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Port Alberni council endorses climate, food security measures

Pared-down list includes market-garden, home conversion incentives

Mike Youds,

Special to the News

Council has voted firmly in favour of five shelf-ready recommendations from the city’s food security and climate disruption committee, including support for a centralized food distribution network in Port Alberni.

Councillor Chris Alemany said at Monday’s regular meeting that the recommendations are the “low-hanging fruit” among a lengthier list of 10 first proposed by the committee.

“It’s a package that’s ready and that can be adopted or not adopted by council,” he said.

The package includes:

1. That the city’s parks and recreation department incorporate public education programming on back yard composing.

2. That the committee investigate how the city might join other municipalities and levels of government in current or future class action lawsuits against fossil fuel corporations over mitigation costs for climate change.

3. That the city expand its current in oil-to-heat-pump conversion program, which offers a financial incentive to city homeowners, to include woodstoves.

4. That the city contact community stakeholders to encourage establishment of a centralized food distribution in the community.

5. That city staff look into adoption of the ACRD’s Water for Growth recommendations. Specifically, these include a residential rainwater harvesting rebate program (two per year at $750), a residential food-garden watering billing credit (10 per year at $50 each) and a community garden water rate ($1 per year).

The class-action recommendation drew initial concern from some on council.

“This isn’t a motion to participate in any action,” Alemany explained, indicating that the committee would merely look into the matter and report back to council.

“I appreciate your clarification,” said Councillor Ron Paulson. “This is the one that really had me kind of mind-boggled a bit. I just want to make the sure that we don’t get dragged into some sort of social disobedience as a municipality.”

The conversion incentives take advantage of the province’s recent inclusion of woodstoves in its program.

“This woodstove-to-heat-pump is brand new,” Alemany said. Only one resident took advantage of the oil conversion incentive and the program would see greater uptake from including woodstoves, he said.

In the case of the food distribution network, the hope is to foster a more effective approach.

“There is an acknowledgement that there is a ton of food out there,” Alemany said. “It’s just not being distributed as efficiently as it could be.” The network approach has worked well in Nanaimo, he noted.

With its Water for Growth, the ACRD looked at how to encourage more food production in the region through various incentives. It falls to each municipality to choose which incentives to adopt locally.

A committee would consider applications in the case of the food-garden billing credit, Alemany said.

“It’s meant for residents who are creating a market garden, where they’re potentially going to be providing not only their own food but food for the community and covering a small amount of their overage.”

Denis Sauve raised concern about the limited scope of the water incentives, with only a few residents able to take advantage.

Alemany said the idea is to respond to demand as interest in the program grows.

“The committee would love for it to be more. If the committee got 100 applications, I think the committee would be absolutely ecstatic and the next thing you would see is a request from the committee to increase the number.”