Entertainers perform at the town hall meeting hosted by MP Dan Ruimy (right).

Entertainers perform at the town hall meeting hosted by MP Dan Ruimy (right).

Maple Ridge town hall talk on climate change

‘Slowly and steadily affecting us.’

It was billed as a town hall that was going to seek new solutions on climate change, but most of Wednesday’s meeting was a review of efforts already underway in Maple Ridge.

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge Liberal MP Dan Ruimy hosted the event, the third in recent weeks after town halls on electoral reform and trade.

“When we think of climate change, it seems overwhelming,” Ruimy said to an audience of about 50.

People don’t always think that climate change is affecting them, but it’s “slowly and steadily affecting us in our community.”

Lina Azeez, with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said that’s already happening in the form of low salmon returns in the Fraser River.

While local governments can’t stop climate change, they can improve conditions in local streams to help young salmon to get a good start in life before heading to the Pacific Ocean.

“What can we do to get the federal government to recognize this is an important issue?” she asked.

Azeez said when flood protection measures, such as dikes and pump stations, are built, the passage of fish has to be considered so they can move upstream from larger rivers to smaller streams, where they can spawn.

Older pumps grind up fish as they try to swim upstream. However, the pump station on Lougheed Highway, connecting Kanaka Creek to Spencer Creek, allows fish to pass back and forth, making spawning possible upstream.

“We need to see more of that,” Azeez said.

The federal government is encouraging MPs to hold public meetings to sound out opinion as it develops a climate change policy.

“We’re at the point where we’re seeking ideas,” said North Van MP Jonathan Wilkinson, parliamentary environmental secretary.

The goal is to craft all those ideas into a policy on climate change by this fall.

Ruimy already has established an environmental advisory group in the Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge riding.

“We have a virtual army of volunteers and they’re just aching to be useful again.”

But combating climate change is something people can do by many small acts on a daily basis, such as recycling, reducing energy use or cutting down on use of the auto, the audience heard.

Laura Benson, with City of Maple Ridge, told the audience that the city now has more than 30 hybrid or electric vehicles in its fleet.

The city has also retrofitted its buildings to cut energy use. One example is the installation of solar thermal panels on the Leisure Centre, which has cut energy use in half.

And for the past several years, all new homes must have conduit roughed in to accommodate roof-top solar hot water panels, Benson pointed out.

Alexandra Tudose, with School District No. 42, told the audience it has cut its energy use in schools and is getting students involved in the process.

Wilkinson pointed out that unlike the U.S., most of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions don’t come from the production of energy, such as from coal-fired electricity plants.

Instead, he said the oil and gas industry is the top producer of greenhouse gases in Canada, followed by transportation, buildings and power generation.

Thanks to hydro electricity and nuclear power, Canada has one of the cleanest energy grids in the world, Wilkinson said.

The goal set last year in the Paris Agreement remains to reduce the country’s greenhouse gases to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Wilkinson said Canada has to think about creating high-tech jobs and how to encourage people to adopt green technology, such as electric vehicles, as promoted by former Green party candidate Peter Tam.

He owns a Nissan Leaf electric car which has a range of about 150 kilometres on one charge.

When maintenance costs are figured in, electric cars are about $300 a month cheaper than similar internal combustion vehicles, he said.

Jack Emberly asked if the federal government was going to reverse former Conservative government’s changes to the Fisheries Act, which removed habitat protection for fish, and other changes to the Navigation Protection Act.

That’s now being reviewed, said Wilkinson.

With most time taken up by presentations, there was little time for the town hall participation. People instead wrote out their ideas to give to the politicians.

“It’s nice to come out of 10 years of dictatorship and actually meet with your politicians,” said one member of the audience.