2018 Civic Election – Question 5 (from Georgia Strait Alliance)


Question 5:

Climate Accountability

The District of Sechelt has voted to join 13 other communities around BC and send Climate Accountability letters to the Carbon Majors.

Will you commit to joining or furthering this work and protect taxpayers by seeking to recover a fair share of climate costs from the fossil fuel companies who profit from selling products that result in greenhouse gases? Specifically, if elected, would you ask your Council to:

a. Send Climate Accountability letters from your community to major fossil fuel producers demanding that they pay their fair share of local climate costs caused by their activities and products?

b. Press the province of BC to enact Liability for Climate-related Harms laws to give municipalities and others greater legal certainty, lower costs and timely resolutions if they sue to recover climate damages from fossil fuel companies?

c. Explore legal action against fossil fuel companies to recover a share of local climate costs?

Steve Baker
Candidate for SCRD Area D

a) Yes, this is an initiative I am in favour of to ensure the effect on our resources benefit our communities.

b) Yes, too often the delays of the court system as well as the cost of lawsuits prevent organizations and individuals from protecting the environment in a timely fashion. Reducing the risk of delays may result in better management from the companies if there is a more immediate decision impacting their business.

c) Yes, I am a firm believer in any manufacturer taking responsibility for the impact of their product on the environment.

Bill Beamish
Candidate for Gibsons Mayor

This issue is much too large to over simplify by focussing only on fossil fuel companies. There are also companies that make cement and use cement in construction, that cut down forests, that make and sell vehicles, that transport carbon based fuels and other materials. Municipalities currently receive benefits in the form of the Gas Tax funds that are annually transferred to them by the federal government. Also, many governments (federal, provincial and local) today invest in funds that hold fossil fuel companies in their portfolios.

I would not support council’s participation in this initiative until the Province of BC takes a leadership role in this area and requests that communities participate in an action (at no cost) that the province initiates.
UBCM considered this issue in September and recommended more study is required before taking action. The following resolution was considered but not endorsed:

B128 - “Therefore be it resolved that UBCM and FCM on behalf of their member local governments write a climate accountability letter to the twenty fossil fuel companies outlining the types of costs that communities are incurring and expected to incur due to climate change, and requesting that the companies pay their fair share of those impacts”

The Committee is hesitant to provide a recommendation for this resolution as it is proposing a course of action in the absence of UBCM following its normal business practice which would be to undertake comprehensive research and analysis on the issue and then determining the appropriate course of action.

David Croal
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

I can only reiterate what I have said in answering the questions above, we are faced with many factors impacting our environment, and climate. We need to use ever tool available to ensure we take every measure possible for environmental protection. We need to work together to be responsible tenants of this planet, it is not ours, today there is little likelihood we will receive our damage deposit back. I shudder to think what we’ve leaving for future generations if we don’t act in a positive cooperative manner now.

Annemarie De Andrade
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

Yes to questions A, B and C.

Fossil fuel companies have known the detrimental effects of greenhouse gases since the 1960’s and have chosen to ignore it. Additionally, they have been heavily invested in hiding the truth and denying that climate change was caused by greenhouse gases. Moreover, fossil fuel companies have suppressed clean technologies by acquiring green energy patents and burying them so they could continue investing in fossil fuel production. As a result, they must be accountable to countries and the communities that now bear the terrible consequences of climate change.

Communities in the U.S. and Peru have sent climate accountability letters to the top 20 fossil fuel companies and so have 10 local governments across BC. As public opinion shifts, pressure will be put in the BC government to pass a new law – Liability for Climate-related Harms Act - to establish a legal basis for lawsuits against fossil fuel companies similar to what BC has done in the past to be able to sue tobacco companies and recover healthcare costs associated with it.

Not only communities would be able to recover part of the costs associated with emergency relief or climate change adaptation efforts (e.g., infrastructure upgrades), but such movement will incentivise stakeholders to invest in clean energy and divest from fossil fuels. Currently, 82% of British Columbians support the idea that fossil fuel companies should pay a fair share of climate impacts. I support it too!

Carol Doyle
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

I have reviewed all the questions and given great thought into each of one of them. Climate Change, Sustainable Water, Adequate Environmental Regulations and the Forests are all of great interest and concern to everyone on the Coast and indeed in the province and across Canada.

However these areas fall under the jurisdiction of the Regional Districts, and or the Province and, in some cases the Federal Government. As a Municipal Government we can lobby for causes, for and against for each and every one of these as issues pertaining to them may arise in our immediate area but decisions cannot be made at the Municipal level rather they will be made at the higher levels of government.

I thank your organization for being the watchdog on these very important environmental issues.

Cathrine Fuller
Candidate for SCRD Area D

A. Yes.

B. Yes.

C. Yes.

Jacqueline Gillis
Candidate for Sechelt Councillor

First, because I like to be as transparent as I can, I need to disclose that I worked in the oil and gas industry in Calgary, while I was working on my degree. And, I was born and raised in Calgary and lived there primarily until I moved here, almost 4 years ago. So I am most certainly biased. But as with some of my answers above, I’m not super familiar with the climate accountability initiative, so I’ll have to plead a certain level of ignorance about this subject.

a. What is fair share? Just out of curiosity, I just don’t know what that means. Is it based on carbon expenditure and greenhouse gas contribution during extraction, production, refining, transportation, combustion…? Look, I’m the first to admit that the petroleum industry is kinda shady. And, we definitely need to look at the way they are not really contributing to us, as Canadians. I cannot tell you how angry I get at the oil and gas companies are allowed to conduct business in Alberta. We take a pittance in exchange for allowing them to cause great environmental destruction, while they make huge profits. However, relations with Alberta right now are not great over Trans Mountain, and these kinds of initiatives could be a bit of a knife twisting in a wound.
Would we be asking for fair share payments from foreign-operating oil endeavours as well? Are we going to go to Venezuela, Petrobras (in Brazil), Russia, the Saudi government, etc. and ask for money? Because say what you will about Canadian oil and gas, but at least the jobs pay well, if someone is hurt, they get taken care of, safety and wellness considerations are important and enforced as much as possible. It is far from perfect, but at least our oil doesn’t directly support despots and exploitative labour.
Also, wood burning fireplaces are very bad for the environment. Will we be taxing the fireplace makers, the wood sellers, and my friends who burn wood for heat?
Also, are we going to tax other carbon-intensive industries?
How about agriculture, livestock in particular. Cows release a great deal of methane. It is a greenhouse gas that is significantly more destructive than carbon dioxide.
I don’t have a problem with the principle, but the actual implementation could be problematic. The timing also may not be good because of relations with Alberta, and without specifics, I can’t commit to do something. I don’t want to have to go back on my word.

b. Sechelt wouldn’t be the first jurisdiction suing over global warming. Or seeking damages. Places like Vanuatu (spelling?) and the Maldives are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels and are suing or seeking resolution through the UN. How do I feel about this? Conflicted. On the one hand, the fossil fuel industry has been hiding and lying to the public about the extent of global climate change for years. They are not the good guys. On the other hand, I drive an SUV. I am part of the problem, and I do so, knowing full well the impact of fossil fuel burning on the environment.

c. Legal action, see my issues with a. and b.

Mark Hiltz
Candidate for SCRD Area F

a. Yes. Climate Accountability letters expand on the SCRD discussion document “We Envision” section on climate and energy.

b. Local governments, being the children of the Provincial government (the parents), need to make clear our costs associated with climate related harms. Property taxes alone cannot be expected to fund the repair of the harms.

c. Committing SCRD staff resources to exploring legal action against fossil fuel companies, without going through the Board Strategic Planning process after the October 20 election, is a promise I can’t make.

Janice Kuester
Candidate for Sechelt Councillor

Yes I would support issuing a climate accountability letter .

Yes I would press the province to enact liability for climate related harms laws

Could we as a municipality look at taking legal action against fossil fuel companies to recover costs?
That is a question that I believe as a municipality we do not have the funds to do. I think we need to carefully manage our internal resources to maximize benefit for our residents, while advocating for
larger initiatives such as to this one, to be handled by others.

Aleria Ladwig
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

a. How is this different from the Clean Environment and Asset Management component of the Federal Gas Tax Fund? The government of Canada provides more than $278 million in indexed, annual funding for local government infrastructure in B.C. through the Federal Gas Tax Fund administered through the UBCM. There’s nothing stopping us from applying to this fund to address infrastructure impacted by climate change.

b. I’d rather see the province put incentives in place to encourage people to stop using fossil fuel in the first place.

c. No. Fossil fuel companies aren’t doing anything illegal. I understand the sentiment but I don’t think this is a lawsuit that would win in court. We all understand the impacts of fossil fuels and yet most Canadians still depend on their product / service. I think we need to approach this from a different angle.

There might be something to be said for insurance companies suing fossil fuel producers for damages to their bottom line as natural disasters increase, but let them pay those legal bills – not the residents of Gibsons.

Stafford Lumley
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

I would support these measures if that is the will of the majority of Council. All the newly elected voices at the table would need to discuss these potential actions and may even come up with alternatives. I generally don’t support provincially or externally prescribed cookie-cutter actions for every differing community, and think that our Council should address Climate Accountability or any other issue in a way that reflects and honours Gibsons, our residents, and unique natural environment.

Donna McMahon
Candidate for SCRD Area E

I have a lot of respect for the Georgia Strait Alliance and the work they do, and I applaud their efforts to sue fossil fuel companies, but I have to say that I'm skeptical about the likelihood of success. Large corporations have high powered legal teams dedicated to protecting their interests. However, it's probably worth the attempt.

I would like to see initiatives like this pursued in collaboration with other municipalities through organizations such as AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) and UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities). While the SCRD can write a letter of support and encourage the province to enact new laws, we are too small to do any heavy lifting on these kinds of projects. Our first priority has to be to reduce our own GHG emissions and build sustainable infrastructure.

Bruce Milne
Candidate for Sechelt Mayor

We have made a modest start on this in Sechelt. Our letter was brief and sent to a limited number of producers (those most actively importing carbon fuels to British Columbia). We could do more – see item 5 in my answer to Question 1.
a) Yes, as above.

b) Yes, I would take a stronger role in this area.

c) not so much. Limited resources.

Hans Penner
Candidate for SCRD Area D

I am pleased that the District of Sechelt has voted to join 13 other communities around BC and send Climate Accountability letters to the Carbon Majors. Yes, if elected I will ask the Regional Board to send Climate Accountability letters from our community to major fossil fuel producers demanding that they pay their fair share of local climate costs caused by their activities and products and request the province of BC to enact Liability for Climate-related Harms laws.

Lennea Perpet
Candidate for Sechelt Councillor

If elected, I would be willing to support the efforts that have begun in regards to the communications with fossil fuel companies and the responsibilities of their effect on our environment. If directed by members of our community that they feel stronger actions need to be taken, I would endeavour to do what I could to take it further.

Mike Price
Candidate for SCRD Area A

You are forgetting the limited powers of a small municipality.

So here I go!
a) No. Waste of time. Let the province chase them.
b) Sure push the province to do something that will protect municipalities.
c) No. Waste of time and money. Only the lawyers win.

Brenda Rowe
Candidate for Sechelt Councillor



c. Although as my support to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their actions/or inactions contributing to climate change is noted above, I am doubtful that our small community tax base has the ability to afford the huge legal costs to directly fund a court action against these wealthy companies, unless there were a Class Action law suit, where costs could be shared.

Suzanne Senger
Candidate for Gibsons Councillor

a. Yes. I have already been helping a local group work on a letter and I will be excited to support
it when it comes to the council table.

b. Yes, as expressed in answer to the first question.

c. Yes, this is in my campaign platform and I am committed to exploring it.

Andreas Tize
Candidate for SCRD Area D

a) Yes, as long as the letter is fact-based, well researched, realistic and clear in its intentions. I question the amount of leverage we have on these producers. I don’t think they will hand us buckets of money just because they feel guilty. If it is a worthwhile initiative, I will support it.

b) I think in order of questions, this one should be first. The letter is fairly useless without this law. This law should be a federal law, as climate change has national and international implications, and only has legs to stand on if it can be unequivocally proven that the oil companies were aware of their impact of the environment before the general public was and that they did nothing about it.. The Province will have limited ability to create a meaningful law, and it will meet opposition as it will give BC a reputation that is hostile for business. I see a future for this on a human rights side at federal levels. Will I support it? Yes.

c) Once again, I believe that’s above our level of jurisdiction, unless its class-action. This means that we would not be putting resources towards this at this point in time.

Doug Wright
Candidate for Sechelt Councillor

a) the District of Sechelt has voted to do this

b) a Councillor must always be prepared to lobby any other Government on important issues, so absolutely I am prepared to do my job

c) legal action is a long, expensive road. On this issue, exploring legal action I would agree to. Due to potential costs, taking legal action, individually as a Municipality I would not support. A class action law suit I would consider depending on cost and potential benefit to the community.

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