Letters to the Editor for the week of September 19 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LAURA SCULLY
  • Photo By Laura Scully

Charging courtesy

I own an electric car, and it is the ultimate second car. Putting in more charging sites is a great initiative. However, current charging set-ups and etiquette just aren't working.

For Whistler to meet its green goals, more chargers along the corridor are necessary; notably, Squamish only has one fast charger, one regular charger...and at least four proprietary Tesla stations. Many cars need to stop for a substantial top-up en route to make it up to Whistler. Newer cars do have more range, but most don't, and temperature and gradient are real factors.

The current one-car-at-a-time set-up doesn't work for longer-term situations, such as P1, malls, or YVR. Stations with multiple cables that would automatically switch from one vehicle to another once charged, depending on when they signed in, would make more sense in many spots. This would allow much better usage of the infrastructure, without taking up too much space.

And what about charge-station etiquette? Where does it say that you get to leave your car on a charger indefinitely while others are waiting? Why is it so horribly wrong if I unplug your car when the charger says it is done charging (and you are nowhere to be seen), to start charging my vehicle? Who decides that "courtesy" means I stop charging at 80 per cent if you are waiting, when I know I need to get to 85 per cent—at most another five minutes—to get through my day and then home?

Since when does "courtesy" mean you can stand there, glaring and tapping your toe, while I take that necessary five minutes? Would you do that anywhere else?

And that was just yesterday! I have seen as many as four vehicles waiting for the charger in Squamish, and people almost come to blows over someone unplugging a fully charged and unattended vehicle.

Last but not least, owning an electric car does not make you a saintly expert on vehicle range, courtesy, and other people's needs. It definitely does not make you entitled to settle in at any charger, whenever and for as long as you please. (I'm looking at you, Tesla driver! Use your own chargers!).

Hybrid driver, you chose convenience, so please let me charge my car when it is my only way to get where I am going.

And you, the gas driver blocking that precious charger? There are no words...or maybe one: Towtruck.

I am sure I am breaking all kinds of "rules" of ''courtesy'' by even writing this, but (obviously) this has been on my mind, and Pique's recent article brought it to the fore ("Whistler has its work cut out for it on EV charging," Pique, Sept.12). The muni's effort is laudable, but there are some bigger-picture electric car charging issues that they could set a great example with.

Laura Scully (Joncas) // Whistler

Boost better building with incentives

As additional food for thought regarding an article in Pique on Aug. 22, "Building Boon," about housing affordability and construction costs, I have the following thoughts and suggestions.

My background is in construction and I have run a small construction company in Whistler for 25 years focusing on quality green and energy-efficient building and renovating.

I am glad to see we are building more (rental) housing. I am also glad to see it being built responsibly in terms of climate change, as a Passive House in the case of the new Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) building. Building to that level of energy efficiency does cost some more and it's good to see the federal government jumped in to help out with an apparent funding gap.

Which gets me to the point I want to make regarding government incentives to build more energy efficient buildings.

Currently in B.C. we have the Step Code in place in some municipalities, which prescribes the level of energy efficiency buildings have to be at. It is set up that the level increases every two years or so until in about 12 years, every new house will be a Passive or net-zero home, meaning that these will consume very little or no energy. This technology is available now and these homes are being built by forward-looking and responsible owners and builders, but it costs more and does not help housing affordability as there are no incentives.

These owners are paying more to do the right thing and, shockingly, there are zero incentives out there to get more people to do this.

As an example, I have a client who demolished his 1970s home to voluntarily make way for a Passive House. He could have just done a reno or built a "code" house to save some money. He is also keeping his footprint low by building on the same lot. It would sure be helpful to him to get some breaks in the cost.

I have other clients that would not spend the extra money it costs to build to such a level unless they received incentives to do so. The vast majority of clients would consider building to a higher level [if] strong incentives [were] available. Instead, all levels of government are again coming up with rules and laws to build more energy efficient over time, but the consumer is left with coughing up the money, making our unaffordable housing even more expensive.

So here's my suggestion if government at all levels wants to show some real sincerity on combating climate change.

In order to make housing/building more affordable and energy efficient for individuals and groups (such as WHA), give some real and substantial incentives such as waiving the GST on a new home that is certified passive or net zero or another comparable high-level, measurable efficiency measure. The provincial government can throw in a PST waiver, or reduction, and the municipality can waive the development cost charges.

Now we have some substantial dollar numbers that will entice people to start building to the above-mentioned levels, as well as make building housing more affordable for individuals and groups down the road.

So far, all levels of government are dealing with climate change by coming up with schemes that cost the consumer more money to do certain things that are plainly punitive in nature. The average consumer/citizen has to pay for it all, which makes the living/housing costs even more expensive in addition to our already expensive land.

In Germany, there is currently a very active discussion of how to seriously combat climate change and the suggestions range from taxing vehicles by their CO2 emissions (not fuel consumption), giving major incentives for economical electric vehicles and offering major tax-break incentives to upgrade/retrofit the energy efficiency in housing, as well as building new housing to the highest efficiency levels and also giving tax breaks on that to help with affordability.

These sound like fair, common-sense approaches to deal with climate change. There has to be a way to tax that is less punitive and functions more as a reward for carbon-conscious behaviour.

To finance this, maybe our government should invest the money into the above-mentioned incentives instead of buying pipelines and staying on the unfortunate path of carbon-heavy activities instead of encouraging innovation in the alternate energy sector. Give homeowners, builders and developers a real incentive to build better homes now.

I think substantial incentives will accelerate participation in building high-performance housing and other carbon-reducing activities.

Axel Schreyer // Whistler

Access to housing is a 'human right'

Canada ratified Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which identifies housing as a fundamental human right. On the global stage, Canada has affirmed its commitment to protect the human rights of every person in every province.

The B.C. government has a legal and moral obligation to protect the fundamental human rights of tenants in the province of B.C. The "right of first refusal," as outlined in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) is failing to safeguard the fundamental human rights of low-income and vulnerable tenants in British Columbia. This legal loophole allows landlords to increase the rent on their properties above the legal annual rent increase set by the province without any legal penalties, and has forced many low-income and vulnerable tenants into homelessness.

The right of first refusal has led to an increase in homelessness, poverty and social exclusion in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. Low-income families, single parents, seniors, persons with disabilities, and those experiencing health issues are the most affected by this problem. Some single mothers are also forced to remain in abusive relationships or forced to give up custody of children due to the prospect of being homeless as a result of the "renoviction" problem.

Consider Ruth's story (not her real name).

Ruth is a single mother of two beautiful four-year-old twin girls. She just left an abusive relationship and is now homeless with her young family. Ruth has a full-time job. The family is homeless after the landlord decided to renovate his property and then increased the rent by $600. Ruth's rent was $1,600 before the renovations. After the renovations, the new rent jumped to $2,200. Ruth's monthly income is $2,500.

The landlord complied with the right of first refusal as outlined in the RTA and offered Ruth the option to return to her home if she agreed to the new rent increase. Ruth could not afford the new rent increase. So, she moved out to live with family members and friends and now she lives in a van with her children.

Ruth's story is not unique. For many residents of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, this is their reality. When a person is forced into homelessness, they are robbed of their dignity and safety. This is a violation of their fundamental human right to housing as outlined in Article 11 of the ICESCR.

It is time policymakers in B.C. remember Canada's obligation under Article 11 of the ICESCR and implement meaningful laws that protect tenant's human rights by ending legal loopholes created by the right of first refusal.

Peter Kabengele // Poverty Law Advocate with Sea to Sky Community Services

Vote to address climate change

Climate change, when do we start a real effort to avoid the consequences?

Do some consequences of climate change seem a bit abstract, impacting other people in other countries? Do they seem like just perhaps natural variations in the weather?

We see things on the news, but we do not see much dramatic impact here yet, so think perhaps the status quo is OK for now. I think until recently I include myself.

Canadians, and Americans also, demonstrate this by electing political parties that not only do not have meaningful policies to address climate change, but also have policies that expand fossil-fuel extraction, which will actually contribute to climate changes.

This contradiction became clearer to me on a recent trip though the Rockies. Near Jasper, the hillsides show the red colour of dead pine trees infected with the recent beetle epidemic, which has been described as a symptom of climate change. In this same area, the highway is filled with semi-trailers loaded with pipes for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. A project to increase bitumen tar exports, which will contribute to increases in GHG levels in the atmosphere—now generally understood to cause accelerated global climate change. Cause and effect?

Just south of Jasper are the Columbia Icefields. Here one can see in person the unprecedented melting of the glaciers. In the visitors centre, undisputed predictions that were written some time ago seem to be proving accurate and the glaciers will almost certainly be gone in just 80 years. Clearly the implications of this will be apparent long before that.

One of the described consequences regards the fact that Edmonton, and I suppose most cities on the Saskatchewan River system, get their summer water supply primarily from this glacier system. Irrigation and other typical water needs would dry up for at least some time each summer. Many Edmonton and other prairie residents must have read this, yet they go home and strongly support political parties that are determined to expand oil and gas exports that will contribute to this predicted catastrophe for perhaps themselves and certainly for their children and grandchildren.

Don't workers and business owners wonder how they will function in a city that has no water? How much will it cost to purchase water from elsewhere? Is there any amount of money that could fix that? Those in agriculture may wonder how their crops or their livestock will survive. Despite this, the mantra is to build that pipeline and get this product to market so it can be burned. I don't get it.

I learned these glaciers feed rivers into the Arctic oceans also and visitors from B.C. read that this glacier system drains into the Columbia River system. Along with supplying water to many communities, businesses, wildlife habitat and farmlands, it also passes over 14 hydro dams, three of which are in B.C. and 11 in the U.S.

The Columbia River generates 40 per cent of hydro power produced in the U.S. and is also a major component of our hydro power supply in B.C. The environmental and economic consequences of this being dried up one can only imagine, yet in Canada and in the United States, citizens elect parties that continue to declare that expanded coal, oil and gas extraction is in their "National Interest."

The Peace River headwaters, as with most other rivers in B.C., are also fed by glaciers, which means the WAC Bennet and the brand-new Site C dam may also not produce power.

Perhaps the billions of dollars going into this project should be invested in a more diverse selection of renewable energy sources that B.C. is blessed with. Geothermal, wind, solar and biofuel opportunities have been passed up in favour of another mega hydro project, which may fail due to climate changes that may take effect shortly after its construction.

Most communities in B.C., including Whistler, rely on nearby glacier melt for summer water and here too all of us and nature will suffer the consequences unless we start a transition off our reliance on oil, gas and coal and focus on keeping as much of its carbon safely sequestered in the ground.

This is not going to be easy, and it is going to take some time, but will only start at all if we elect political leaders who will start planning a transition now. It is not a problem that our generation should just give lip service to and hope someone figures out someday. That day is now.

It is too bad that with such dire consequences in such a short timeframe that addressing climate change is not a policy that all parties, no matter their other philosophies, can agree on and have aggressive policy for.

I hope this will be the case someday, but for now, the Green Party is the only party in Canada that has a responsible program to address this crisis and gives it the priority deserved.

You decide your vote, you decide your most important political issue that impacts you and your family, but remember that climate change consequences will be felt here. Not just in distant political and economic chaos, mass refugee migrations, severe storms or rising sea levels, changing ocean temperatures and acidity and species extinctions.

Not in some distant century but perhaps in our own lifetime, almost certainly in the lives of our children or grandchildren.

Perhaps it is time that we need to put our personal political philosophies and short-term issues in prospective, stop sugarcoating this issue and support political leadership now that shows a meaningful and responsible plan to address the universal challenge of climate change and lead a transition to avoid it.

John Wood // Whistler

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