The West Coast’s front for fossil fuel divestment has become united as Ucluelet has joined Tofino’s fight for an environmentally friendly investment option.
Local governments throughout BC invest in the Municipal Finance Authority Fund (MFA) and Tofino’s council approved a motion, brought by Coun. Greg Blanchette on March 23, to encourage the MFA to create an alternative, fossil fuel free, fund for environmentally minded municipalities.
Ucluelet’s municipal council unanimously agreed to join this effort during a recent regular meeting and, after the meeting, Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly the district wants to make sure the MFA is doing its best to make innovative investments.
“We’re just asking the Municipal Finance Authority to have a look at what they’re investing in and to be environmentally and socially conscious of their choices,” she said. “I don’t mean to be critical of the MFA. I’m sure they do a lot of that kind of thing, but it’s just for them to have a really good review of what they’re doing.”
When Blanchette brought his motion to Tofino in March, he suggested the district had about $8 million invested with the MFA and about 10 per cent of the fund’s portfolio was invested in fossil fuel industries.
“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.
St. Jacques said Ucluelet would need to be wary of any financial implications divesting from fossil fuels could have.
“We need to understand the impacts of what that change might be,” she said. “I really don’t know a lot about their [MFA’s] investments, to be totally honest with you, so I don’t know what percentage they have in the different areas. I’ll be interested to find that out but certainly, in principle, the community supports looking at other options.”
She hopes the West Coast’s united push will encourage the MFA to invest more heavily in alternative energy sources.
“Personally, that’s what I hope people will do everywhere,” she said. “While we need the current fossil fuel system, there’s no question about that, we wouldn’t be able to get to and from work and all those kinds of things, we need to continue to investigate what other opportunities might be.”
She noted Ucluelet has put significant research into wave and tidal energy.
“We’ve got a great and constant source of power very close at hand in our case and we’d really like to see that as one option and the many other options that I’m sure people are coming up with all the time for renewable energy,” she said. “The constant innovation that’s coming along is amazing…and there’s no question we’ve got to move forward in that direction.”
She believes her constituents would support moving away from fossil fuel investments.
“Generally, Ucluelet is always conscious and concerned about the environment,” St. Jacques said.
Ucluelet is undergoing a review of its Official Community Plan this year and St. Jacques hopes locals will voice their opinions on fossil fuel divestment, and other community activities, when the review’s public input portion kicks off this fall.
“That’s a forum where we can talk about things like the environment, alternative energy sources and how far the community would like council to carry these things forward,” she said.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to the whole OCP process where we can talk about things from bylaw to the environment to parks and trails.”
The district has hired a project manager to help run the OCP review and Vancouver Island University students will be brought in around September to help collect public feedback, according to St. Jacques.
“We’re going to reach out,” she said.
“We’re going to go to people in the community because it doesn’t really work, I don’t think, to just have a meeting and expect people to come out. We need to go out to them.”
She added the OCP input would help the district know what sort of amenities to ask for when potential developers pitch projects.
“We give it to developers and they know coming in what the people of Ucluelet are about and what our expectations are.”