.”

Much of the original motion was kept, including details about the negative effects of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions, while paragraphs stating the municipality’s plans to protect the environment, and a line about “ensuring the health and survival of Mother Earth as essential,” were added.

Prior to the vote, Lougheed, who was the only member of council who voted against the change in wording, said municipalities are well positioned to affect positive change in their own backyards and urged her colleagues to “walk bravely forward” in support of the motion.

Lougheed later said she believes the amendment was made in good faith, but doesn’t believe it is enough to address “the urgent and emerging needs that are happening across the globe.”

She added that the intent was for the motion to not just be symbolic, but lead to actions that could be measured and reported back to the public.

“That’s really why I’m here is to facilitate and create change and the symbolic part, I can’t stress enough that it’s also important that it’s an act of solidarity, and municipalities have an incredible amount of power over people’s day-to-day lives,” she said.

“And this motion was to celebrate the effects and the things that people are already doing, but also enhance and change the lens so that we can move forward in the future today.”

East Ferris and the City of North Bay are the latest municipalities to not declare a climate emergency when others in the province, including Sudbury and West Nipissing, have already done so.

The discussion in North Bay grew heated when the matter came up last week, with members of the gallery heckling councillors and storming out when council appeared to be leaning toward striking the term climate emergency from its motion.

Save for one person who called out East Ferris council following the vote, the amended motion passed without any other vocal complaints from the public.

The changes were supported by Coun. Terry Kelly, Coun. Steven Trahan, deputy mayor Michel Voyer and Mayor Pauline Rochefort.

Kelly, who introduced the amendment, said the term “symbolic” had bothered him, adding that the municipality is working to become more energy efficient.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter so I respond to emergencies on a regular basis and an emergency requires immediate action.”

Kelly said the climate has changed and that “every sane person in the world” is against pollution, but felt what is needed are long-term lifestyle changes.

“It’s an emotional issue, but we base our improvements, we try to base them on science and best practice.”

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