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Speaking of your livelihood

01 Sep 2021 | OP ED Watch

A CBC headline says “Municipalities ask Ottawa for billions of dollars to protect themselves from climate change”. And from having to budget properly. Lucky for us those brave and selfless politicians are going to save us all provided, um, they get a huge stack of cash from somewhere other than their own taxpayers. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

The CBC does the usual everybody-knows move-along thing, saying “The group representing more than 2,000 municipalities is asking for billions of dollars from the federal government to help cities and towns protect themselves from climate-related events as wildfires, floods, heat waves and droughts increase in intensity.” No intrepid investigation for them of whether these things are increasing in intensity or are “climate-related”. And we could point out that the CBC, too, is dependent on government for its funding. But private media are generally equally credulous and we don’t want to be mean.

On the other hand, municipalities in Canada have been facing an ominous backlog of infrastructure maintenance and renovation since before climate change was a thing. Far too many cities are dependent on roads built 60 years ago and sewers built long before that. (We had the privilege back in 2008 of covering Ottawa’s replacement of some World War I-era sewers and at the risk of seeming nerdy, the new stuff was incredibly high-tech and cool.) Bridges need repair and holes are appearing in roads and especially given the COVID downturn, in municipal budgets as well. Now along comes Justin Trudeau willing, as he saves us all from umpteen perils, to add to the list that we won’t be burned up or washed away by climate if only our city will reach out, take the pledge and take the money. And if it buys him an election, well, no price too great.

So the cities took the pledge and reached out. CBC reports that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities wants “$2 billion over three years, followed by at least $1 billion annually starting in 2024-2025, to support disaster mitigation and climate resilience projects for things like wildfire mitigation, drought reduction, flood prevention and restoration of wetlands and shorelines. $100 million annually for 10 years to enhance municipal natural infrastructure by, among other things, letting municipalities purchase forests, wetlands and green spaces. $500 million over five years to update regional climate modelling and natural hazard maps and to include climate impacts in asset management and infrastructure planning.” Yeah. Things like. Among other things. And of course dollars all taste like chicken so once it’s in the pot, who will really know? And what can’t be portrayed as climate-friendly? Even fixing a highway reduces gas mileage, right?

Of course the CBC has the pompoms going. “The crushing impact of climate-driven natural disasters was obvious at the start of the campaign, as destructive wildfires ripped through parts of the British Columbia interior…. In a grim summary of the situation, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report earlier this month warning that without a radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the world is on course for global warming that would have grave consequences. UN Secretary General António Guterres called it ‘code red for humanity.’”

Happy to play the game, FCM president and Strathroy-Caradoc ON mayor Joanne Vanderheyden “said that, as the first level of government to respond to natural disasters, municipalities are on the front lines of the climate crisis and need more help.” And Erin O’Toole joined the bidding war, while Jagmeet Singh said “We are seeing the impacts of that crisis right now, with extreme weather that we've never seen before. Forest fires ravaging our country in extreme circumstances that we've also never seen before. People can't breathe the air. People are seeing flooding, heat waves”.

Yeah whatever. But in the midst of all this commotion there are two key points to keep in mind. When one level of government gives money to another it magically appears in mid-handover so don’t worry about where it will come from. And municipalities are ground zero of climate change.

One comment on “Speaking of your livelihood”

  1. Talk about self-fulfilled prophecy. The Government of Canada states that climate change will cost Canadian tax payers billions of dollars, then the Government pledges billions of dollars to municipalities for so-called impacts of climate change, who in turn call their bluff. When the Government pays the municipalities, climate change will cost the tax payers billions of dollars. I'm getting dizzy.....

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