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A Prescott-Russell Climate Action Plan? 

To The Editor,

The mayors seated at the November 10 UCPR Committee of the Whole meeting heard and reacted to the petition of  more than three hundred of their citizens – from one end of the counties to the other – calling on them to  develop a regionally appropriate and community responsive Climate Action Plan.

From their demeanour, their response to the idea, reminded me of that which the Bible attributes to Pontius Pilate. They would rather wash their hands of the matter. Pass it on to some other body to deal with.

These eight mayors, as candid as they were, seemed incapable of anticipating the magnitude or the seriousness of the climate crisis before us all, of grasping its significance, or imagining how fast things will get much worse.

They, in my view, live in a dream world of bygone days that they, like many, refuse to recognize no longer exists. Despite the ample evidence and increasingly dire consequences  of the man-made climate crisis that is unfolding before us, they continue to drive forward with their eyes glued on the fast-disappearing world they knew that is still visible in the very small rear-view mirror instead of focusing on the very fast-changing realities that are unfolding on the landscape within view in the very large windshield in front of them.  The new normal that lies ahead is definitely not what we were accustomed to in our pre-pandemic rear view mirror days.

The mayors appear to believe that they have no role to play on the climate emergency front, that the problem and the solution lies anywhere but at their table.

The truth, in my opinion, is that they seem unable to  grasp the magnitude of the compounding damage and impact of continuing on their accustomed course, much less of the need for the systemic changes needed to avoid the more dire existential threats that are inevitable and only exacerbated by their continuing to ignore the damage that their ongoing support of the increased industrial scale emission of the hundreds of thousands of tons of pollutants that will be annually emitted in their midst, year after year, after year, by the construction of their continued endorsement of a soon-to-be built cement plant that their UCPR table predecessors approved. (It is noteworthy that only two of the five who imposed the cement plant upon an unreceptive host municipality and its equally unreceptive inhabitants remain seated at the UCPR governance table).

I find it difficult to understand how, as a county government, they have no problem exponentially increasing the GHG emissions emanating from their counties, yet hesitate when it comes to assuming any responsibility or playing any part in the development of a community-based Climate Action Plan to reduce or mitigate the ill effects of their counties’ compounding GHG emissions upon the health and well-being of all who call these counties home.

They can’t seem to fathom the genuine vulnerability of what it means to see a climate emergency declared or what they can at the very least attempt to collectively do to minimize and mitigate its intensity.

It looks like they would prefer their communal navel gazing and leave it to others to deal with the multiple aspects of a left unaddressed compounding crisis, at a future time when it will, per our best scientific minds, be too late to do so.

As if they have no role to play or influence to exercise in  preparing and involving their communities in rebuilding for the local and regional level climate adaptation and resilience needed, no role to play in cutting their jurisdiction’s carbon emissions, no role to play in transitioning its energy systems, redesigning its agriculture, its food systems and its communities.

That it is a monumental task goes without saying. That said, we all have a role to play in getting us where we must be by 2030. And they have a role to play in getting everyone on board. And that responsibility falls upon all levels of government. No exceptions.

The UCPR’s member-mayors seem either unable or unwilling to appreciate that if they aren’t part of the solution, they’re part of the problem.

That if they aren’t capable of leading by example, or at the very least attempting to via their active involvement in the development, coordination and support of community appropriate climate plans, they should vacate their seats, get  out of the way and leave the planning to others who are willing and properly resourced to take on the task.

Claiming the county government has no jurisdiction in the matter (when other county governments are judging otherwise) is a cop out.

Mayor Leroux claimed the UCPR lacked the knowledge, expertise and enforcement capabilities to develop a Climate Action Plan but did suggest the UCPR should agree to becoming a Partner for Climate Protection (PCP) member. Why? Because, as he stated,  it did not commit the counties or its member municipalities to anything and cost them nothing to do so. Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly indicated she would be pleased to support such a motion.

In my books this is little more than a symbolic gesture that is nice for public optic purposes but one that falls short of any commitment to the development of a community requested UCPR Climate Action Plan.

The best the group of eight seemed able or prepared to do is try to pass off the task of developing an Action Plan to the South Nation Conservation  Authority.

I find this very strange  when said authority, like all others in Ontario,  is about to feel the effect of the Ford Conservative government’s withdrawal of close to 50% of the annual provincial funding allocation the conservation authority relies upon to carry out its existing workload.

I find it odd that the mayors at the UCPR governing table, and most particularly Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux – who also sits as a member of the conservation authority – would suggest as much when he is well aware, or should be, that the province has told all of Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities to cope by limiting their activities to nothing more than meeting their core mandate obligations.

Does Mayor Leroux know something others do not?

Since conservation authorities have the authority to levy municipalities, is the UCPR mayors table prepared  to provide the conservation authority the dollars it deems needed to take on the additional task of developing a county-wide Community Action Plan on their collective behalf? Are the mayors committed to the implementation of those Climate Action  Plan measures the South Nation Conservation Authority might recommend to the UCPR and its eight individual member municipalities?

Would the riding’s MP be prepared to ensure a federal government contribution to the ongoing funding that such a multi year community-based county-wide Climate Action Plan would require?

Lots of questions. Will be interesting to hear what the UCPR’s Senior Management Team comes back to the Mayors Table with in the way of a recommended course of action.

Gary Champagne, Ottawa, Ontario

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