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Candidate Q & A: climate crisis

All candidates for the St. Albert municipal election weigh in on how they plan to tackle climate change.

Send us your election questions
The Gazette has reached out to all St. Albert candidates with a list of 12 questions, and the answers will run in The Gazette each week as the Oct. 18 election approaches. Question topics touch on taxation, climate, development, funding shortfalls, business, traffic, transparency, reconciliation, the city’s Badger Lands solar-farm project, and more. Now we want to hear from you. What questions are at the top of your mind going into St. Albert’s municipal election? Email us the questions you'd like candidates to answer: [email protected].

This past summer, record-breaking heat came to Canada, another bitter reminder of the deadly effects of the climate change the world is currently faced with. 

There are many important ways cities can address their climate impact, such as becoming more energy efficient, embracing renewable energy sources, and establishing accessible and low-pollution means of transportation. 

Additionally, urban centres must properly plan for extreme weather resulting from climate change. The Gazette asked all candidates running in the St. Albert municipal election to share their vision for how the city should address its effects on the climate, and extreme weather resulting from the global climate crisis.

Mayoral candidates had 120 words to answer the question:

Angela Wood: I believe taking measures to reduce the impacts on climate change and extreme weather resulting from the global climate crisis starts in our own backyard. Maximizing initiative to reduce our carbon footprint and making it a community effort. Individual responsibility through education will increase the awareness of residents to make greener choices in their everyday lives. The city has taken initiatives in that they have completed energy-efficient audits on buildings and electric buses, to name a few. Taking environmentally responsible steps are ways to reduce our carbon footprint but need to be balanced with fiscally responsible decisions.

David Letourneau: St. Albert has undertaken some great projects, such as the solar photovoltaics array on the Jack Kraft Facility and our air quality management system. My vision is to see our city go a step further than just technological solutions but also developing in a way that encourages making green options an easier choice for both the city, residents, and businesses. Key to addressing effects on climate is partnering with all levels of government and specifically surrounding municipalities. Initiatives like the Collaborative Economic Development could lead to projects like a hydrogen hub. This is an initiative using abundant local resources that could complement existing electric technologies. 

Cathy Heron: Top priority for next term! A lot of effort has gone into creating an urban city that blends with our natural systems and we want this to continue for the next generation. First and foremost, we need ambitious targets to get to net zero, both corporately and as a community. Four areas of focus 1. Increase access to clean energy (greening of the grid through solar and wind) 2. Efficient buildings (retrofit and policies for new) 3. Transportation (active, electric fleet, charging stations, public transit) 4. Waste (keep it out of the landfill and treat it as a resource). This is my biggest focus for the next term and impossible to describe in 120 words.

Bob Russell: The first step is to recognize that we are facing climate change and identify city services to see where we can reduce carbon emission. When I was last on council, I strongly supported the purchase of our first electric powered bus and when it arrived the transit department invited me on its first trip. My goal would be to see that we move to an entire electric fleet of all our vehicles.

Council candidates had 80 words to answer the question:

Ross Guffei: The city has an Energy Conservation Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases. The city passed an idling bylaw to reduce carbon emissions. I believe that we should stop the hypocrisy at the city and make traffic flow on our roadways. Having hundreds of vehicles idling at red lights is one of the major carbon producers within this city. Reducing the number of cars stopped at the lights is the easiest and best thing we can do to lower our emissions.

Kevan Jess: The city has a role to reduce future climate change and create/encourage resiliency to mitigate the severe weather impacts created, as does every jurisdiction on the planet. Push increased efforts toward energy efficiency, alternative energy (electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles), reduce carbon impacts from operations. Smart infrastructure enhancing traffic flow, increasing usage of transit, and improving safety. Planning/development efforts focused on reducing sprawl, increasing density, reducing consumption, and supporting viability of walkable neighbourhoods.

Sandy Clark: I would encourage and promote the Clean Energy Improvement Program (CEIP) and ensure that this program, and others like it, are at the forefront and expanded as necessary to encourage widespread participation. I would seek to provide more information to residents on how they can become involved in mitigating the effects of climate change. I believe it is a municipality’s responsibility to guide and encourage better choices and that starts at the grass roots of urban planning in collaboration with developers.

Shelley Biermanski: Simple changes from a large number of people can have a high overall impact. We can all have some part in protecting our local land, green space, river, and air quality. St. Albert's ineffective traffic light system accounts for a lot of vehicle idling time which I would like to see addressed. A substantial green space and tree renewal is also important for air quality. Maintaining safe and connectable bike and walking trails will again lower emissions from driving.

Wes Brodhead: St. Albert is actively reducing its impact on the environment. Initiatives like the anti-idling bylaw, purchasing electric buses, installing solar panels on civic buildings, introducing organics waste collection, replacing fluorescent and incandescent light fixtures, have paid environmental dividends. Further environmental benefits may be realized through higher reliance on green energy, introducing enhanced traffic control on all arterial road networks, and planning walkable communities. Many opportunities to mitigate our impact on the environment exist and only require our courage to implement.

Wally Popik: I will need to become familiar with what is presently being done through the city before being able to address this issue. I, like many others, personally have concerns with what is happening around the globe in terms of extreme weather and believe that everyone, not just a few, needs to make an honest effort to try to minimize and improve this problem.

Gilbert Cantin: The city is not the best level of government to address the issue, but all levels must do their part, including every constituent. We should have the goal to have all St. Albert public buildings using clean energy alone. It could be done by adding solar panels on each public building and small wind turbine (two to three feet diameter). This way all public buildings could become a net zero impact to the environment. Planting more tree in our parks will help, too.  

Joseph Trapani: I believe that having the solar farm would address some of the environment concerns, by reducing our carbon footprint and providing renewable energy sources (clean energy). The technology today is more efficient and would benefit all residents in the long run. I believe that we should be encouraging our communities toward electrical vehicles. We need to plant more trees and protect our green belts instead of sacrificing them in the name of commercial development. Finally, we need to look closer into renewable energy resources.

Donna Kawahara: Knowing that cities have the ability to make effective choices to reduce carbon footprints and greenhouse-gas emissions, it is important to look at green options for energy. Encouraging installation of solar panels on new residential and commercial buildings and developing a program to assist with retrofitting existing buildings will encourage those looking for greener options. Small efforts combined make a large global impact. Walkable neighbourhoods, facilitating bicycling, and having essentials nearby are other options leading to a greener future.

Rachel Jones: I’m impressed by the many productive ways St. Albert addresses climate change. Our city should continue to champion water conservation, protect natural areas and trees, and promote energy-saving upgrades. Programs like Spruce Up, Clean Air Day, and Bike Month are wonderful ways to address climate change right here where we live. We should improve on our efforts to divert organics and recyclables from landfills, reduce daily greenhouse gas (encouraging transit, carpooling), and expand on hands-on community education.

Ken MacKay: St Albert’s Environmental Master Plan (EMP) outlines a range of targets we want to achieve in waste diversion, greenhouse-gas emissions, air quality, and water conservation. The EMP is up for review, and I want St. Albert to be a municipal leader in exploring innovative solutions to climate change while incorporating green technology. I will advocate for the continuous review of the Environmental Sustainability Policy and its standards to ensure that it reflects the ongoing impacts of climate change.

Isadore Stoyko: Pursue energy efficiencies in public buildings and facilities, including equipment updates. Provide audits of activities of departments to enhance ideas to keep our climate footprint to an acceptable level. 

Jennifer Cote: Our vision must be tailored to our community and implemented here at home. National climate initiatives are slow to produce results, and often re-distribute tax dollars inefficiently. We need practical, community-level action that can be incorporated into everyday life. This may include creating online information resources to direct residents to local farmers/producers so we can limit our carbon footprint, or offering public information sessions about tools such as xeriscaping and rainwater harvesting that will help decrease overall water consumption. 

Louis Sobolewski: I would continue to build on the success of what St Albert is already doing when it comes to reducing efforts to lower our carbon footprint. As a councillor though, I am also aware that a municipality has limited resources to take on this challenge on its own. 

Leonard Wilkins: Identify and implement means to motivate people to move toward electric vehicles. The climate and extreme weather is bigger than St. Albert alone, therefore I would look to how St. Albert can partner with other communities to maximize our efforts.

Sheena Hughes: We need to not only look for large sweeping statements, but also how we can make small, yet impactful changes. The city has already committed to many environmentally-friendly decisions, such as energy building audits in our facilities. Environmental opportunities need to be evaluated for their proven effectiveness, costs to implement, and the return on investment in operating cost savings to ensure that the decisions are effective, sustainable, and fiscally responsible.

Shawn Lemay: If we boast ourselves as the Botanical City that "Cultivates Life," then we should be at the forefront of change and stewardship. Understanding that this is a much larger reality than the scope of a municipality. Still, there is so much we can do at a local level to lead the way. We can begin by putting an end to this electoral war of signs. What an epic waste of material, and money, only to end up in the dump. And why are candidates putting up three to six signs within 30-foot span? 

Mike Killick: Recognize our city has taken positive steps, solar panels on city building roof tops, electric buses, energy efficient building retrofits, planting trees, composting, recycling more, LED street lights, idle-free bylaw, on demand bus service, etc. I see opportunities to continue improving, stop empty buses driving around, actually synchronize traffic lights to reduce idling, complete the major road network to improve traffic flow, ask all telecom providers to improve city-wide availability of high-speed Internet for work at home. 

Natalie Joly: St. Albert has two obligations in terms of climate crisis risk. First, we must ensure that our infrastructure and services can withstand expected increases in extreme weather events. Stormwater systems, drought and flood-resistant designs, and winter storm and heat-wave response are a priority. Secondly, we must contribute to greenhouse-gas reductions through municipal activities and policies, both to create improved conditions for our residents (air quality, vibrant natural spaces, food security, etc.), but also as an investment in global sustainability. 

Mike Ferguson: I will make the proposed solar-farm issue transparent, with stone cold numbers. It is wonderful, and a credit to current council. It really is unfortunate we have altogether too many climate deniers. The youth of today are the voters of tomorrow, and we need them out and voting for this issue. People who enjoy nature should get out and vote.

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