Victoria is fortunate to be home to many visionary leaders with expertise and experience — people who are dedicated to making the city, province, and country even better for future generations. The Victoria Foundation nurtures relationships with local leaders and values their perspectives. Three of those leaders are profiled here, followed by essays they have written to share their visions of Victoria 2030.
- WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – By Dave Obee
- WHERE DO WE WANT TO BE IN 2030? – By Catherine Holt
- REGENERATION AND REINVENTION – By Jill Doucette
DAVE OBEE – Editor and Publisher, Times Colonist
Dave Obee is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Times Colonist since 1997. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the University of Victoria for his work as a historian, genealogist and journalist and has been recognized by the British Columbia Historical Federation for his many contributions to BC history. He recently received a Bill Good award, which recognizes a journalist, leader or educator who has made a significant impact in journalism and the community at large. Obee is also one of the founders of the Times Colonist book drive, which has raised more than $5 million in support of school libraries and literacy projects since 1998. He has been awarded the Governor-General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED – By Dave Obee
We are all connected, and we need to work together, supporting each other as Greater Victoria evolves and grows over the next decade.
That might seem like a motherhood statement – and it is. The people living here have always shared a sense of community, a community with roots extending back many hundreds of years. It is important to keep that in mind. In an age when social media allows us to share venom and opinion freely and easily, we need to remember that facts still matter, that we are all neighbours, and that we are all one. What you do affects the people around you, just as what they do affects many others, and so on.
There might be 350,000 stories in Greater Victoria, one for every person here, or there might be only one. In the end, I’m betting on just one, but one with many, many faces.
So, where will we be in 2030? Let’s start with where we are now. Greater Victoria is made up of people who are well-educated, who are literate, who are engaged, who are healthier than most Canadians, who care about the region and the planet, and who generally have enough money to live well.
It would be easy to believe everyone has lives as comfortable as our own, but we must not turn a blind eye to the problems others are facing. Again, we are all one, and we work together to enhance all of our lives. Some of the smartest and wealthiest people in our community understand that and are doing whatever they can to help those less fortunate. All of us can do more.
But what can we do?
Let’s start with an appreciation for the differences between us, differences we should cherish, differences that could divide us but should unite us. Life would be oh so boring if we all thought the same way, so let’s celebrate different points of view and allow those views to shape our own thinking. We don’t have to agree, but we should at least try to understand.
Let’s welcome everyone to our community. The immigrants who have arrived in recent years will be followed by more immigrants, people who do not necessarily speak our languages, dress the way we do, or eat our food — for the time being, anyway. We want them here. They make Victoria richer and more culturally aware.
Let’s include, in every way possible, the people who welcomed our ancestors so many years ago. Reconciliation goes well beyond words; true reconciliation is found in actions. We truly are all one, so let’s allow the Indigenous Peoples to teach us.
Let’s continue to work for gender equity. We have been hearing about this all our lives, but progress has been painfully slow. And while we’re at it, let’s take the hint from Pride festivities and accept that sexuality means different things to different people.
Let’s encourage and support the young. We need them. Let’s encourage and support the seniors. We need them, too.
Let’s make our community a comfortable home to all, regardless of physical limitations, whatever the cause.
Beyond all of that, we need to acknowledge that the world is changing, not necessarily for the best, and we need to adjust our habits and our thinking to keep up. Climate change is real; what can we do, as individuals? We must reduce our negative impact on the planet. We must stop finding excuses and reasons to stick with the status quo, which is not working. Caring about the future of Earth does not just involve finding someone to blame or telling others how to live. Change starts at home, with all of us, for the benefit of all of us. We are all in this together.
Expect the building boom to continue; after all, Greater Victoria is the best place in Canada, right? And maybe even the world. There will always be more people eager to move here, and yes, that will have an impact on our lives. The standard cry in Victoria is that we liked it better the old way — but to be clear, we can’t go back. Every year we will see change, and every year more new ways will replace more old ways.
We need to ensure that there is room for everyone, regardless of financial status. We need a transportation system that is affordable, efficient and comprehensive, one that will get people to their homes, their jobs, and the theatres, concert venues, art galleries, walking trails and beaches (among other things) that are vital parts of life here.
We won’t get to light rail transit by 2030 — how long did it take to build the new Johnson Street bridge? — but we need to start. It will be essential to maintaining the quality of life here through the rest of this century.
We’ve been talking about telecommuting for years, and perhaps it is time to get serious. Want to ease the Colwood Crawl? Work from home. Want to save money and time? Work from home. Want to keep an eye on your children while keeping a job? It’s possible; work from home.
There are other ways to improve our quality of life and provide a positive work-life balance. That Colwood Crawl, for example, could be much more manageable if we all did not try to start work at the same time each day. Staggered work hours would make life easier for all. Try it, you might like it.
What about our jobs? Many of us commute to downtown, to the Peninsula, or to the West Shore, fighting traffic all the way. Many people cross the Malahat twice a day for their work. The ideal would be to have more jobs within walking distance of more people — but yes, it is always hard to apply a theoretical ideal to the harsh realities of everyday life.
What will the future bring for shopping? Online retailing has created jobs in our area – think of all the people who ensure your parcel gets to your door on time – but that has come at a huge cost. Local retailers have suffered, and some have been forced to close or reduce the size of their stores. That, in turn, has hurt local media outlets, because the online retailers do not advertise, and it is advertising that pays for local journalism. Beyond that, we are missing the local connections that are important to us; our inter-actions with Victoria’s merchants are vital to the sense of community.
What about the environmental impact of all of those trucks delivering all of those cardboard boxes, with one item each, all around the region? What happens to all those boxes and all that plastic bubble wrap? At what point is recycling overwhelmed? But on the other hand: How much valuable land should we pave over to create more shopping areas? The reality is that everything we do has an impact on the environment. Beware the easy answers to complex questions.
Today’s technology might be one of the ways we will be able to deal with one of the most serious crises we have — the fact that every month, more of us are going without family doctors. Could we do some of this online, consulting with medical professionals elsewhere? Perhaps. By the time more doctors arrive, some of us will be dead. Online medical care is not the best solution but compared to the alternative….
Do we want Victoria to retain its place as a tourist destination? Not everyone is happy with that idea, pointing out the fossil fuels burned by airplanes and cruise ships — although, to be fair, Harbour Air is leading the charge to electric airplanes. If we want the tourists to keep coming, what should we do to attract them? A new, or massively upgraded, Royal B.C. Museum comes to mind.
What about those who live here? While the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has plans for expansion that, with luck, will become a reality long before 2030, our major live performance venues are small and aging, and a children’s museum continues to be a dream that seems to be getting no closer to reality. We might be years late, but still, it is not a moment too soon.
How should our post-secondary institutions continue to expand? Possibly by moving more programs into growth areas such as Langford. But what about the courses offered? These schools are teaching tomorrow’s leaders and tomorrow’s labourers, so they need to peer into the future to see what skills will be needed. The economy of 2030 will not be the same as today’s, and the environment will likely be an even higher priority as the years of inaction and complacency catch up with us.
Our cityscapes could be improved. How about a walking street in downtown Victoria? Or downtown Sidney or downtown Langford or downtown Oak Bay, for that matter? Properly done, pedestrian malls bring life to communities and help to give them focus. How about more public art? How about opening up the selection of that art to the community at large?
Our community has retained one of its most precious assets — the feeling of a small town, but with a world-class reputation. Our community is made up of dozens of villages, but all tie together into a strong whole. We are close, we are interconnected.
So what can we do to make Greater Victoria an even better place? We need to get involved and stay involved. The fact that you are reading the annual Vital Signs report is a good sign, because it shows you care. Do you see opportunities for improvement in the areas of most interest to you? There is still much to be done.
Don’t be deterred, and don’t think that one person cannot make a difference. Every summer, I adopt a couple of unofficial walking trails close to where I live, clearing any fallen trees or branches from the path. While some passersby wonder why I bother, others thank me; when a man with a walker tells me that he can go twice as far because of my efforts, that’s huge. In the winter, I clean snow from nearby sidewalks. If everyone helped, even for a few minutes a day, walking would be easier and safer for all.
But cleaning pathways and sidewalks is not for everyone. Perhaps you could join community organizations or neighbourhood associations. Perhaps you could volunteer where there is a need — and push yourself out of your comfort zone at the same time. One idea might be to donate money selectively to organizations working on matters close to your heart.
Perhaps you could become more engaged in the community, working on municipal election campaigns, organizing forums, or even running for office yourself. The opportunities are endless. The important thing is that we start to act and don’t stop until we are unable to continue.
We are close, we are interconnected, and we need to remember that, every day. We will not always get along, and sometimes our relationships with our neighbours might sometimes be strained, but as we work through our issues, we will all become stronger.
Let’s not allow negativity to overwhelm us. Let’s not allow the nay-sayers to set the agenda — but yes, we should seriously consider what they have to say. Sometimes, we need a healthy dose of reality to ensure we are making the best decisions we can.
In the end, the truth is simple. We are all part of one community, and we rise and fall together. Let’s get to work.
CATHERINE HOLT – CEO, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce
Catherine Holt has been CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce since June 2016 and Chair of BC Transit since December 2017. She brings to these roles a wealth of experience, including 17 years as a consultant for public, private and non-profit organizations. She has worked on many transformational projects in Canada and internationally to improve public transit, employment programs, First Nation governance, land title registration, justice system administration, and information technology services. Holt has taught at Royal Roads University, was a producer for CBC National Radio and TV, and served on the boards of the Victoria Police and Vancouver Island School of Art.
WHERE DO WE WANT TO BE IN 2030? – By Catherine Holt
It’s the year 2030, the start of the fourth decade of the 21st century, and businesses on Vancouver Island are thriving. A shopkeeper takes out the compost before disconnecting from the solar grid and activating the online security service for the night. Orders from her global and local customers have been shipped and will arrive in the morning.
It’s late, but the street is alive with young families enjoying their neighbourhood and dozens of workers making their way home. Electric buses flow by quietly and quickly, whisking their riders across town, out to Metro Victoria’s West Shore or over the Malahat.
Mindful pedestrians read the rhythms of the road and synchronize their paths with the last few daily delivery trucks and the cyclists riding with purpose in their designated lanes.
The shopkeeper’s staff smile and say good night twice. Once in their native language and again in English as they head home to their downtown micro-suites or conveniently connected suburbs. Enhanced immigration policies have been a boon to the Island’s economy. Workers from around the world have been able to move to Canada, eagerly taking on the jobs that businesses had struggled to fill.
On her way home, the shopkeeper takes a slight detour to check on the camp where she had met a young person living on the street. The youth, beset by mental illness and addiction, wanted help, so the shopkeeper connected them with a well-funded agency that always has openings for anyone seeking treatment.
It felt good to see the rough camp empty, the shopkeeper thought, as she pedaled her electric-assist bike along the softly lit and well-policed path.
Of course, it’s 2019 and we are just imagining what our region will become in 10 years. If we manage to achieve the ideal presented above, it would mean we have solved the biggest problems facing our economy today. And it would mean the advocacy efforts of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce have been accomplished.
The Chamber’s role is to call on governments to help us achieve our mission, which is to work together to build good business and great community.
Right now, we are focused on the following priorities:
- finding climate change solutions
- attracting and retaining workers
- advocating for effective local governance and services
- ensuring safe communities
- and supporting fair regulation.
We think those broad categories capture most of the concerns we hear from the people directly involved in shaping our economy now.
In 2030, what will The Chamber ask of government to ensure a strong economy?
That will depend on which path we choose.
Finding climate change solutions
People pay more attention to environmental issues when the economy is good. In doing so, we have been treating a healthy environment as a luxury item. But that’s changing.
The new economy is being built on climate-first considerations and that will continue to gather momentum over the next 10 years.
Climate change needs to have a global impact, but change will be made locally. Governments need to create serious incentives for business to help save our planet through new technologies, products and services.
And we need to move fast. If we don’t, our economy will be driven by the chaos caused by unpredictable extreme weather events and rising sea levels — everything else will be irrelevant. Human ingenuity is our best bet to save us now. Let’s hope it works. Everything else on this list depends on it.
Over the next 10 years, one area where the imperative to shift to a climate-first economy will play out is in transportation — one of the biggest contributors to the problem. We’re already seeing an acceleration of the transition to electric cars, buses, trucks, ferries and planes. This will create a new problem — how do we generate enough electricity to adequately run all these vehicles?
One answer is fewer vehicles. As an example of a local solution, we are building dedicated bus lanes and need to follow through on plans to extend these to the West Shore and even to Nanaimo. We need practical transit connections to ferry terminals and the airport.
Getting more people to choose transit or commute by bike will lower emissions and make our roads quieter and our air cleaner and maybe leave fewer of us fighting for a parking spot downtown.
Another pivotal change unfolding over the next decade is society’s move away from single-use plastics. The public demand for solutions to plastic pollution will lead to innovations in the way we measure and reduce microplastics — as we do now with other pollutants.
Attracting and retaining workers
It’s hard to imagine this issue going away.
WorkBC anticipates 150,000 job openings on Vancouver Island over the next 10 years. And the Conference Board of Canada forecasts that, by 2034, immigration will account for 100 per cent of population growth in Canada. Put those two facts together, and you can see the need to attract more immigrants to Vancouver Island if we have any hope of having an adequate labour force in 10 years’ time.
Right now, the Canadian economy is in a period of slow growth but with strong job gains and a very tight labour market. In Greater Victoria, the cost of living continues to increase, creating problems for employers — their costs keep going up as do those of their staff.
But economies are cyclical – we’ve been in an unprecedented upswing for almost 10 years. A downturn seems inevitable. Will that leave us with new problems in 2030?
There are a number of other things that will continue to affect our ability to attract and retain workers:
Quality child care:
Our geography and history will continue to make our region an attractive place for young families to settle and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Unless we become too expensive. If that happens, will we be home to fewer children? Or will there be a new baby boom as the largest generation in history reaches the traditional age for starting a family.
British Columbia could become a destination province for young families, or we can be a place where young people struggle to justify the expense of having children.
Quality child care is difficult to secure in 2019, often forcing parents to scale back how much they are able to work outside their home. Maybe the decision to have kids will depend on whether child care is made an essential service, like education, health and transportation.
And will child care workers finally be seen as the important educators and care givers they are and be paid enough to keep them in their jobs?
Housing keeps getting less affordable, cutting into budgets and making it tougher for workers to stay here.
Will we embrace non-market housing for working families to ensure we have an adequate working population? Or will we continue to build predominantly high-end housing for international buyers? Will private-sector wages climb to levels that enable workers to live here and provide services, despite extreme housing costs? Will the high cost of living mean we have more highly paid public- and tech-sector workers and fewer lower-wage tourism and hospitality jobs?
As the population ages, the lack of workers and the rising cost of health care will become exponentially more expensive. The cost of current services will overwhelm all other government spending.
By 2030, we will need radical new approaches. Maybe we will finally move to a system that puts significant resources into keeping people healthy and diverting them from medical interventions, rather than the disease-treatment system we have now.
Effective local governance and services
The Chamber has served southern Vancouver Island since 1863. For almost as long, our region has debated the pros and cons of being governed by multiple municipalities.
Will we still have 13 municipalities all trying to do what’s best for their residents, regardless of what that means to their neighbours? Or will we think regionally, with planning that looks at the best strategies for Greater Victoria as a single city? At the behest of their residents, Saanich and Victoria are taking the first step in the right direction. The region’s two largest municipalities are working through a Citizens’ Assembly process to look at the pros and cons of amalgamation. Whether that turns out to be a full merger, or better integration of services, the fact this dialogue is happening is reason for optimism.
Other mergers of Canadian municipalities have taken years to work out the kinks and deliver benefits. All the more reason to start now in order to see results by 2030.
Ensuring safe communities
One outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly might be a merger of the Victoria and Saanich police departments. This would go a long way to ensuring our region has the resources needed to deal with the heavy caseload facing officers serving our downtown core.
The foundation of a productive, vibrant community requires that all of us feel safe. From the moment we get out of bed, to our commute to work, throughout the day on the job and in our neighbourhoods at night.
And we need solutions for the opioid crisis that has ravaged families and cast shadows over our storefronts. Homeless people on our sidewalks and in our parks struggle with addictions and mental health challenges. Hopefully, we’ll be better able to address these by 2030.
Will the need for long term therapeutic communities be embraced and funded, providing people with a way out of their addictions, or will we continue to put them through the spin cycle, driving up policing and health-care costs?
Supporting fair regulation
The last decade has been characterized by disruptive technologies vs. established businesses, and we can expect this to continue.
In 2010, Uber, Airbnb and mobile payments were in their infancy and most people had never heard of these services. Who would have thought they would have the impact they have had on business in 2019? Add to that the legalization of cannabis and the world today is a much different environment. Disruption forces policy makers to reactively update rules and regulations to ensure a fair outcome for new and established business models.
In the years ahead, where will traditional banks be if Facebook throws its weight at our financial services? How will our mobility change if cars are autonomous? Will restaurants be staffed by robots, or will it become the norm for all our meals to be delivered to our door? Will all retail shopping require self-service check-out, be online, be paid through mobile apps? Will everything we do or say — everything we need — require a mobile device? All of these are disruptions that are already underway. What about those that we can’t even imagine?
In Greater Victoria, our economy has traditionally been stabilized by our reliance on a large public sector. Will that remain, or will those jobs be downsized and automated too?
Finally, will an institution that has served our region for more than 150 years still be here? The Greater Victoria Chamber of Chamber was founded in 1863 and has seen its share of change. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for human contact.
As we come to rely more and more on autonomous cars, robotic services and online socializing, our collective sense of isolation will also increase.
Thankfully, The Chamber knows about building real relationships. Our mixers and mingles will be even more popular for people looking to maintain their sanity, sense of humanity and to grow their business.
Or maybe The Chamber will be run by robots too.
JILL DOUCETTE – Founding Partner Synergy Enterprises
Jill Doucette is an active writer with three published books, as well as a speaker, entrepreneur, and community member. She is passionate about creating solutions to curb climate change in our business community. In 2008, she founded Synergy Enterprises to help businesses reduce their carbon footprint, and in 2013, the Synergy Foundation was born to focus on building a green economy on Vancouver Island. Topics she is currently focused on include air and marine ports, circular economy solutions to reduce waste, and regenerative tourism.
REGENERATION AND REINVENTION – By Jill Doucette
To many of us, change feels slow but looking back and taking in how our community in Victoria has evolved over the last 10 years, I am reminded how far we have come. We have learned some hard lessons, about the state of climate change, about poverty, wellness and how to build a great city. But there is so much we have accomplished. We have composting throughout our community, a growing interconnected network of bike lanes, and there are more electric vehicles on the street than any experts anticipated. We have new community gardens popping up every spring, and our city is full of art and music. Victoria truly is one of the best places to live in the world.
Globally, we are still in a state of crisis. The warnings have been pouring in for decades, and we are feeling those impacts now with fires, floods and alarming frosts. We need to take serious action on the climate, but changing the way we live, run our businesses, and build our cities can be overwhelming. The number one question we get, from large corporations to families, is “Where do we start?” Let’s dig into where we are at and what we can do to make the next decade one to be proud of.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in early 2019 that shook the world by stating that global society has a window of 12 years to slow the climate change trajectory and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have huge challenges ahead, especially with the looming deadline, to make some major changes to the way we work, live and grow a city. Though the task is grand, there are tangible opportunities to be part of the solution, while growing a strong economy and creating happier, livable communities.
Food and a lower carbon food chain
Let’s start with food. With a great culinary scene in Victoria and year-round growing potential, we live in the ideal city to push forward on low-carbon food solutions. In restaurants and in our homes, we are more aware of the impact food has on our health and the planet. The Beyond Meat products took off at rapid pace, offering an alternative to those who would like a healthier option with less impact on our planet and animal wellbeing. TopSoil Urban Farms showed us what can be done with land waiting for development. Their produce is sold to passersby on the Galloping Goose trail and delivered to restaurants (by bicycle!) only a few blocks away. It’s a great demonstration project that could be replicated across our communities. The current number of urban farms in the City of Victoria is 12, and the City has set a goal to double that number by 2022.
Population forecasts from the Capital Regional District place an additional 10,000 residents in the downtown area by 2038. Will these people be eating food from grocery stores and restaurants that come from thousands of kilometres away? Certainly we can’t grow all the food we eat in an urban setting, but we can grow more and, at the same time, beautify our city and create new, green jobs. Farming used to engage about 50-60 per cent of the population, whereas now it’s less than two per cent. At the same time, a growing number of young farmers are keen to live in the city while pursuing their dream of getting their hands dirty and feeding the masses.
So, with a crunch for space, where could we grow food? Our downtown core has 278 buildings — that’s a lot of unutilized roof space. Of course, not all roofs will be conducive to growing food, but some are, and that is what sparked the Food Eco District and the City of Victoria to initiate a project starting to assess growing potential of these spaces downtown in 2020.
We also have residential land; however, most of this area is dedicated to “lawn.” Lawns are a curious fascination of our modern-day culture. Inspired by the grand estates of 19th century England, when lawns were a sign of wealth and importance, we began to place our homes on mini estate-like surroundings. This has become the norm and is no longer reserved for the grandest castles. As North Americans, we obsess over lawns — millions and millions of acres of them. We spend time, money and effort to maintain their perfection. While they create green space, lawns are a biological wasteland due to the presence of only a single species of plant and the fertilization and pesticides it needs to survive. Not only are lawns costly to maintain, but they are also costly to the environment. Many households and businesses are switching to native gardens that do not need maintenance, become hosts to pollinators and native species, and are designed to water capture to protect groundwater and reduce contaminants in our oceans. If your yard is a lot of work and isn’t producing anything in return, maybe it’s time to rethink this space.
The City of Victoria has recently allowed residents to have food stands to sell produce grown in their home gardens, so maybe you could even make a few bucks by growing food year-round, while contributing to a healthier planet and community. In 2008, Victoria also became the first municipality in the CRD to regulate the use pesticides on residential property.
In the next 10 years, as our city welcomes more residents and businesses, I believe we will reimage our unproductive spaces, both downtown and at home, and shift to lower-carbon food chains that have less impact on the planet.
Waste and a circular economy
We can’t discuss the state of our planet without also talking about waste. Ten years ago, when I started working with businesses on sustainability initiatives, the hot topic was recycling as much as possible. Habit Coffee was among the first businesses downtown to measure their diversion rate (percentage of waste diverted from the landfill) and implement recycling for soft plastics, foil, lightbulbs and more. At that time, composting was voluntary, and the landfill still accepted organic waste. Today, we are digging deeper and focusing on waste avoidance and circularity. China’s announcement in early 2019 shook the recycling economy in Canada. It is no longer lucrative to ship our unwanted materials overseas to lesser developed nations. Many communities across BC are having to stockpile or landfill what we used to be able to recycle, including glass, plastics, paper, and more. This is a temporary step backwards, but it puts the onus back on us to deal with our waste where it originates. Our old way of dealing with waste is a linear take-make-waste model. Conversely, a circular economy would see a massive reduction in waste, and the rest would remain in circularity, through repairing, recycling and repurposing. A circular economy also shows promise in job creation and a boost to our economy. It sounds great, but what does this really look like?
Here are a few key components to a circular economy:
- Having the ability to repair the products we buy (repair cafes, manufacturers changing the way they make products, and skilling-up our young generation to learn basic repair skills)
- Sharing more than we own (using libraries for tools, books, baby clothes and other items we use for short durations)
- Developing facilities to process our waste into new valuable materials on Vancouver Island, without having to ship them over oceans
- Massively reducing our household and business waste through smarter purchasing and reduced packaging
- Zero waste grocery and household stores with refill stations, and products made from other wastes
- Supporting innovative, creative companies who are taking waste and turning into something bold and new
There are so many wonderful businesses on Vancouver Island that are incorporating waste into their products. Island Java Bags uses coffee sacs from local roasters to make totes and purses. They also started using linens and shower curtains from hotels. Berg + Betts is a local brand that creates beautiful watches from scrap leather. ANIAN on Johnson St uses fabric from remanufactured wool suits in Italy to create their outdoor lifestyle wear. Even at our own office, we had furniture custom made from pallet wood by Retro Repurposed. The list goes on.
10 years ago, we didn’t have places like Zero Waste Emporium, Bulk Barn and Westcoast Refill to help us shop without packaging. With the increased awareness of the impacts of plastics on our oceans, and the pressures to deal with our waste on a local level, this could be the future of grocery stores.
Energy and emissions
On the topic of energy, we are fortunate to have relatively clean electricity in Victoria. Compared to Saskatchewan or Alberta, emissions in those provinces have 75-100 times more emissions per kilowatt hour. While low-emission electricity is worth celebrating, we still use a lot of natural gas and oil to heat our buildings. This is the number one source of emissions in homes, and there is so much we can do to reduce this impact and slash our heating bills. If your home is heated with natural gas, you can:
- Better insulate your windows and doors and seal drafts
- Install thermal blinds or drapes, and ensure they are covered at night when the most heat is lost
- Manage your temperature settings better, and consider a smart thermostat
- Consider switching to an electric air source heat pump (and take advantage of BC Hydro Rebates $)
- If you have a natural gas hot water heater, you can insulate your tank and pipes, and switch to low-flow showerheads and aerators to reduce water use.
All these small changes can add up to big savings at the end of the year while lowering your carbon footprint.
Getting around town is the other major emission source, but we are making good headway on this front. Our cycling network has improved and made it safer for everyone to bike. Innovative companies like Harbour Air, Wilsons’s, taxi companies and Maple Leaf Adventures are making investments to electrify their fleets. This fall, we should have the first electric flight on Harbour Air between Victoria and Vancouver. As costs for fuel rise and the deadline to cut emission nears, the speed of this transition will accelerate. In 10 years, we might look back and see that where we used to use gasoline and diesel, these fuels have been largely replaced by hydrogen, biofuels and electricity. And of course, pedal-power.
Tips to get started
So back to the big question, where do we start? Here is a short list of actions and priorities that we can take to make a positive change in the next 10 years:
- In our homes, switching from fossil fuel energy to clean energy
- Changing our purchasing practices to reduce plastic and packaging
- Reduce meat consumption in your diet
- Shifting to low carbon transportation: cycling, transit, electric and hybrid vehicles
- Reducing food waste and localizing our food chain
- Change your yard to plant native, pollinator friendly or edible gardens
- Add low carbon transportation to your weekly commute: bike or bus one day a week or more
- Create your personal “purchasing policy” focused on recycled, local, repairable, recyclable.
The best part about this list is that these changes will also increase your disposable income and free time. Purchasing produce in bulk directly from local farms is more affordable. Reducing food waste in your home can save each household up to $300 per month. A native plant garden requires less water and maintenance. Purchasing used and repairable products means your materials will have a longer lifespan.
For decades, our goal has been “sustainability” – to preserve the state of the environment for generations to come. Arguably, this term does not represent the movement we have started in Victoria nor the movement that could make our city the greatest place to live. In order to reverse climate change and create an equitable future, we need to focus on regeneration and on reinventing the way we shop, live and work.
The next decade presents a massive challenge, but we are not at a standstill. Victoria has been a leading city in protecting our environment. Working in climate action, I am often asked “How do you stay positive about the state of the world?” It’s a good question. In many ways, our house is on fire. In so many ways we need to do more. But every day, we see positive action in our city that gives us hope.