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EDITORIAL: Cooling for everyone

Province needs to work on getting cooling options for renters and seniors
Patrick Burnette looks over fans and air conditioners at a Home Depot hardware store, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, in Seattle. The British Columbia government is giving its Crown power utility $10 million to provide vulnerable people with free air-conditioning units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Elaine Thompson

Communities across British Columbia had cooling centres activated last week for those who needed somewhere to go to escape the brutal daytime heat.

It was a welcome addition to our existing stock of places for people to cool off.

While we do have public libraries, spray parks, rec centres, and movie theatres, those aren’t all viable options for all of our citizens all of the time, including the most vulnerable.

Some cost money to attend, and most of them close down before the day’s heat has fully faded, especially during a brutal heat wave.

We’re lucky that last week’s heat, while unpleasant for those who have to work outdoors or lack air conditioning, isn’t going to be as intense or lethal as the heat dome was two years ago.

During and after the heat dome, local and provincial authorities were relatively slow to change long-standing procedures.

There have always been heat waves, and for decades, it was thought that it was the responsibility of individuals to deal with them.

Now we are slowly realizing that increasing heat – both from climate change and from the concrete and asphalt heat islands that our urban cores have become – require a collective response.

Yet two years after a heat dome killed 619 British Columbians, and the town of Lytton burned to the ground, we’re still seeing roadblocks.

The efforts to get air conditioners to vulnerable renters, especially seniors and those with physical disabilities, is being held up by some apartment landlords who insist on banning the units.

If there are concerns about electrical systems not being able to handle the load, the province needs to get working with landlords on ways to upgrade old buildings.

Because we have a lot of old buildings in B.C., built for an era when summers were cooler and damper. But we’re not going back to those days.

– Black Press Media