A new program that looks to connect Canada’s resort communities in an effort to tackle climate change has called on the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) to become a founding partner.
“We believe our love of adventure in nature demands our participation in the fight to save and protect it,” said David Erb, executive director of Protect Our Winters Canada (POW).
“We're a not-for-profit organization that's really focused on aligning the outdoor industry, which includes everyday enthusiasts like myself and, and others that might visit Blue Mountain to ski or hike, professional athletes and industry brands,” he explained during a recent deputation to TBM council.
POW focuses its efforts on organizing, educating and equipping businesses, social influencers and the general population to advocate for systemic policy solutions to climate change.
In recent months, POW has been approaching municipalities across Canada that rely on adventure tourism in an effort to seek out partnerships for collaboration on an inter-municipal climate awareness plan.
Prior to approaching TBM, POW also invited the municipality of Whistler, the Town of Banff, the municipality of Jasper, Ville de Mont Tremblant, the University of Waterloo, interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change and Hot Planet Cool Athletes Canada, to also become founding members.
“The fact that we've been identified and have been invited into this group — you'll note that we're the only Ontario municipality — so I definitely think we have to put our commitment behind this and we can't just be their name, we've got to be there in actual action as well,” said TBM Coun. Andrea Matrosovs.
“So much can be learned from each other, both across Canada, and the world. I was quite impressed when I did research on POW that this isn't just Canada, but it's a worldwide network,” she continued.
The program strives to assist its partner municipalities in developing a Climate Action Plan blueprint by providing projections on impacts, assessment on local and tourist related CO2 emissions and identifying strategies, best practices, technology efficiencies, and engagement strategies.
“We aim to increase the resilience and future viability of Canada’s adventure tourism sector by evaluating climate-change risks, developing strategies to decarbonize ski and adventure tourism destinations, and transition resort communities on climate resilient pathways,” Erb explained.
POW also plans to create a Resort Municipality Climate Coalition (RMCC), which will leverage the collective experience of Canada’s resort communities to create a forum to exchange information, ideas, successes and challenges.
“The intention behind this RMCC is that we can bring together other resort municipalities from across the country, no matter what stage they're at in their climate planning, and create a community where we can really forward each other's efforts,” Erb said.
The program will be based out of the University of Waterloo, and is also backed by the Climate Caucus, a non-partisan network of 250-plus elected local leaders working collectively to create and implement equitable policy, which aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services science.
Erb adds there is no direct cost to partner municipalities for the first year of the program, as POW is currently in the process of acquiring funding through Canadian Climate Action and Awareness Fund.
In the second year of the program, POW will be asking founding partners to make a $50,000 annual contribution for two years.
According to Erb, the funds can be allocated directly, indirectly or in-kind.
For example, wages for staff working on climate planning or allocation of consultant fees would be considered as indirect contributions.
“There's no cost to doing this. It's essentially a working committee that will come together and resource one another,” he said. “However, that would likely lead to part two, which is a commitment for in-kind matching funds. And, that can be a very flexible ask, it doesn't need to be new dollars, we just need to have the ability to point to dollars in your budget that are being allocated toward climate planning.”
According to Jeffery Fletcher, manager of solid waste and environmental initiatives for TBM, the town has already begun work in some of these areas through such sub-committees, such as the sustainability advisory committee.
“This is a great opportunity for the town to take advantage of some great academia and influential groups like the Climate Caucus. As well as all the other resorts that are involved. Together we can gain some real momentum,” Fletcher said.
Erb adds that the threat of climate change is a stark reality for the outdoor tourism industry, pointing to the impact the climate crisis is having on the length of the winter season.
“As you may know, ski operators have a magical number of 100 days. If they can operate for 100 days in a winter, that's generally their break-even point and anything above that is a surplus,” Erb said. “But, as soon as they dip below 100 days, it's really questionable if they're able to sustain their overall operations.”
“A major engine of our economy is Blue Mountain Resort and the other resorts that operate in the area, not to mention the rest of the outdoor winter activities that happens here and some of our smaller tour operators. It's a big part of economic sustainability, but it's also apart of our social sustainability as well,” Matrosovs added.
Following the deputation from Erb, TBM council moved a motion to join the RMCC as a founding member and also directed staff to provide a follow-up report regarding the request for a commitment to allocate in-kind matching funds to the program once federal funding is in place.
“This is an important opportunity for us, whatever noise we can make will be amplified greatly by being part of an organization like this,” added TBM Deputy Mayor Rob Potter.
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca