** This article is from January, it was moved over for archive purposes. It relates to an active FOI we have with municipalities, see the following articles for updated information:
“We are requesting data, correspondence details, and information used to declare our current state of climate emergency.”
-Correspondence sent to North Cowichan council, Ladysmith, and CVRD.
On January 26, 2023 we sent an email to our elected members of local office. After allowing over a week to pass we received only one reply from the manager of corporate services, directing us to fill out an FOI request.
It appears as though simply asking for information isn’t enough to unlock the details of our municipalities direction. Instead, we will be submitting a formal FOI request.
Subsequent details will be added to this post as they come in.
Climate lens? What is that, exactly?
It’s difficult to say for sure, as there was no official definition of a climate less offered by the council. From a previous FOI request, however, we learned from a member of the council every decision must pass through this lens.
July 2019 is when everything changed. The municipality of North Cowichan joined the ranks of Duncan to declare this state of emergency, due to climate. Within 3 months staff had returned to the council with the first directions and changes, namely the Climate Action Environment Plan, as well as substantial updates to the Transportation plan.
Despite the claims of multiple rounds of public engagement, we’ve learned the direction of the OCP already had an end goal in mind, to do whatever it takes to reduce carbon emissions by 80% for a target date of 2050. Several options were presented to the public, and also to various climate groups for consultation. Within the FOI we sourced in Oct 2022, we learned the council was consulting with the Climate Caucus, directing the OCP through the climate lens as promised.
After several years of planning and developing, the final details of the OCP was presented to the public in 2 key documents. One, just over 100 pages of artist renders, mostly following the format of New Urbanism, complete with their media style of green spaces, infill, and a promise of a bright future. The other, a nearly 800 page document explaining in detail how the promised future will be achieved.
Some of the highlights include removing 40% of vehicles from the road, reduction of livestock, removal of wood stoves, bicycle-friendly roadways, electric scooter incentives, and importantly, growth centers.
Growth centers refers to an area that is slated for hyper-development. High-rise apartments, limited parking to promote active transportation (walking/biking) as well as community-green space. Construction is severely limited outside of these growth centers with target numbers of 75% or more of all development to be contained within the boundary.
For a municipality like North Cowichan, often referred to as a community of communities, limiting transportation might seem impossible. However, the council will promote that everyone can live within 15 minutes of their shopping, work, and home. Therefore, able to use bicycles and e-bikes for transportation.
It’s an ambitious plan, with a few questions the community are hoping to have answered.
1: The council routinely states the OCP was developed through community engagement, with no outside influence. It’s being promoted as completely developed in-house, by the residents who live here. If that is correct, why do we see the exact same city-plans all throughout the island? Why were draft-versions of the OCP given to climate groups to review before the public had even seen it? How did we start developing the CAEP and Transportation plans before the public even responded to the varied plans presented?
2: The entire purpose of spending years and thousands of tax-payers dollars to rewrite the OCP was to reimagine it under a climate lens. During the past 3+ years, however, we’ve all but stopped the development of housing communities, in favor of micro-dense apartments. This has driven the cost of houses to double, and almost 50% of North Cowichan residents work outside of town. This would seem counterproductive to negate the affordability of housing for residents who live and work in the valley. Instead, growth centers are being promoted with minimal commercial or industrial space available. Therefore, residents do not have employment opportunities in their growth centers. It seems a major piece of the plan is missing from the growth centers, where are people going to work?
3: The OCP and the forestry review have cost the tax-payers of North Cowichan millions of dollars. Despite the cost however, residents have now stood up to say no more, they won’t pay another dime. This is all more evident as the overwhelming amount of residents who show up to voice concerns already live outside the urban containment boundaries. In essence, anyone who lives in the country wants to ensure a micro-dense apartment building doesn’t show up in their neighborhood. This is, of course, perfectly fine and supported if it’s built in someone else’s neighborhood.
Our mission with this project, to uncover what science and factual evidence was collected to declare the climate emergency and subsequent climate lens. The decision to declare the emergency has cost millions of dollars, changed the vision of North Cowichan, and forced families and the middle, working-class citizens, to seek employment outside the valley to compete with the rising cost of living.