Amherst Mayor David Kogon says one of the options for protecting the transportation corridor on the Chignecto Isthmus could be to elevate both the TransCanada highway and the CN Rail line to prevent flood waters from cutting the commercial links that carry traffic worth $50 million every day between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
During a presentation last Saturday to the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change in Sackville, Kogon said he warned a senior official in Nova Scotia, however, that protecting commercial traffic wouldn’t be enough because large parts of the towns of Amherst and Sackville are also at risk.
“[I] said if that’s the option that gets picked [protecting commercial traffic], you’re going to have a really hard time from the towns because we’re not going to sacrifice the land and let Nova Scotia become an island,” Kogon told an eight-member climate change panel at Sackville Town Hall.
“I got very significant assurances that that would not be a viable option, that we do have to save the land [and the towns] and not just the commercial corridor,” Kogon said.
He pointed out that he and Sackville Mayor John Higham had pressed the federal and provincial governments to undertake the latest $700,000, year-long study of ways to prevent flooding caused by rising sea levels and severe storms related to climate change.
“We’re very pleased to be able to say that now that that study will start,” he added, “I feel great pride that at the municipal level, we were able to initiate significant action at the provincial and federal level.”
New energy manager
“Amherst is very keen on being green,” the Amherst mayor told the climate change panel as he outlined a number of steps his town is taking including hiring an on-site energy manager to provide expertise in using energy more efficiently.
“This is an investment of about $100,000 a year for two years,” Kogon said, “and when this was announced, we got some negative feedback through social media from our citizens [because] a hundred thousand dollar expense to a community our size is pretty significant.”
Kogon added, however, that Amherst consumes about $860,000 worth of non-renewable energy every year.
He said that Cape Breton Regional Municipality reduced its spending on energy by 25% after hiring an on-site energy manager.
“We know that if we can even garner half of that, it’s going to more than cover the cost of this manager,” he said. “So, not only will it make us more energy efficient and reduce our carbon footprint, we expect it will cost almost nothing or maybe even save us money.”
Amherst Youth Town Council
Mayor Kogon mentioned that for many years, Amherst has been taking advice from its Youth Town Council (YTC), a small group of students from Grades 7 to 12 who apply for the position and are appointed by the elected councillors.
He said the Amherst YTC meets almost every month and presents its reports at every town council meeting.
“At their urging, we declared a climate emergency,” he said, a step that Sackville Town Council refused to take last April.
Kogon said he’s been invited to the next YTC meeting on February 10th to give a report on Amherst’s various climate change initiatives.
“They’re great advocates and proponents, so we really like working with them and it’s a great communication channel for the youth.”
When panel member Quinn MacAskill asked whether climate change is a top priority for the YTC, Kogon said it is one of their absolute top priorities.
“They gave us a very real understanding of how threatening this is to them and they fear for their future,” he said.
“They didn’t mind insulting me in saying, ‘Well, you’re pretty old, it’s not going to matter to you, you’ll be gone’ and they’re probably right,” he said as members of the panel laughed along with about 65 people who attended Saturday’s climate change forum.