Last week the Esquimalt United Church and ECO, the Esquimalt Climate Organizers, hosted an all-candidates meeting. The meeting was broadcast on Zoom and was also recorded. The video of the event can be found on Youtube:
Each candidate was asked to prepare a 4 minute statement as well as answer questions from the audience. My 4-minute presentation starts at 27:20.
Below I’ve posted the text (roughly) of my prepared statement:
“My name is Duncan Cavens. For the past fifteen years I’ve been a principal of a small consulting firm that advises local governmetns on climate change and other policy. I’ve sat in the room with stakeholders, staff and council across BC and Canada and worked with them on how best to advance climate action. I’ve helped write award winning climate plans, and analyzed how best to meet targets. One thing I’ve learned is that having an active,engaged and educated council is one of the best ways to see concrete action and help staff. This is the main reason I’m running for council: to make meaningful progress on climate change and affordable housing.
Esquimalt has long talked a good game: back in 2013 council adopted the most ambitious target in BC. 3 years after declaring a climate emergency, we’ve finally got a climate plan that unfortunately has very few concrete actions.
I’m the first to admit that addressing Climate change isn’t easy: if it was, we as a society would have solved it by now. It’s a wickedly complex problem with overlapping jurisdictions and needs for investments.
The good news is that a lot of the things we need to do are things that we want to do anyway: reduce our energy costs, make Esquimalt even more walkable, and improve our streets so that our kids and seniors feel safe walking and biking to the recreation centre. . Esquimalt is a small jurisdiction with a limited budget- we need to focus on those things that will get us the biggest impact for our limited dollar, and focus on those things that are most likely to reduce our emissions. I’m cheap – I hate wasting money on reports and consultants when the answers are already there in reports done in other jurisdictions. We need to get our fair share of Federal and Provincial money We know what we need to do: we just need to start. We need to
Here in Esquimalt, I’ve done a deep retrofit on our home on Lyall St, and reduced our families’ GHG emissions to almost zero. It’s significantly reduced our monthly costs andmade the house more liveable especially during the heat dome last summer. Our transportation costs have gone way down and our vehicle maintenance has declined dramatically. Because I’m a numbers guy, I calculated that the incremental cost was around $15k- but will pay for itself in less than 10 years. I realize that this isn’t possible for many households in Esquimalt, especially now with the cost of living: we need to look at how other jurisdictions are working to help make this affordable for their residents with innovative financing programs or incentives.
We’ve also been asked to talk about social justice tonight: and right now, it’s hard to talk about social justice without talking about the housing crisis. So many of fellow residents are struggling to make it: many of our low income seniors and people with disabilities are on the edge of homelessness or having to move out of Esquimalt after decades here. These used to be the people we serve next door at Rainbow Kitchen: but recently we’ve seen that our traditional clientele has increased: we’re seeing families, working people, even people with full time jobs at the base coming in because they are struggling to make ends meet with housing costs in Esquimalt.
The last council and staff have done a good job at making Esquimalt attractive to new development- we’ve seen a massive increase in market housing under construction and in process: nearly 2000 units – a 25% increase in a very short time. We have put lots of effort into making for new people coming into Esquimalt, which is great. We now need to put the same effort into making sure that those people who are already here, and who are increasingly at the margins economically, can continue to afford to live here.
I was the co-founder of a non-profit cohousing community: I know how hard this is to put into practice. I’m under no illusions that Esquimalt, with its limited staff and budget can turn around the housing market and produce a large amount of affordable housing. But we’ve got to try.
How do we do it? We need to attract affordable housing developers and federal and provincial funding. We need to streamline processes for affordable housing to reduce their risks. We might even need to promise additional density for deeply affordable housing in key locations: make our sites more attractive to affordable housing providers than to market development.
I don’t shy away from doing hard things: it’s what I want do the next 4 years here in Esquimalt. I want to be able to come back in here in 4 years and report on all the things we’ve done to address climate change and affordable housing, not just the things we’re planning to do.”