Two delegates in support of Coun. Steve Roddick’s climate change emergency proposal, Erica Mah, left, and Jenny George, sit upset and in tears while another delegate speaks against the proposal during a regular city council meeting in Whitehorse on June 17. George, a teacher, said she is feeling scared for the future of her son and her students. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Possible climate change declaration delayed a week

The motion will now come forward June 24

It will be another week before there’s any sort of Whitehorse city council debate and a vote on the possibility of declaring a climate change emergency for the city.

Coun. Steve Roddick put forward a notice of motion June 11 calling for the city to join a number of other jurisdictions in declaring a climate change emergency.

It was expected the proposal would be discussed at council’s June 17 meeting ahead of the June 24 vote, but as Roddick told many who gathered in the gallery of council chambers on the motion, there is some confusion over debate procedure.

City manager Linda Rapp explained two sections of the council procedures bylaw were in question. One states that once a motion is moved and seconded debate can happen. Another section specifically on notices of motion states that while a notice may come forward at a standing committee meeting where issues are discussed (as the June 17 meeting was) ahead of a vote at a regular meeting, it can not be dealt with at that meeting.

The two sections led to confusion. Ultimately, members decided that it was best to put off discussion and a decision until next week, Roddick explained.

While city council was talking procedure, a motion was also passed in Canada’s House of Commons declaring a climate change emergency for the nation.

Whitehorse council members did not get to discuss the city motion, but members heard from about a half dozen delegates, nearly all who spoke in favour of the declaration with some also voicing their support for a ban on single-use plastic bags in Whitehorse as one way of addressing climate change.

The delegates highlighted the importance of taking action, some noting with emotion the difficulty they and others have sleeping at night as they contemplate the state of the world.

Erica Mah, who organized the Green New Deal session at NorthLight Innovation Centre (part of a series of town halls happening across the country), said the city is doing a lot to address climate change, but it is also in the position to do a lot more. She was pointed to the drafting of a new Official Community Plan as an example.

“What a critical 20 years to be planning as a government,” she said.

Others also voiced support for the declaration, but stressed it’s the action coming from the declaration that will make the difference.

“The world is choking in plastic right now,” Jody Overduin said, calling for the ban on single-use plastic bags that Barbara Drury had put forward.

Such a ban, Drury said, would force people to remember to bring alternatives to the store when they shop.

Recalling her own experience in trying to cut down on plastic, she suggested it could have a ripple effect as people begin looking at ways to cut back on using plastic.

With the federal government considering a ban on single-use plastics for 2021, she said such a move by the city would be timely.

One delegate, however, argued any such ban will have little, if any, impact.

Robert Deklerk pointed to an opinion piece published June 14 in the National Post, which argued such a ban in Canada would not make much of a difference, as Canada is not a significant marine polluter.

He was also pointed to the use of plastic in many facets of life — vehicles, electronics and more, arguing society will never be rid of plastic.

Council will discuss and vote on Roddick’s motion declaring a climate change emergency for the city June 24.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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