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Opinion: Proposed wood stove ban is a flawed approach

Local wood burning industry urges residents to contact their local representatives
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Family-owned, local businesses desire to be part of the solution for a more sustainable clean air solution.

It’s expected that the Comox Valley Regional District will soon recommend the phase-out of all wood stoves across the Comox Valley. Local members of the wood-burning industry feel this is a flawed plan that lacks adequate consultation, so they’re urging residents to contact their local politicians and voice their concerns on the potential ban.

According to Richard Oliver, Owner and Operator of Oliver’s Power Vacuum & Chimney Sweep, “this is a discussion that, to date, has been had by a few, and it’s past time the voices of the many be heard.”

Independent polling suggests that Oliver isn’t the only Comox Valley resident who feels this way. According to a report from public opinion firm Insights West, only 16% of residents feel there has been sufficient public consultation on the matter. The same report also reveals that 92% of residents agree that people should have the right to choose how they heat their homes, and 82% agree that they should be able to install high-efficiency wood-burning stoves.

The anticipated ban aims to improve air quality, but local businesses say alternative solutions are being overlooked. Tomi Wittwer of Comox Fireplace says, “the process is flawed; however, there is still time to make this right and develop good regulation to address air quality while ensuring the right of people to burn wood. All local industry has come together, and we are asking for a real seat at the table.”

Jamie Payne from Norse Heating echoes this sentiment: “We all live and work in this area with our families and we breathe the same air, we can help.”

Payne continues to be disappointed by efforts to address the region’s air quality concerns and feels left behind by the process. “We took out a loan and renovated our new location after being a home-based business for almost five years. The storefront opened in late October and the COVID-19 crisis took place a few months later. It was during this time that the City of Courtenay voted to ban the installation of wood stoves in new construction and renovations. There was no advance notice.”

According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada (HPBAC), members throughout BC and across the country have been incredibly supportive of local industry. “Local industry members are the experts, and they want to work with the CVRD to provide meaningful solutions, but they aren’t being heard,” says HPBAC’s Director of Public Affairs, Jeff Loder.

Local business owners are puzzled as to why prohibiting wood appliances appears to be the only regulatory option on the table. According to Loder, “the CVRD and, by extension, the Airshed Roundtable process has a duty to examine and thoroughly review all regulatory options before making recommendations. That’s all local businesses ask for; it’s the bedrock of good public policy.”

“We all want to improve air quality and the environment; no one is refuting that,” Loder says. “But it doesn’t mean you can arbitrarily adopt or recommend without due consideration for the impact on the community, local businesses, and the right to have a modern, cleaner-burning wood stove.”

There is still time to save your wood stove. Visit saveourwoodstoves.ca to learn more.