Smithers mayoral candidates Joe Bramsleven and Gladys Atrill. (Interior News graphic)

Smithers mayoral candidates Joe Bramsleven and Gladys Atrill. (Interior News graphic)

Council’s climate emergency declaration divides mayoral candidates

Atrill believes it was the right thing to do; Bramsleven thinks it was unnecessary

Mayoral candidates Gladys Atrill and Joe Bramsleven have opposing views on the challenging topic of the environment.

In 2019, Smithers Town Council declared a “climate emergency.” At the time, Atrill, then a councillor, made the initial motion, which narrowly passed in a 4-3 decision with Councillors Frank Wray, Lorne Benson and John Buikema opposed. Atrill defended the motion as the right move.

“The declaration joins Smithers with others in our region, our province, and around the world; 300 communities in Canada have made that declaration,” she said.

“The climate is changing, and the effects are being felt around the world, including B.C.”

Atrill feels there are things that can be done locally now and into the future to give the declaration meaning.

Diverting organic waste from landfills, building more charging stations for electric vehicles and building better buildings are key areas of priorities for her.

“We won’t be alone in this effort but working with other governments and with you,” she said.

Bramsleven does not necessarily agree with the Town declaring a climate emergency, he said.

“Declarations are very dangerous,” he said. “The town of Smithers has a perception of being anti-industry, and we need to change that perspective.

“We need to attract more industry so that we can increase our tax base. If we don’t do this our [tax] rates will have to go up in the future.”

“This is one of those items that make some people feel good, but in reality, what we can do as a town has to be in the best interest of the town.”

That is not to say he thinks the environment is not an issue, but believes a climate emergency declaration is the wrong approach.

“We absolutely need to be aware and concerned about our environment,” he said. “Do we need to sign on with other bodies’ declarations to show we are concerned, no.”

One of the specific action items council passed in response to the declaration was converting the town’s vehicle fleet.

The 2019 Town Council Strategic Plan directs that electric vehicles be phased into the town fleet, although the Town has yet to buy a single electric vehicle.

Bramsleven said buying electric vehicles sounds like a good idea in theory, but may be impractical.

“We need to look at the reality of where we live, what type of use these vehicles will receive and, of course, ultimately what is in the best interest of the taxpayer.

“Let’s face it, the bulk of the town owned-vehicles are not passenger vehicles, they are work vehicles, so we need to use common sense when looking at these replacements.”

Atrill believes there are now options for both passenger and work vehicles and is ready to pull the trigger.

“I would like to see that phase-in begin in 2021, but each vehicle purchase must be reviewed on its own merits,” she said.

“I support buying the right vehicle for the task, but in most cases, there is an EV option available now.”

Looking to the future, Atrill believes environment and finances go hand-in-hand.

“First, recognize that environmentally responsible decisions are often fiscally responsible too, especially over the long term,” Atrill said.

“When we balance initial capital cost with long term maintenance costs, greener technology often makes sense.”

She sees this as being applicable in all areas of the town’s business.

“We know the cost of traditional energy sources is rising, so efforts to move toward better buildings with lower long-term energy requirements is sound planning.

“It sounds so simple but if we purchase and build wisely, both our equipment and buildings will last longer. That is good for the environment and our collective pocketbook.”

Bramsleven would look at every decision on an individual basis.

“Just like everyone else, I am concerned about the environment we live in and want to ensure the Town takes all reasonable and available measures to reduce our carbon footprint when possible,” he said.

“But this needs to be done with common sense to make sure that any investment gets maximum value for Smithers taxpayers.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Northern Health saw 14 cases in one day earlier this week, the highest in one day since the beginning of the pandemic. (Image courtesy CDC)
Northern Health sees highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Oct. 27 saw 14 cases reported, the biggest single-day total since the beginning of the pandemic

This weapon was seized by Houston RCMP after a traffic stop Oct. 14 (Houston RCMP photo)
Guns, cash and suspected narcotics seized

Seizure follows traffic stop on Oct. 14

Medical staff at Bulkley Valley District Hospital urge everyone to continue to follow public health guidelines to combat the spread of coronavirus. (File photo)
COVID-19 and influenza update from Bulkley Valley medical staff

Local MDs urge vaccinations and mask wearing to combat virus duo

This photo of approximately 10 years ago shows Laureen Fabian, on the left, and daughter Caterina Andrews. Fabian went missing last October and her daughter is looking for answers. (Contributed photo)
Laureen Fabian’s disappearance remains a mystery

It’s been a year since she went missing

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Most Read