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Councillors urge end to fossil-fuel subsidies at conference

Mayors and councillors believe there’s a climate emergency, but they don’t support local governments suing fossil-fuel companies to recover the costs. Instead, they’re calling for an end to fossil-fuel company subsidies.
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Pumpjacks are shown pumping crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., on June 20, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

Mayors and councillors believe there’s a climate emergency, but they don’t support local governments suing fossil-fuel companies to recover the costs. Instead, they’re calling for an end to fossil-fuel company subsidies.

Delegates to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities in Powell River have overwhelmingly supported a resolution from the Sunshine Coast Regional District urging the province to declare a provincewide climate emergency.

At their weekend conference, they defeated one from the City of Victoria recommending municipalities look at launching a class-action lawsuit against major fossil-fuel companies to recover costs associated with climate change.

But they passed a late resolution put forward by Victoria that B.C. and Canadian municipalities lobby the provincial and federal governments to end subsidies to fossil-fuel companies and instead invest that money in local governments’ efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“There was a very, very strong lineup at the ‘con’ mic talking about the need to have a more collaborative approach,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, noting that some people who voted against the lawsuit motion were in favour of ending subsidies to fossil-fuel companies and giving the money to local governments.

“So I would say overall the message that comes out of the conference is that climate change is really important to the local governments on the Island — that there is urgency.”

The resolution noted that the province recently approved a $5.35-billion package of tax incentives for a $40-billion LNG Canada megaproject, supported by $1.275 billion from the federal government.

According to a 2015 report by the International Monetary Fund, the annual federal subsidy to the fossil-fuel industry is $46 billion.

The City of Victoria also got support for its calls to allow people as young as 16 and non-citizen permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow, a former Somali refugee, advocated giving permanent residents the vote. “There are so many community members who are disenfranchised: educators, doctors, taxpayers. These are people who live in the community. They’ve moved here permanently. These are not temporary foreign workers or international students or people who are just on a working visa,” Dubow said.

Operating under the umbrella of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities represents local governments, including regional districts, on Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, the North Coast and the Central Coast.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com