Saanich has won a Planning Institute of British Columbia award for its 2020 Climate Plan, but due to COVID-19, no funds were allocated in the 2020 budget. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich wins award for climate plan cut from 2020 budget

β€˜It’s truly an exceptional plan,’ says councillor disappointed with lack of funding

The District of Saanich has nabbed a Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) award for its 2020 Climate Plan but Coun. Ned Taylor is disappointed the District has yet to allocate funding to implement it.

Each year, PIBC recognizes the professional planning work of members across British Columbia and Yukon at an awards ceremony. Gold and silver award winners are chosen in five different categories based on municipality size.

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 winners were announced online on June 23. In the category of Excellence in Policy Planning – city and urban areas, the District of Saanich took silver for its 2020 Climate Plan: 100 per cent Renewable & Resilient Saanich. The City of Vancouver nabbed gold in the category for its rainwater management plan.

PIBC rewards forward-thinking communities and it’s “a huge honour to win this,” said Mayor Fred Haynes.

Saanich’s 131-step climate plan came in response to the District’s climate emergency declaration in March 2019 and the climate targets adopted in August 2019. Haynes noted that it stands on the shoulders of the District’s previous climate plans.

But Taylor was conflicted when he heard about the award. While he’s proud of the climate plan, he’s disappointed funds were not allocated to it in 2020.

During the 2020 budget deliberations, council voted 6-3 in favour of a core budget, cutting certain funding requests in an effort to reduce tax increases due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 on residents.

Non-discretionary expenses were trimmed meaning Saanich’s climate action would remain the same in 2020. Taylor, as well as Couns. Rebecca Mersereau and Zac de Vries voted against the motion as they were opposed to a budget that didn’t include accelerated climate action.

Haynes emphasized Saanich is continuing its climate action and that it’s the accelerated portion of the plan that was not funded in 2020.

At the time of the vote, de Vries called Saanich’s current climate action is inadequate and said improvements were needed to reach the municipality’s 2030 targets.

The 2020 Climate Plan “won an award because it’s truly an exceptional plan” and it’s “unfortunate” that the District has not been able to implement it, Taylor said, adding “council needs to put our money where our mouth is.”

Haynes said, depending on the budget surplus, council may be able to address the accelerated plan again later in 2020. If not, council will look at it again in 2021, he said.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com


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