Some local governments want their green to stay green.
Currently, municipal councils across the province invest in a Municipal Finance Authority Fund (MFA) and roughly 10 per cent of this fund, according to Tofino Coun. Greg Blanchette, is invested in fossil fuel industries.
Blanchette recently brought a motion to Tofino’s council to encourage the MFA to create an investment option for local governments wanting to steer clear of fossil fuels.
He noted Tofino has roughly $8 million invested with the MFA.
“Thus it follows that $1 million or more of the district’s reserves are indirectly invested in the fossil fuel industry, including fracking, pipelines and tar sands production—those very industries whose effects may in coming decades wipe Tofino as we know it off the map,” he said.
He said he was “shocked” to learn Tofino was invested in industries that, he believes, contribute to climate change.
“Tofino is incredibly vulnerable,” he said. “Because of our position as a climate change victim, which we’re feeling already, and we will feel exponentially more in coming years and decades, it is really morally incumbent on us to push forward this motion and to be proactive on the climate change front in everyway that we possibly can.”
Blanchette said the idea was not to force the MFA to remove fossil fuel industries from its portfolio, but to create a separate investment option.
“It would be a much tougher struggle to divest the existing fund, whereas creating a parallel fund that councils or districts can choose to invest in is a much more streamlined way of doing it and really doesn’t pit us against our neighbours,” Blanchette said.
Coun. Al Anderson suggested other communities might respond negatively to an alternative fund popping up.
“What if a community that was dependent on oil or fossil fuel extraction for their livelihood wanted MFA to create a fund to only invest in fossil fuels as a counter measure to this,” he asked. “Sometimes, I think things are best left alone.”
Blanchette suggested such a fund would be environmentally, and economically, irresponsible.
“Several high profile organizations have pointed out that investments in fossil fuels are getting more and more and more risky,” he said.
McMaster argued fossil fuel investments are actually a good call right now because he believes the market will rebound and he spoke against micromanaging the MFA.
“In my own investments, if I’m paying an investment house to look after my money then as long as they’re giving me a good return and are protecting my investment, I don’t went to interfere with the job they’re doing,” he said.
He said he wouldn’t want to have to explain to taxpayers that the district’s revenues were down due to lower investment returns.
“I’d just be happy to leave it as it is and, I think, if you’re really worried about sea level rising and climate change you shouldn’t be living in Tofino,” he said.
“Climate changing was happening before the Industrial Revolution, it’s going to happen, it might happen a bit sooner but it’s going to happen.”
Coun. Ray Thorogood joined McMaster’s opposition.
“I’m quite satisfied to leave things as they are. The market generally sways direction itself,” he said.
Blanchette said council had a responsibility to act and expressed disappointment in those opposed to his motion.
“The science is indisputable that the fossil fuel industry, that the carbon industry, is causing great shifts in atmosphere, great shifts in the ocean and those shifts are, I would say indisputably, going to cause great impacts, huge impacts, on Tofino,” he said.
“It’s quite shocking to me that the councillors who are supposed to be responsible for this town are willing to let even a dime of Tofino’s money be invested in the industry that is really indisputably pushing forward this enormous worldwide change.”
Mayor Josie Osborne agreed.
“I for one am not content to leave things as they are,” she said.
Coun. Dorothy Baert was also in support.
“Currently I invest in a green fund and I’m satisfied with that. It works well enough for me. I don’t get quite the return on my dollars but it works,” shen said.
“I think it just behooves us to say that we want to know that we have an alternative where we put our money.”
Blanchette’s motion passed with McMaster and Thorogood the only votes in opposition.