Mayors’ assembly debating the proposal pondered environmental, social and economic aspects before landing on its decision.
A carefully reasoned argument by Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West led to the region-wide governance board rejecting a measure that is designed to eradicate entire sections of the economy in the name of helping the environment.
Metro's leaders were not swayed by the fact that the measure was previously endorsed by the City of Vancouver, which is one of the district's 23 local government members. Metro Vancouver has 2.5 million residents, or half of British Columbia’s total population.
Mayor West acknowledged the high level of interest in environmental issues that all elected officials today share. He also pointed to the reality that British Columbia's economy is heavily reliant on industries such as mining, steelmaking coal and natural gas that would be endangered if the intention of the measure was implemented.
Metro Vancouver is a significant resource community for numerous reasons including that it supplies goods and services to the rural places where mining and energy activities occur. Technical and science professions abound in the region, as do many of the financial, legal and administrative support personnel the industries require.
Metro Vancouver supplies a lot of the manufactured goods required for mining and energy operations. All of these activities also contribute revenues that pay for public services. They also add export value to the Canadian economy which, in turn, enables Canadians to be able to import the things they need but don't make themselves.
Said West: "It's really easy to say there's going to be a 'just transition' and we're going to move workers into different industries when you're not the one losing your job."
He also pointed to the irony that the measure would end the production of British Columbia metallurgical coal required to manufacture lower-carbon infrastructure such as wind turbines.
Here is what Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr of the Green Party, who promoted the measure, had to say:
The idea that export-producing jobs can simply be “switched over” to occupations that offer little in the way of trade benefits, and that this will have no economic consequences, may be alluring. But with no roadmap for it, Mayor West called for more information before such a proposal could be examined in earnest. Removing high-quality Canadian steelmaking coal is almost certain to create unintended consequences as steel producers simply burn more coal of lower grades.
One stumbling block is that British Columbia natural gas and LNG provide global markets with a prized fuel enabling emissions reduction. Taking it off the market would accelerate climate change through higher global emissions.
The mayors of Burnaby, Richmond, Langley Township and North Vancouver City joined West in articulating their thinking about the matter.
Malcolm Brodie, Richmond
Mayor Linda Buchanan, North Vancouver
Mayor Jack Froese, Langley
Mayor Mike Hurley, Burnaby
As is often the case, much of the discussion revolved around whether it is better to promote aspirational but impractical or even divisive policy ideas, or focus on taking practical and meaningful action that does affect the climate problem.
After a lively discussion, Carr's idea was outvoted by a majority of Metro representatives.
This may be the cue for renewed educational efforts to ensure that representatives such as Councillor Carr have an opportunity to understand why the appeal of “extreme aspirationalism” has to be weighed against the legitimate concerns of region-wide residents and their elected representatives.
The Metro Vancouver motion was brought forward for the regional's body's endorsement by the City of Vancouver. Last year, that city partnered with a pressure group that opposes B.C. natural resource jobs generally to adopt the motion in the name of Vancouver residents. That made the City of Vancouver one of only two local governments anywhere in the world to adopt the treaty. The other is located in Britain.
Those lobbying for the treaty list an Indiana phone number, a state that as of May 2020 drew 89 per cent of its electricity from fossil fuels. Despite the City of Vancouver council's enthusiasm for the idea, no cities in Indiana or anywhere else in the United States have adopted the treaty. Given that more than 95 per cent of British Columbia's power is from renewable sources, some may wonder why it did not occur to the campaigners to start their efforts closer to home where they might actually make a difference.
Among other actions, they call for signers to send letters urging the Canadian and B.C. governments "to support the global initiative for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty."