Climate change was a key theme Monday night as Sackville Town Council met to discuss preliminary proposals for next year’s budget.
“I know this is an emergency and not just a crisis,” said Councillor Sabine Dietz after suggesting that the town has not been taking climate change seriously enough in its budget planning.
“We can’t push this off,” she said. “Last year was a write-off because of COVID and I accept that, but it is really our responsibility to make the future safer for our kids and for our grandkids.”
Dietz added that the town has to act now.
“I don’t want climate change action, it’s a must, we don’t have a choice,” she said.
She noted that although proposals for next year’s budget would allocate $25,000 for climate change initiatives and $95,000 for an electric vehicle charger, there’s no overall plan, for example, to offset the effects of road paving or heavy equipment purchases or no plan to extend the town’s climate change co-ordinator beyond next September.
She suggested establishing a $100,000 climate contingency fund paid for by re-directing gas tax money, paring back other projects and if necessary, cutting the allocation for an electric vehicle charger.
“If we don’t take responsibility for moving the bar, supporting action and committing to action throughout our budget, then we are not doing enough,” she said.
“Basically, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”
Dietz echoed many of the suggestions put forward earlier in the meeting by the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change, which gave a 23-minute presentation led by retired wildlife biologist Richard Elliot, Kirsti Mrazek, the town’s new climate change co-ordinator, and Mount Allison Professor Barbra Clayton.
Elliot noted that the Roundtable first reviewed the town’s capital budget two years ago using a “climate lens” summarized in a slide he showed to council:
Elliot reported that the Roundtable came up with four “overarching recommendations” after meeting last week with town staff:
- Adopt a policy to convert town vehicles to electric and hybrid ones
- Provide climate change awareness sessions for all town managers and staff
- Publicly highlight efforts taken by the town to minimize the effects of climate change
- Redirect next year’s $756,445 in federal gas tax money from road re-surfacing to financing such green projects as electric vehicle charging stations, bicycle lanes and trails as well as developing a water retention pond in the old Pickard Quarry and financing road re-surfacing using other parts of the capital budget
Among other suggestions, Kirsti Mrazek recommended that the town design a “low-slope parking lot” at Lilas Fawcett Park along with a catch basin or gravel settling strip to reduce sediment run-off into Silver Lake; incorporate grass buffers and trees to provide shade and consider installing nearby crosswalks for pedestrians and cyclists.
Barbra Clayton congratulated the town on its decision to purchase an electric Zamboni to clean the ice at the Civic Centre and recommended using it to advertise climate initiatives and attract sponsors. She also suggested replacing the town’s 1999 street sweeper with an electric or hybrid model that could be rented to or shared with other communities.
One of Clayton’s slides showed an electric fire pumper truck:
“We were excited to know that there is an electric pumper truck available in Canada,” she said, adding that at the moment, its $1.6 million price tag is “a bit prohibitive.”
She said that maybe the town could consider buying a hybrid model or other low-emissions alternatives perhaps with financial support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Clayton noted, however, that the Roundtable did not have a chance to discuss its proposal with Fire Chief Craig Bowser.
Councillors weigh in
Councillors Bill Evans and Sabine Dietz thanked the Roundtable presenters for their ideas and research.
“When we passed the motion in 2019 saying we should set up [the Roundtable], this is exactly what I was hoping that we would get,” Evans said.
“You push us to do the right thing, you’re smart enough to acknowledge that we’re already starting to do the right thing and so, that’s great, but that’s not enough, you have to keep pushing,” he added.