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Kenora's First Climate Change Town Hall

A satellite image from 2016 shows dense algae blooms across Lake of the Woods. The proliferation of algae blooms is one consequence of climate change that is already measurable in our watershed.

A satellite image from 2016 shows dense algae blooms across Lake of the Woods. The proliferation of algae blooms is one consequence of climate change that is already measurable in our watershed.

Kenora MP Bob Nault hosted a Climate Change Town Hall in Kenora on October 13.  The event was well attended and involved lots of lively, thoughtful discussion to help shape Kenora's solutions to climate change.  Read on to learn about those ideas!

The Pan-Canadian Climate Plan

Earlier this year, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna challenged MPs to host town halls in their ridings to explore thoughts and solutions for climate change.  The intent was to feed public comments into the Pan-Canadian Climate Plan that is currently under development. 

Public consultation happened in parallel with the activities of the four working groups identified in the Vancouver Declaration earlier this year: 1) Working Group on Clean Technology, Innovation and Jobs; 2) Working Group on Carbon Pricing Mechanisms; 3) Working Group on Specific Mitigation Opportunities; and 4) Working Group on Adaptation and Climate Resilience.  Through the summer, a public participation portal provided an opportunity for Canadians to register their comments and ideas online.  That portal closed in early September, and the Working Groups' final reports are due in the very near future.  It is expected that the Climate Plan will be announced when the First Ministers meet in Ottawa December 8 & 9.

It is expected that the Climate Plan will be announced when the First Ministers meet in Ottawa December 8 & 9.

If you want to know more about the elements of a strong Canadian climate plan, Climate Action Network - Réseau action climat Canada has produced an excellent summary document that is well worth reading.  

Climate Change Planning in Kenora

While Kenora's town hall happened after the final submission deadline to be a part of the process for developing the Pan-Canadian Climate Plan, there is still a great deal of local, regional, and intergovernmental work to do to tackle climate change problems.  In the spirit of fostering community conversation about climate change, and beginning to work collaboratively on solutions, the town hall was a very useful initial exercise.  

Participants were asked to respond to the following five questions:

1.  What have been your experiences with climate change?

2. What are solutions to reducing greenhouse gasses that you would like to see governments, businesses and communities implement?

3.  What are your ideas to both grow economy and jobs while reducing emissions?

4. What are some ideas to promote innovation and new technologies in the effort to reduce greenhouse gasses?

5. What can Canada do to better adapt to impacts of climate change and support affected communities, including Indigenous communities?

And here's what we heard in response:

1. As a result of climate change, people are concerned about:

- ocean acidification

- proliferation of algal blooms in Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River (and other lakes and rivers)

- spring coming earlier, fall lasting longer, winter being shorter and milder

- frequent catastrophic rainfall events, and their effects on roads and built infrastructure 

- cloudier winters

- more frost- and ice-free days (and, related, loss of ice roads; longer gardening season)

- more wind

- IISD-ELA has noted six trends based on their 48-year long meteorological data set: 1) warmer air; 2) darker lakes due to rainfall runoff increasing the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the water; 3) shorter ice season; 4) loss of habitat for cold water fish like lake trout; 5) decline in population number for lake trout; 6) decline in lake trout body size.

2. What are some collaborative solutions?

- need to reduce fossil fuel and transportation emissions, as these are the largest source emitters in Canada at 26% and 23% of national emissions respectively

- need to improve vehicle efficiencies, while transitioning to zero-emission transportation

- need to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel industry

- need to invest in / subsidize clean tech and renewables sector

- need to boost support for electric vehicle infrastructure

- need to support research & development for clean tech, especially in Alberta and jurisdictions that will be most hard-hit by job losses from the fossil fuel sector

- need a national passenger rail system, overall improvements to national rail service

- need to resolve the regional problem of exorbitant electricity rates

- need to improve building efficiency, make building code amendments to support net-zero building construction / renovation

- discussed tremendous possibilities and current limitations to regional investments in solar farms

- municipalities (Kenora) should approach all new development through a lens of energy assessment: does a project fit within our energy needs / plans / vision?


3. Ideas to grow the economy / jobs while cutting emissions?

- improve building efficiencies - jobs in retrofitting and renovation

- implement a net-zero building code

- retrain oil and gas sector workers to be capable of contributing to the new clean tech / efficient building trades economy

- develop geothermal technology in BC / AB; develop alternative heating and electricity technologies across the country

- explore use of wood for buildings as a replacement to more carbon emissions-intensive steel and concrete

- invest in education as the basis for driving innovation

- invest in improving rail infrastructure

- invest in boosting 21st Century technology infrastructure (broadband internet access, cell phone service, etc)


4. How to promote innovation and new technology to reduce emissions?

- improve urban planning and city design to support active transport (bicycles) and low- / zero-emissions transportation options

- improve national rail service

- install speed governors on vehicles to reduce highway driving speeds

- ensure regional resource revenue retention so that revenues can be locally reinvested to support local innovation and tech advancement

- support tourism innovation, investment in existing infrastructure but adapting to target ecotourism and cultural tourism, rather than traditional exploitative tourism

- support interprovinicial electricity sharing

- adopt green building practices that meet multiple needs: e.g. green roofs solve heating / cooling / rainwater dispersion problems while providing spaces for urban agriculture that enhances local food security and reduces food system's carbon footprint


5. How can Canada better adapt?

- eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and redirect those funds to supporting adaptation and mitigation strategies

- retrain workers transitioning out of oil and gas sector into clean economy

- support alternative transportation options with lower emissions footprints (e.g. use of airships instead of ice roads to service Far North communities)

- look at procurement from a resiliency lens - e.g. when Kenora requires asphalt to rebuild roads eroded from catastrophic rainfall, consider this as a climate change adaptation cost and recognize that federal financial support may be required for this kind of procurement

- adopt flexible work week, flexible work hours - will require significant enhancements to delivery of regional broadband wireless service

- work with changing hydrology patterns to create solutions out of problems: rainwater impoundment in reservoirs could provide a solution to flooding as well as protection against drought


Interested and want to continue the conversation? 

Kenora is beginning a process of climate and energy planning.  The City of Kenora's Special Projects and Research Officer, Adam Smith, is helping to coordinate a new working group that will be tasked with developing a long-term climate and clean energy plan for the community.  Meanwhile, Council is investigating models like Thunder Bay's EarthCare program to develop a climate change resiliency lens for all the City's planning and development work.   Talk to Adam or your City Councillor to find out more about these initiatives.

And as always, we love to hear from you!  Post your comments and ideas below and let's continue the climate change conversation in Kenora!

Richard Tolton