I would like to point out the mixed message Oak Bay council is sending to the community around climate change and their declared “Climate Emergency”.
One of council’s priorities is: “Climate Change & Environment: Proactively mitigate and adapt to climate change and preserve and enhance the environment.”
When moving forward with the Sidewalk Patio Expansion Program, the director of building and planning, who authored the report on the expansion of this program, was paying attention to council’s priorities and included the following: “Environmental Impact of Heating Systems: Only electric patio heaters allowed.”
The director’s intelligent and considered directive on patio heaters was moved out of the report by a unanimous council decision, council noting that it would place those who had already purchased gas heaters for use on public land at a “competitive disadvantage” to those private businesses who were using gas heaters on private land and those considering new equipment for use on public land.
Gas heaters will continue to be allowed on public sidewalk patios in Oak Bay, now and into the future. Same old, same old; no wisdom, no paying attention to the climate change evidence, no proactive mitigation, overriding their own priorities and experts both within their building and from UBC.
By noting the economic impact of disallowing gas heaters, they are making the same arguments that many make and use as the standard rhetorical response to climate change; the economic argument that trumps all other considerations. There is still time for reconsideration and I would encourage others to contact council and ask for a rethink.
I expected better from this council, particularly when almost all council members noted how they would work to address climate change in their campaign literature. When the opportunity to actually do something impactfully small, but symbolically huge came up, they caved to the economic lobby, the rhetoric of the climate delayers. You don’t use planet-destroying hydrocarbon combustion to heat the outdoor environment for the comfort of business patrons. As I am sure many of our mothers and grandmothers have said “Get a blanket, put on a sweater.”