Oak Bay’s Official Community Plan (OCP) was adopted in 2014 as “a framework to guide growth and decisions about the use and management of land and water resources in the municipality”. And, in accordance with the Local Government Act, the OCP includes policies for restrictions on land subject to hazardous conditions or environmentally sensitive to development, and for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The OCP doesn’t dictate that we must act, but that we must consider OCP objectives in making decisions. This translates into policies like Oak Bay’s Bylaws on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Tree Protection, or Reports like Urban Forest Strategy and Complete Streets. The OCP also includes goals of working towards climate change mitigation, and for protecting and enhancing the natural features that make the community environmentally and socially healthy. It is obvious, from the Survey and the OCP adopted, that environment is an important issue to Oak Bay residents. Opinions differ, though, on what the goals are and how they can best be accomplished. To some legislation may go too far, and to others it will not go far enough.
Oak Bay’s (2007) Bylaw 4319 outlined a target of 33% reduction in GHGs by 2020 compared to 2007. This year we received a grant under the Federal Gas Tax Strategic Priorities Program to reduce the District’s environmental footprint. The grant is for a project to install a heat transfer system to capture waste heat generated by the Recreational Center’s arena refrigeration system. The recapture of 155 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere annually will result in an overall reduction of 14.2% of the District’s GHGs emissions. It will generate $34,000/year savings in operating costs, and will allow the Municipality to achieve its 33% reduction target ahead of schedule. Sounds like, and is, good news. Many will say this demonstrates how various levels of government can work together to achieve positive change. Others will ask if action should have been taken sooner.
How do we relate the statement in the OCP that says,” The community places high values on the natural environment and recognizes that environmental conservation, with public and private stewardship, are core elements of community sustainability”, to the decision to reduce GHGs for recreational facilities only if and when funding is available? District staff provides good reports and recommendations at Council meetings on these issues, but to a very limited audience. Because message doesn’t get out to the broader community, the opportunity is missed to consider or discuss our responsibility to mitigate environmental impact.
After years of advocating for preservation, restoration or improvements to the environment I believe that the political process is limited in governing human activity. It is difficult, if not impossible, to legislate radical shifts in beliefs and values. If we reduce our environmental footprint individually, we can collectively achieve far greater success. My career allowed me the opportunity to make real and significant environmental impact. The commercial real estate industry contributed heavily to Canada’s carbon footprint; Canada’s plan to adopt the Kyoto protocol was a major concern. The Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA) represented the majority of Canadian stakeholders. Members were split on whether to oppose or support Canada signing on to the agreement. I already had a decade of experience with large building energy, environment and life safety retrofits and my position was firm – as an industry we had the knowledge and responsibility to promote energy and environmental stewardship. After much debate, and real concern for the financial impact on the industry, the decision was made to voice support for Kyoto and to develop a ‘green’ program.No easy task for an industry association comprised primarily of volunteers. BOMA BC and BOMA Toronto lead the way on BOMA Go Green. It gave me great pleasure to be the spokesperson for the kick-off:
“BOMA Go Green is Canada’s only national standard for existing buildings and provides a clear set of tools to measure and improve the environmental performance of existing commercial buildings. With each enhancement, we are very careful to ensure that the standards established for the Go Green Program are being maintained,” explains Esther Paterson, President of BOMA Canada. “The program is continually being updated as reflection of the dynamic nature of our industry,” she adds. “Given that it was developed by and for the commercial real estate industry, Go Green will always be responsive to changes in the industry and the demand for certification of other type of buildings.” (Excerpt from BOMA Canada announcement November, 2006)
The name has changed, but the commitment continues. In 2018, with more than 7,000 buildings obtaining a certification or recertification since its inception in 2005, BOMA BEST is now Canada’s largest environmental assessment and certification program for existing buildings. It is a unique, voluntary program designed by industry for industry; it provides owners and managers with a consistent framework for assessing the environmental performance and management of existing buildings of all sizes. The program has also expanded to include the award winning course e-Energy Training for Building Operations, the Earth Awards in recognition of excellence in resource preservation, the Sustainable Buildings certification, and in 2017 the BOMA Canada Net Zero Challenge was launched with support from Natural Resources Canada.
With over a century of achievements, BOMA Canada’s mission statement includes the sentence, “And that’s the key, community – a group of like-minded individuals who come together to create change.”
I know that Oak Bay also has many like-minded individuals who work together to create positive change in their community. And the Official Community Plan covers a wide range of topics on environmental stewardship: protection of watercourse and shorelines, protection and renewal of natural areas and green spaces, support for multiple forms of transportation, and minimizing adverse impacts on natural systems and resources. And as stated in the OCP, monitoring will be important to evaluate whether the visions, goals and objectives are being achieved. This is something I will advocate for if I am elected to Council in 2018.