Smithers council voted 4-3 to declare a climate emergency at their July 9 meeting. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Smithers council voted 4-3 to declare a climate emergency at their July 9 meeting. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Smithers council declares climate emergency

The motion passed 4-3 with Councillors Lorne Benson, John Buikema and Frank Wray opposed.

It was a close vote, but Smithers has declared a climate emergency.

A motion by Coun. Gladys Atrill to make a declaration of climate emergency passed in a 4-3 vote, with Councillors Lorne Benson, John Buikema and Frank Wray opposed.

The decision comes after a request from Thornhill resident Martin Holzbauer at council’s June 25 meeting.

READ MORE: Vancouver councillors unanimously approve motion declaring climate emergency

Mayor Taylor Bachrach said he thought the declaration was appropriate given the situation.

“An emergency suggests an urgent situation that requires immediate action and in my view the situation involving our climate certainly fits that definition, the question is what we’re going to do about it.

“As Ms. Ford’s very detailed reports each year have shown, despite many different actions our emission reductions aren’t yet at the level of ambition that is required in order to meet the targets that we’re told are necessary to keep the globe within 1.5 degrees of warming.”

Bachrach noted that the issue with declaring an emergency is that it is expected specific changes will follow, adding he is excited about a number of proposals staff is working on for the coming year.

Coun. Atrill said part of the reason she supported the motion was that it is important to have the tough discussion about climate change, even if it’s a hard one to have.

“Councillor Buikema used the word uncomfortable and I think that actually is a good word, it’s pretty uncomfortable to talk about it, but it’s more uncomfortable to think about what’s going on.

“I think we’ve been very lucky in our community and the Bulkley Valley over the last decade seeing things that have happened in other places and [it] felt last year that we kind of dodged a bullet with the fires all the way around us … but I think it’s only a matter of time, things are changing all around us.”

Coun. Greg Brown agreed.

“At this point every action is going to matter, that’s what we know,” he said. “The predictions are happening they’re happening faster than we expected so if it causes us to reconfigure and spend money in different ways then maybe that’s what this is calling for.”

Even though Councillors Benson, Buikema and Wray were opposed to the motion, all of them acknowledged that climate change is an issue, but that they didn’t think the declaration of emergency was necessarily the way to tackle it.

Wray said he could not support the motion because he felt declaring an emergency is only appropriate if you’re going to act like there is one.

“If your house is on fire and it’s an emergency you don’t stop and mow the back lawn, you don’t stop and examine the foundation for cracks, you put the fire out.

“If we’re going to declare an emergency then we need to stop all non-essential spending, we need to make sure that instead of putting away our five million dollars that we spend it right away on the storm sewer infrastructure that’s clearly not up to the task of an emergency.”

But he added despite not voting for the motion he felt this and past councils have taken the issue very seriously and that he is happy with the direction council has taken with regard to coming up with green solutions to many of the town’s problems.

Coun. Buikema agreed.

“I’m also extremely comfortable moving into the future with this council that we’ll make decisions that recognize the climate challenges of today without having to take the step of declaring a national emergency.”

After the motion passed Bachrach acknowledged the necessity of making sure the conversation continues.

He said that topics like introducing electric vehicles into the Town’s fleet and finding more green energy solutions to local infrastructure needs are conversations council will have come budget time.

Bachrach also suggested the town go to the BC Municipal Climate Leadership Council for future information as the organization has come up with a package for communities which have made similar declarations, to which there were no objections.

In his closing comments he noted the issue was important to him for personal reasons.

“As a father more than anything I want to be able to look my kids in the eye and say that, as a leader in the community, I did whatever I could to make a difference for the future they are going to inherit.”

READ MORE: Canadian communities responding to climate change

The House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency June 17.

But as Holzbauer explained June 25, when he made the official request to council, the House of Commons had not made such a declaration.

He said he felt that even after doing so it was important for smaller communities like Smithers to make similar ones in solidarity.

trevor tag

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

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

Gitxsan Nation extends fishing ban for non-Indigenous permit holders indefinitely . (Photo courtesy, Travis Murphy)
Gitxsan Nation extends ban for non-Indigenous fishing permit holders across their territory

The move comes after the province backed away from ongoing discussions with Gitxsan chiefs and DFO

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read