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Poor planning scored

Jul 11, 2016

Former mayor Bob Bratina began the city’s first consultations on a federal climate change plan by arguing many of the challenges facing Hamilton “result from poor city planning” that have constructed “a city that is designed for driving cars”. None of the residents at the Tuesday morning session organized by the east end MP seemed to disagree, but  they focused on what the Trudeau government should do across the country, including keeping fossil fuels in the ground, blocking new pipelines and ensuring fair treatment of First Nations.

Despite short notice for the event, and the awkward timing of a workday morning, the consultation attracted about 35 people, including ten who made verbal presentations. Bratina said he agreed with all of them, but was confronted with demands that words be converted quickly into real action to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions that currently are the highest per person among nearly all countries except some oil sheikdoms.

Bratina said “the developers have had their way” in Hamilton, and that “20,000 houses [will be] built in the next few years at the top of Stoney Creek mountain, Fruitland, Winona, way out and then of course this Elfrida, the so-called Elfrida node which is another area, way distant, that the developers will likely get their way in terms of getting that developed.” He noted that providing transit to these growth areas is “almost impossible” because of the low densities and pointed to cul-de-sacs off Rymal Road that require “a GPS to actually find an address up there” as additional evidence that the city has been designed for cars.

“The actual fact is that our emissions are for the most part automotive vehicle emissions and there are ways that we could fix that, and now we have to see whether the council of the city of Hamilton will agree with the province and with the federal government in terms of how to move forward on that front.”

The Trudeau government has asked all MPs to host town hall meetings to help gather Canadians input into a national climate change plan they hope to finalize by October. The deadline for these events and for submission of on-line comments is the end of August, but so far Bratina’s constituents are the only Hamilton ones to be offered a consultation meeting.

A palliative care physician recounted how she had moved her family back to Canada from the United States when George Bush got re-elected, but then was embarrassed by the Harper government’s failure to address climate change. Drawing on her medical experience, she suggested we’ve treated climate change like dying as something we’d rather not “think about the ugly reason” why it must be addressed.

“It’s because this actually impacts living, breathing people – not only polar bears and penguins. And yes, right now it’s people further away and some of our indigenous people, but if we don’t do anything about it, it’s going to be all of us.”

A retired educator pressed the federal government to reject trade agreements that give private corporations the right to sue governments. He contended that “this is a detriment in many ways to us taking action as Canadians” on climate and other issues such as providing financial incentives to switch to electric vehicles.

A 25-year-old bluntly told Bratina that “young people are screwed because of your generation” but added that the Liberal government has an opportunity because “young people want you to succeed and we understand that things are going to be difficult but things are already difficult.” He said he has friends working in the Alberta tar sands who “don’t want to work there but they have to because they have to feed their families” and urged the government to stop subsidizing oil companies and spend those monies on retraining energy workers.

“People don’t believe the Liberals are actually going to follow through on this because we know we’re screwed, so prove us wrong,” he concluded. “Work with us, follow through on your promises and make some serious real change – and that means you’re going to have to start screwing over different people.” 

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