Climate Emergency Declaration: The CRD declared a climate emergency in January as advocated by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, our own Maja Tait and teenaged Saanich councillor Ned Taylor. The CRD Board of Directors is now asking the region's 13 municipalities to do likewise within their own boundaries. Victoria and Saanich have done so already in joining the eight municipalities across Canada that have made declarations to date. They align with 439 regional and national governments world-wide representing nearly 40 million people. If you know any lingering skeptics, point them here ... then ask them to listen to Greta.)
Cllr St-Pierre made the motion for a Sooke declaration at our last meeting, I seconded it, and yet council decided (rightly, i agree) in its wisdom to let the idea marinate for awhile as we ponder what such a declaration entails. We'll be discussing it further tonight.
My thought is that making such a declaration would be a renewed, big-picture signal that we in Sooke get it that an established pattern of rising temperatures and unpredictable weather -- a record dry March, to cite the latest evidence, followed by a stuttering start to what should be our traditional April showers -- is reason to act urgently in response to the 2030-or-bust call for action issued by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; full report here; distilled media coverage here and here).
The CRD Board of Directors has identified an advocacy strategy with other levels of government to push for accelerated climate action (open the file at the end of this post for a three-page summary of suggested actions at federal, provincial and CRD municipal levels). There's an overarching call to fully implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and push for effective implementation of Premier Horgan's CleanBC Plan. The CRD also suggests continuing and expanding "direct funding programs and partnerships with regional and local governments related to low carbon building retrofits, zero-emission transportation, waste management and processing, adapted and low carbon community infrastructure and other local government influenced priority areas."
Of course, it's all hugely complicated and much brighter minds on this subject than dim me are exploring how to truly move the CRD towards carbon neutrality by 2030 (i.e., Highlands councillor Ann Baird, whose insights into carbon offsets and how to count emissions can be found here).
How might we act locally while thinking planet-wide? To repeat a few thoughts off the top of my shiny ...
* #SookeSmartGrowth (i.e. truly making a commitment to keep our density and major thrust of growth in the town centre containment area, which i'll suggest extends east to Kaltasin so that we can entertain the idea of a sewer-system expansion.)
* Alternative energy initiatives in collaboration with the T'Sou-ke Nation
* A yard-waste depot and compost facility (as recommended by Sooke's Climate Change Action Committee to zero uptake nor acknowledgement by council in 2015/16)
* A bold local food security initiative as recommended to council in February by EMCS teacher Patrick Gauley-Gale involving the purchase of Woodside Farm (possibly through the new CRD Regional Food & Agricultural Strategy and/or in partnership with a post-secondary institution).
I know some of you will suggest hypocrisy: As I said two Mondays ago, it's sadly ironic that we were contemplating an emergency declaration mere minutes after approving a town-centre drive-through here in an already auto-centric Motor City. And yet, as noted above, there are many things this council can tackle while ensuring that we make our decisions through a climate-emergency filter (as we've committed to do through earlier agreements).
Also attached below you'll find the powerpoint of the presentation I made to council in November, 2017 in association with the BC Sustainable Energy Association ~ politely received, instantly filed and forgotten (and I now better understand how that can happen given the crush of mostly micro business that consumes staff and council time -- as it rightly should given, as Metchosin Mayor John Ranns reliably says, bylaws, infrastructure, emergency services and land-use decisions should be the prime focus of local government, not big-picture issues like climate change).
Included in that powerpoint is a slide listing the commitments the District has made over the last decade:
* DOS signed the British Columbia Climate Action Charter in 2008. <clip> “Governments urgently need to implement effective measures to reduce GHG emissions and anticipate and prepare for climate change impacts.”
* Climate change highlighted in Sooke’s 2010 Official Community Plan. <clip> “Establish the importance of energy to all aspects of the community’s social, economic and environmental well-being…demonstrate leadership in sustainable energy.”
* Sooke Community Energy & Emissions Plan (CEEP) endorsed by council in Oct. 2014. Provides guidelines on short, medium and longer-term actions to reduce greenhouse gases. The District's municipal operations are now rated as net zero. The CEEP needs to be revisited and revised, a good task for a reconstituted Climate Action Committee or some variant thereof.
Cannabis Retail Stores: Municipalities across Canada have been and continue to craft their own unique approaches to cannabis retail and cultivation under the watchful eye of provincial licensing authorities ~ the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch in our case. Council has received a series of reports from the planning department over the last four months, and we've tinkered to the point where a zoning amendment has reached tonight's public hearing stage.
Following best practices from other municipalities, we'd like to add the definition of a "Cannabis Retail Store" to the zoning bylaw and allow four stores to operate in site-specific locations ~ three of them existing stores, the fourth an innovative new hybrid of retail store and post-secondary cannabis educational facility. All are separated by at least 300 meters from SD #62 schools and are spaced out along Sooke Road as far east as Saseenos. We'd initially thought three stores were sufficient for Sooke needs as they've been these last few years, however this latest option is an intriguing one.
* The two locally run independents are 642 Cannabis (in the site of the former Salvation Army thrift store in the town centre) and Castle Naturals Cannabis Dispensary, run by sisters Lori Ritaller and Lisa Taylor from the east wing of our Sooke River landmark. The two stores opened in June and August, 2016 respectively and have been operating continuously since while selling a wide range of locally grown products. Like all pot stores, they'll need to have switched entirely to federally licensed cultivators (168 from all corners of the country as of the latest tally) once they secure their licenses. (Council will be turning its attention to micro-cultivation proposals once the retail picture is settled. Best idea I've heard to date: A cooperative greenhouse facility in which our various craft-weed producers could grow their various "Best In BC" strains under federal license).
* Earth to Sky Cannabis Inc. will be setting up in the former Medijuana store at the corner of Otter Point and Sooke Rd. It's owned by Ian Laing, whose many regional holdings include the Sooke Business Park. He's also a partner in Specialty Medijuana Products with the publicly traded Choom (founded in Honolulu in the early '70s), "dedicated to building a dominant Canadian cannabis company" and now has gathered more than 50 retail shops in Alberta and BC under its wing. Another partner is Michael Forbes, who (as I understand it) has acquired the adjacent former laundromat and will open a related pharmacy (possibly under one or both of Forbes' established brands -- Forbes Pharmacy and/or Clarity Cannabis. A west shore resident, Forbes will operate one of the five Langford stores being allowed by Stew Young and his council. Also in the masterplan is Choom's "marijuana production growth strategy" featuring greenhouse production in the Sooke region. (Choom infographic.)
* Also now in the frame for Sooke is a potential Cooper's Cove retail shop and cannabis campus that offers post-secondary education for the new wave of employees destined for Canada's cannabis industry. Programs of various kinds are now being offered by McGill University, Vancouver's Kwantlen Polytechnic University ("cannabis career training") and the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook (which combines "science and customer service in the cannabis retail specialist program). This is a venture between Stickleback and West Coast Adventure College owner Scot Taylor, his education director/partner Phil Foster, and GrowX Global's Jas Basi, a retired RCMP career officer based in Vancouver who has been working with the UBC Centre of Excellence to develop cannabis products to reduce opiod addictions. The master plan calls for a move into edibles once legislation is sorted.
Concerns? Questions? Is four the right number for Sooke? Come out to the public hearing tonight and voice them.
Four Lanes from Connie to Glinz Lake: Eric Boucher and his neighbours from the North Sooke Residents Association are back before council for a third time in six months to express their concerns about the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure's plans for their section of the Sooke Road.
Based on their understanding from negotiations with MOTI staff, the new stretch "will be a four-lane, limited access, divided highway," said Boucher. "We've heard different versions on whether or not intersections will be signalled and if Gillespie Rd. will be signalled or have an underpass ... (the route) is generally a straight line between the intersection of Sooke and Connie Rds behind the 17 Mile to the intersection of Sooke and Glinz Lake Roads."
Councillor McMath, Interim CAO Don Schafer and I attended an association meeting in the EMCS library last week. The neighbours are frustrated by the secrecy around the project given that matters related to land (as well as legal and labour) are to be dealt with behind closed doors, as i've learned during our council in-camera meetings. As Mayor Tait has said, she and council have not been privy to MOTI plans beyond what we've all been able to read in last summer's Corridor Improvement Study (in which a highway realignment at 17 Mile was cited).
The North Sooke contingent is back again tonight. Their issues relate to road alignment, emergency service access, the impacts on wells and drinking water supply, and the potentially nightmarish traffic hold-ups during what would be a two-year construction period beginning a year from now through the fall of 2022. They'd also like to see MOTI and the JDF Water Distribution System take this opportunity to extend the water line from Cooper's Cove to Connie -- no small price tag at an estimated cost of $800 per meter over 2.6 kms.
The most disturbing suggestion I heard the other night was from a North Sooke resident who said one MOTI negotiator called this phase one of three phases ... phase two being a four-lane from Connie Rd. to Langford and phase three being four lanes heading west to Sooke. As Boucher notes: "The Sooke OCP clearly indicates our desire to preserve the small town rural nature of our community. A high-speed commuter route to Langford is not consistent with the Sooke OCP." AGREED and AMEN.
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