City council opts not to join hundreds of municipalities across Canada in making the declaration
The City of North Bay has shied away from declaring a climate emergency citing concerns over the negative connotation behind the use of the word.
The majority of council voted Tuesday to amend a motion introduced by Coun. Scott Robertson, removing the reference to a climate emergency and replacing it with paragraphs highlighting the city’s energy conservation plan and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by nine per cent since 2007, among others.
Deputy mayor Tanya Vrebosch, who introduced the amendment, said she believes the intent of the motion is still there.
Speaking to reporters, Vrebosch acknowledged that climate change is a crisis and a significant issue, but she did not view it as an emergency.
“To me I think it’s being used to try to get the attention of upper levels of government. But to me what I’m trying to say is ‘Let’s take it from being symbolic and let’s do something with it,’” she said.
The motion was also changed to say that council would discuss climate change initiatives during its 2020 budget deliberations and Vrebosch said she hopes the message is that council is “strong on climate change.
“We need to just stop talking about crisis or emergency, and we have to just realize that we just need to do our part and that’s what we’re doing at the City of North Bay. It needs to stay positive and this should not be a negative message, because we want this to get out to business that we do care about the environment, and that’s the message.”
The amendment was supported by Vrebosch, along with councillors Dave Mendicino, Mike Anthony, Marcus Tignanelli, Bill Vrebosch, Johanne Brousseau and Mark King, as well as Mayor Al McDonald.
Robertson, who was joined by councillors Mac Bain and Chris Mayne in opposing the change, said he was disappointed but respected the will of council.
He said he did not agree that the intent of the motion remained, adding he wasn’t sure exactly what the motivation was for the amendment.
“The intention of the motion was to be part of a movement of jurisdictions, including hundreds of municipalities across Canada, who have made emergency declarations, and council was unwilling to do that tonight.”
Cities across Ontario have passed similar motions, including Sudbury whose council voted unanimously last week in favour of declaring a climate emergency.
During the debate at North Bay council, some councillors took issue with the use of the word emergency and felt it detracted from the work that previous members and city staff have done in tackling climate change.
“I will stand by my record of supporting climate change initiatives … and I will continue to support it and I will continue to push for new initiatives,” Mendicino said.
“But to diminish the efforts of the city and council if we don’t classify this as an emergency is wrong, just plain wrong.”
Several people walked out of the gallery while councillors debated, with some using the word emergency and telling councillors to “be bold.”
“I think the future circumstances are going to show this was an old-fashioned way of looking at things and North Bay is going to be in that column, not in the progressive column,” Nipissing Environmental Watch membership co-ordinator Peggy Walsh Craig said.
Brennain Lloyd, a member of Northwatch, meanwhile called it an “opportunity lost.
“I think there’s an opportunity here to send a very clear message to the community and to municipalities that are part of this movement, that North Bay gets it, that we recognize this is an emergency.”