March 15, 2019

Seth Klein on Mobilizing for the Climate Emergency, and the Lessons of WWII

“There is a time coming, in our lives, when the tap of natural gas into our homes and into our city is going to be turned off. It’s not tomorrow — we have time to make adjustments.”

As follow-up to his interview with Vancouver City Councillor Christine Boyle (Episode 19) — mover of a unanimously-approved motion to declare a climate emergency — Gord wanted to speak to one of the ‘generals’ working on a solution to coming disaster. Someone with the knowledge, experience, and character to not just define the nature of the challenge we face in the coming decades, but to take on the mantle of leadership.

Whether Seth Klein is one of those generals is not yet clear, but he certainly seems to be writing the battle book.

The now-former BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives —he actually founded the progressive think tank’s west coast chapter in 1996 — Klein has identified some compelling parallels between the effort made by the Canadian government and industry between 1939 and 1945 to mobilize behind the war effort, and what may be required to keep this ship we call Western civilization afloat today.

With little doubt that drastic measures are needed, Klein believes the responses of countries like Canada during the Second World War are not just instructive, but likely instructive and maybe even necessary in this time of existential crisis.

What were those responses? There were many. They were mandated, legislated. And no person, no institution, was immune.

This conversation isn’t just a sneak preview of his upcoming book — it’s a conversation about a similar challenge we faced 80 years ago, how we faced it, and whether we can do it again today.

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During a Vancouver Council meeting on January 16, 2019, a motion moved by Councillor Christine Boyle to declare a global state of climate emergency was carried unanimously.

With nine “whereas” clauses — referencing the impacts of BC and California wildfires, the emergency debates at various levels of government following the UN’s recent IPCC report on global warming, the estimated future costs of climate-related disasters to Vancouver, and our current vulnerabilities — plus half a dozen amendments from Boyle’s peers, the motion ended with a series of directives, and a clear call to action.

In short, the motion called for an admission that we’re in a climate emergency. It reminded us all that, despite progress in recent years, we’ve failed to meet our previous targets. And it directed staff to formulate, within 90 days, new targets, actions and timelines to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, in-line with IPCC goals.

Boyle, one of nine first-time Council members, made time over her lunch hour recently to chat with Gord at City Hall about her motion — what inspired it, the potential implications of climate disaster on vulnerable populations in particular, and where we go from here.

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On the latest episode of the This is Vancolour podcast, Vancouver City Councillor Christine Boyle and Squamish First Nation Councillor Khelsilem chat with host Mo Amir and dive deep into the issues affecting our region.

And it’s no surprise that housing and affordability remain the most important issue of the day. In this episode, both councillors offer solutions on how the City can build more housing while meeting the objective of making Vancouver more affordable.

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Further evidence as to the political ascendancy of a different part of our cultural mix. A younger demographic, neither left nor right.  People with media skills, energy, focus.

Oh yeah, and facing a nasty civic crisis with determination and intensity and clear political will.

Plus a message that not too long ago was the third rail, kiss of death, immediate disqualifier and prima facie proof of irrevocable electoral idiocy.

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The question for all mayor and council candidates — “what would you do different” —was in itself not without some controversy. (See “Vancouver Candidate Survey on Kettle-Boffo Project: What Would You Have Done to Close the Gap?“)

Ultimately, the premise of the question was based on the idea that, as the project team stated, Kettle-Boffo “enjoys Council support”. Reliving the imminent failure of the project Groundhog Day style, we wanted to know how a prospective mayor or councillor might expect to work with staff and the applicants, and within the rules of established policy, to ensure project viability, and thus possibly a successful application.

We also felt it was a way for declared candidates to clarify their positions, especially given the degree of complexity in the topic, “the #1 issue” this election year.

Beyond positions, reasonable explanation of some of the core, underlying issues may serve voters. The presumption is some candidates have done their homework, and are figuring out how to bridge the knowledge gap with the electorate. Some at Price Tags are not too humble to admit we too can learn from the responses.

And this goes for not just the issue (“What moves housing forward in the city? What are the possible systemic problems?“), but also the candidates themselves (“Who thinks about housing the way I do? Who has ideas I’ve never considered?“)

Lastly, we were careful in our introduction to not position Kettle-Boffo as having claimed in their statement that there is something ‘broken’ in city hall, which they did not. Nor do we believe our representation of the City’s claim — that they extended every concession they felt they could to enable a successful re-submission of the development application, which ultimately Kettle-Boffo chose not to do — is not to be taken at face value.

With that, we present the first six responses submitted to our call-out; we will continue to publish submissions if and when they come in.

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