The B.C. government has set aside $1.5 billion for economic recovery. Ottawa is ready to spend even more. We surveyed supporters and allies to ask where that stimulus money should be spent. Here are some of the project ideas that have rolled in so far.
100% renewable Haida Gwaii: Every year BC Hydro burns 10 million litres of diesel on Haida Gwaii to generate electricity. The utility loses money on the sale of that power, because it’s so expensive to ship the fuel across Hecate Strait. In 2012 BC Hydro issued a call for renewable energy projects on Haida Gwaii — then backtracked after receiving dozens of submissions. Now residents across the islands are organizing to replace dirty diesel power with locally generated clean electricity, one project at a time. Click here for more information
Aq’am Solar Farm: B.C.’s largest proposed solar energy project. The Ktunaxa community of ʔaq’am is blessed with more sunshine year-round than any other place in the province. They want to harness that with a 26 Megawatt solar farm on their land near Cranbrook. Building clean, local power generation on this scale won’t bring back the salmon or Ktunaxa territory flooded by hydro dams. But it would power thousands of homes and electric vehicles, provide good jobs and generate revenue for decades to come. Nominated by Marty Williams. Click here for more information
Canoe Pass tidal turbines: Seymour Narrows, between Quadra Island and Vancouver Island, is home to the most powerful tidal flow on the whole B.C. coast. Canoe Pass is a natural choke point where underwater turbines could harness that energy, if an artificial causeway were removed. A small turbine project almost reached construction before BC Hydro pulled the plug on small-scale power generation. The Quadra Island Climate Action Network is working to revive the Canoe Pass project to electrify local homes and vehicles. Click here for more information
Clarke Lake geothermal project: The Fort Nelson First Nation has acquired the geothermal exploration rights to a depleted gas field in their territory. The Clarke Lake site has the potential to generate 15 Mw of electricity, as well as heat greenhouses. Projects like this have the potential to employ oil workers, since the drilling technology is similar. It could reduce the amount of natural gas burned in the region for electricity, and improve northern food security. Click here for more information
Hesquiaht diesel generator replacement: Like many remote communities in B.C., the village of Hot Springs Cove relies on diesel generators to supply homes with electricity. The diesel is expensive, dirty, and has to be brought in by boat. When it runs out, people are left in the dark. The Hesquiaht Nation has plans for a run-of-river hydroelectric project that would replace diesel and be safe for fish. But the project has stalled due to lack of funding from higher levels of government. Click here for more information
Kanaka Bar micro hydro: As part of its plan for food, energy and financial self-sufficiency, the Kanaka Bar band successfully built a run-of-river hydro project on Kwoiek Creek, a glacier-fed stream that drops into the Fraser Canyon just south of Lytton. Next, they planned to install a 2 Megawatt turbine on Siwash Creek, to generate more clean renewable energy without risk to fish. Read about it on their website here. But BC Hydro walked back its agreement to purchase the power. Now the project is in financial limbo. Nominated by the David Suzuki Foundation. Click here for more information
Solar schools for B.C.: Let’s put solar panels on every public school in B.C. This would save money for school boards, generate jobs and clean local power for the community, and educate students, teachers and parents about decarbonization. It’s a win win win win.
From Fairways to Farm Belts: Like a lot of towns in B.C., Nelson has limited areas of flat, arable irrigated land. One resident suggested adding greenhouses and gardens to the neighbourhood golf course to enhance local food supply and give the public more green space to enjoy.
One more harvest: BC Hydro wants to flood the Peace River Valley for the Site C dam. The West Moberly First Nation has launched a court case over Site C, which must be heard before any flooding happens. Meanwhile, the valley bottom is sitting there — why not use it to feed hundreds of thousands of people? This is top-quality farmland in an area that can grow corn, tomatoes, cantaloupe, onions, watermelon, peas, potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets, squash, and more. Click here for more information
The B.C. Seed Bank: Similar to “Victory Gardens” during WWII, the provincial government could support all households to grow food by providing tools, resources and education. B.C. could also create its own provincial seed bank to safeguard local food crops — and provide seeds to people wanting to grow fruit and vegetables that thrive in their part of the province. Nominated by Roz Royce. Click here for more information
The Okananagan Farm Recovery Project: We can do more than grapes in the sunny Okanagan. With its fertile land and perfect climate, the Okanagan could be a food producing powerhouse – so why are we stilll importing fruit and vegetables? It’s time to invest in food production rather than paving the way for more subdivisions and golf courses.
Vertical ocean farming: Vertical ocean farming is a way to grow huge amounts of food per acre, in a way that restores local ecosystems and puts people in coastal communities back to work. Developed by Newfoundland fisherman Bren Smith, it uses columns of local seaweed and shellfish baskets fed by the ocean currents. These farms can be clustered around existing processing sites to save time and fuel. They sequester carbon and create attractive habitat for fish. Nominated by Ria Hodgson. Click here for more information
Ecosystem Restoration in the Rocky Mountain Trench: The Rocky Mountain Trench provides critical habitat and connectivity for a great diversity of wildlife including threatened and endangered species from Lewis’s woodpeckers to badgers, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears. Ecosystem restoration, including rehabilitation of grassland and wetlands, is an opportunity to restore habitat and revive dwindling wildlife populations in the region while providing employment for youth and struggling forest sector workers. Click here for more information
Kus Kus Sum: Salmon Restoration Project: A sheet metal wall holding up the site of a former sawmill has destroyed the habitat in the lower Courtenay River. When migrating salmon return or when smolts are going out to sea they have no place to hide. Project Watershed has a plan and initial funding to ‘unpave paradise,’ returning the vacant lot to nature and restoring the habitat fish need. Now they need one final fundraising push to bring this vision to life. Nominated by Project Watershed. Click here for more information
Protect the Columbia Wetlands: The Columbia wetlands are one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots: home to hundreds of species of birds and fish, and forming essential habitat for some of B.C.’s most treasured wildlife. They are also an important carbon sink and a hub for ecotourism. It’s time for the Columbia Wetlands to be protected for the benefit of the entire Columbia River valley. Nominated by Lori Larwill.
Salmon-safe flood control and habitat restoration: The lower Fraser River is due for a major flood, and climate change only increases that risk. But as we upgrade our aging flood control infrastructure, we can’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Over 1500km of prime salmon habitat is currently blocked off by dikes, floodgates and pumps across the lower mainland. We can make our communities safer, improve recreation opportunities and restore local ecosystems by connecting waterways and replacing outdated flood-control technology with proven fish-friendly solutions. Nominated by Aaron Hill. Click here for more information
Seed the North: How do we regenerate fire-damaged forests, clearcuts and other disturbed land at a scale that can actually put a dent in carbon emissions? One team in Northern B.C. is working on a system to drop hardy wild tree seeds, encased in biochar, from drones. Seed the North is a proposal to generate both ecosystem and community resilience, through the power of seeds. Nominated by Natasha Kuperman.
Churches to Houses: We’ve got a housing crisis in our towns and cities. Meanwhile, attendance at many churches is dropping and properties are underused. BC Housing should work with church communities to acquire land and build affordable, energy efficient, non-market housing.
Little Mountain Housing: Twelve years ago, 224 families lost their homes when the B.C. government sold Little Mountain Housing to Trump Tower developer Holborn International. Since then, the 15 acre lot in Mount Pleasant has sat empty in the middle of Vancouver’s housing crisis. Instead of more condos, B.C. should kick out the private developer, and build the affordable, sustainable homes that are so desperately needed. Nominated by Take Back the Mountain. Click here for more information
Longterm care we can be proud of: The previous government privatized long term care and out-sourced it to foreign companies. That was a big mistake. Let’s bring it back into public hands and make sure our elders and loved ones get the care they deserve.
Fast Rural Internet: In some parts of B.C. you can work, attend school, access government services and even see a doctor via fast, cheap broadband. In other places, particularly Indigenous, remote and low-income communities, the lack of affordable or fast Internet is a serious barrier. Now is the time for B.C. to expand its investment in building out rural broadband. This is low-carbon infrastructure that can stimulate economic activity in every corner of our province. Click here for more information
Made in B.C. Low Emission Trucks: We need to electrify our long haul truck fleet if we’re to have a hope of meeting B.C.’s climate goals. Let’s bring manufacturing back to Kelowna, former home of the Western Star truck factory, and invest in ‘Green Star’ – low emissions trucks for the 21st century, made right here in B.C. Nominated by Keith Wollenberg.
Province-wide E.V. Fast Charging Network: Investing in a province-wide fast charging network will give consumers the confidence they need to switch to electric vehicles faster. There are over 1,000 public charging stations in B.C., but most are older-generation models that can take over an hour to charge. Hot spots like Hope, Merritt, Kamloops, Nanaimo and Port Alberni need more fast chargers.
Using logging waste to replace diesel fuel: Logging operations in B.C. discard huge volumes of “non-merchantable” wood, most of which is burned. A co-op in White Rock is salvaging some of that wood waste for conversion into a liquid fuel that can replace diesel in heavy equipment and long-haul trucks. This is not cutting down trees for electricity or fuel — it’s diverting wood from slash piles to displace diesel in vehicles that cannot yet run on batteries. Nominated by David Swan. Click here for more information
Climate Action Financing – PACE BC: This is a way for homes, businesses and community buildings to enjoy the benefits of energy efficiency now, while slowly paying down a loan through future savings on their utility bills. Known as a Property-Assessed Clean Energy or PACE loan, this is a financial tool that makes equipment like heat pumps or solar panels accessible to average people. Retrofits and installations create local jobs, while families enjoy better air quality, cut carbon and save money. Nominated by Nancy Gothard. Click here for more information
Community Carbon Tracker: A set of easy-to-use tools that calculate personal or municipal carbon emissions, prioritize the biggest opportunities to cut carbon, and generate a custom climate action plan. Nominated by Tracey Saxby.
Invest in B.C. Parks: B.C.’s parks are essential to our health and wellbeing, yet years of underfunding have resulted in overworked staff, failing infrastructure and overflowing trails and parking lots. Hiring more park rangers, Indigenous stewards and other in-park staff to educate visitors and build trails will help keep B.C.’s parks open safely now, and well into the future. Nominated by Tori Ball. Click here for more information
Youth Conservation Corps: During the Great Depression, governments created programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps to put unemployed people back to work. They planted trees, built flood barriers, fought forest fires and maintained hiking trails. With COVID-19 wiping out jobs for a generation of recent graduates, now is the time for an ambitious jobs program that can put young people to work upgrading community infrastructure and fighting climate change.
100% Electric Buses for B.C.: Speed up the plan to electrify the BC Transit bus fleet – creating jobs and cutting emissions by building new electric buses in our own backyard. First up? Accessible electric shuttles for the new handyDART centre slated for View Royal in Victoria. Nominated by Jane Devonshire.
Bike the Coast: Invest in safe bike lanes connecting communities on the Sunshine Coast so that more people can cycle to work and school – and promote bike tourism by allowing people to hit up the coast’s expansive art and ale trails on two wheels!
Connecting the Suburbs: Reduce emissions and strengthen communities by funding expanded transit and cycle routes in Vancouver’s commuter belt. Too often, suburbanites have to hop in the car to grab a litre of milk. Let’s make sure people can get around and between the communities where they live efficiently, safely and without a car. Nominated by Jaden Dyer.
Sooke Cycle Corridor: As the province plans big changes for Highway 14 in Sooke, let’s make sure the precious dollars invested help create healthier, greener possibilities for South Island commuters. Separated bike lanes and clear signs and road markings make cycling a safer and more inviting option, helps drivers become more bike aware, and encourages more revenue-generating cycle tourism. Nominated by Oliver Hockenhull.
Vancouver Island Rail: The Island Rail Corridor is a 289 km line running between Victoria and Courtenay with connections between Parksville and Port Alberni and to the Nanaimo waterfront. Reinstalling rail service with cycling and walking trails alongside could replace thousands of passenger car trips on southern Vancouver Island. However, the historic expropriation of railway lands from Indigenous nations needs to be addressed first. The project would need consent from communities all along the line to proceed.
I call on Premier John Horgan to invest in COVID-19 recovery projects that advance B.C.’s climate goals and make our communities more resilient.
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