The EnviroCollective advocacy group in Regina has released the result of a candidate survey on renewable energy and says some candidates are pushing for change more than others.
City council voted unanimously in 2018 to make Regina a 100 per cent renewable city by 2050. On Oct. 28 of this year, council voted to create an energy and sustainability framework and action plan by the end of next year.
EnviroCollective defines itself as a group of Regina residents concerned about the climate and environment. It started after the 2018 motion passed. The group sent a three-question survey to all 54 candidates for Regina city council and mayor.
"This was an opportunity for us to really try to find out where are we going to stand with that motion," Maureen Huot, co-chair of EnviroCollective, said. "It was more important than ever to actually see the level of understanding that some of these people had in regards to the science."
The three questions asked how the candidate prioritized making Regina a renewable city, if they would support the four quick actions in the Energy & Sustainability Framework and Action Plan, and if they would vote in favour of initiatives to make Regina renewable before 2050. The survey received responses from five mayoral candidates out of nine and 26 city council candidates out of 45.
"Even getting half of those responses, yes, it's disappointing given the importance of climate action, but it still shows that there is some engagement," Huot said.
The full survey responses can be read at envirocollective.ca/entry/council-candidate-survey-result.
Huot said there are some candidates that were familiar with the science and some that were not. She said some responses showed people weren't specifically deniers of climate change but that it was not a priority for them.
"I think people need to understand that it's not a popularity contest. It's who is actually equipped and capable to do the job that we need done here in the city," Huot said.
Huot said she hopes the report helps Regina residents take an interest in climate action and let it inform their votes.
"This is a good tool for them if they are undecided," she said.
Candidates were also asked if there should be a decisive move to renewables for the city at the mayoral debate hosted by the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce and AccessNow TV on Monday night.
Sandra Masters was the first to respond. She said there has to be a balanced approach to renewables, but that the city should move toward green projects in the future. Masters said it shouldn't be imposed, but that green projects should be done where possible.
Jim Elliott said there should be a clear step toward renewables and that training could help the transition. He proposed jobs could simply be moved toward the renewable sector, with Evraz steel building windmill parts instead of importing them, for example.
Tony Fiacco said that before there can be a decision on renewable resources, the city needs to secure the finances. Fiacco said he doesn't want to risk jobs and that renewable initiatives for city facilities will need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
Michael Fougere said gas and oil isn't going anywhere soon. Fougere had voted for the 2018 motion for Regina to be renewable in 2050. However, he said he voted against the plan on Oct. 28 because there was no cost assessment and not enough consultation with the public.
Darren Bradley said he agreed with Fougere that oil and gas aren't going anywhere soon. He said the city needs to work with the local unions to move forward. He said moving to renewables could be done by even 2040 if the city works with industry.
George Wooldridge said Regina has historically missed the boat when it comes to the energy and oil industry. He said with collaboration they should work toward the target of being renewable by 2050.
Jerry Flegel said this is not always about a big item. He said it's already started, with emissions being better than 15 years ago. Flegel said a move to renewables could increase jobs in the manufacturing industry.
In the survey questionnaire, Mitchell Howse said the city should not subsidize or monetarily incentivize green programs at the taxpayers expense and should allow the free market to work. He said the focus should be on lowering taxes.
We have developed a crisis that the developed world has created and it starts at the local level to fix it. - Maureen Huot
Huot said the change to renewable energy can protect workers.
"Over 8,000 people were in oil, gas, mining, in those hard industries, and we need to have a good, solid plan to just have good, solid jobs in the renewable energy sector," she said.
Hout said the change to renewables in the city is just getting started. She said no matter the industry people work in, they are affected or going to be affected by it.
"Everything is interconnected," she said. "It's hard to see it sometimes here in Saskatchewan where we have our our big, beautiful, sunny summer days, but we have developed a crisis that the developed world has created and it starts at the local level to fix it."