B.C.’s Green Party Leader is dismayed Alberta’s fossil fuel “war room” is targeting Nanaimo, B.C., for its leadership in phasing out natural gas hookups to reduce the community’s emissions.

After a summer of record-breaking wildfires and sustained heat and drought, every level of government needs to be seeking solutions to the climate crisis, not sabotaging those that do, said Sonia Furstenau, the Greens’ leader and MLA for Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

“What is needed from all leaders, governments, across all jurisdictions right now are tangible solutions,” Furstenau said.

“It’s beyond inappropriate and undermines how democratic decisions are meant to be made if an external influence is inserting itself into a municipality’s decision in a different province.”

Alberta’s infamous energy “war room” — the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), armed with $32 million in tax dollars by the United Conservative government in 2023 to protect and promote the fossil fuel industry — put Nanaimo in its crosshairs after the city council voted to accelerate the phaseout of FortisBC’s natural gas hookups from new buildings to meet B.C.’s zero-emissions targets.

Both the federal government and the B.C. government have certainly been subject to general lobbying by CEC and its offshoot website, Support Canadian Energy, on behalf of the oil and gas interests, Furstenau said.

But it’s not entirely clear why Nanaimo, a city scratching 100,000 residents, is the only local government getting heat from Alberta’s war room to reverse a decision with limited impact on FortisBC’s and the oil and gas sector’s interests.

Nanaimo’s city hall staff reported that after the ban goes into effect in 2024, approximately 160 homes annually would be affected by the new rule.

The neighbouring communities of Saanich and much larger cities like Victoria and Vancouver, along with other B.C. municipalities, have also shown leadership in taking similar decisions or are expected to enact similar measures, Furstenau noted.

Every level of government needs to seek solutions to the climate crisis, not sabotage those that do, said @BCGreens Leader @SoniaFurstenau on Alberta's energy "war room" turning its sights on Nanaimo, B.C., for phasing out gas hookups.

Nanaimo city councillors told Canada’s National Observer the CEC’s campaign on behalf of FortisBC was an affront to the democratic process, meddling in local government decisions by an outside province, and an effort to intimidate other municipalities considering reductions to emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Furstenau agreed, saying a large fossil fuel lobbying effort backed by a province might pose a chill effect for small municipalities.

“Nobody wants to be the target of a campaign like this,” she said. “I can see that being a concern.”

As of Monday, the pro-oil website stated it had generated 2,450 letters urging Nanaimo to reverse the decision.

“The good news is that the vote on Nanaimo [city council] was very tight — it came down to a single vote,” the campaign page reads.

“These letters make a real difference. Councillors need to know what the majority of people think.”

The CEC refused an interview request from Canada’s National Observer on its campaign to reverse Nanaimo’s decision. As did Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office and the province’s justice, environment, and energy ministries — whose ministers make up the CEC’s three-person board.

B.C. Minister of Environment George Heyman’s office declined an interview request or to comment if it was appropriate for another provincial agency to push to reverse a decision made by a local government in British Columbia.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Ann Kang’s office also declined to comment if the CEC’s targeted campaign against Nanaimo was appropriate.

“Local governments in British Columbia operate with a high level of autonomy within their jurisdiction,” said Kang’s office in an email.

“They are democratically elected and accountable to their constituents for their actions and have the legal authority and responsibility for making decisions on behalf of their communities.”

Buildings are responsible for 10 per cent of B.C.’s C02 emissions, most generated by burning fossil fuels for heat.

B.C. showed leadership in taking and supporting decisions that dramatically scale back the burning of fossil fuels like natural gas and in supporting local governments in making decisions to contribute to the province’s net-zero targets, Furstenau said.

The electrification of buildings and using heat pumps, which are market-ready now and, unlike natural gas, drastically reduces emissions and can both cool and heat a home as the climate crisis advances, Furstenau said.

“B.C. should be encouraging the use of electric heat pumps, which can not only provide warmth in the cold winter months, but can provide essential, and often life-saving, cooling in the summer,” she said.

“It would be good for the province to support elected officials who have made those decisions at their council table and to speak out against interference from another province and, ultimately, from what appears to be oil and gas interests.”

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

— With files from The Canadian Press / Canada’s National Observer

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my hope is that publicizing this egregious interference will stiffen the backbone of citizens and council in Nanaimo. there is a very engaged youth progressive vibe there. they will fight back

That's the spirit..........call out the petro pushers. We aren't going to shut down oil operations in the next decade...but to have the slightest chance of building a sustainable future, we have to wean ourself off fossil fuels. Ending fracked gas heating systems is one way forward....and lets remember:

Those pipes bringing gas into our furnaces have a lifetime; in these penny pinching, maximize profits, neglect infrastructure maintenance and replace as many workers as possible with robotic AI.....staying with gas heat means leaks and explosions somewhere down the road to a secure future, for our Oil Barons.

Let's all do what we can, and join the Transition Now movement.

For a bunch that get their noses out of joint every time they notice the federal government even exists, let alone does anything in Alberta, they're sure pretty goddamn pushy about shoving their noses into other people's business. Couldn't the Alberta government stick to illegitimate interference with ALBERTA municipalities?

One answer could be they are afraid of small towns in Alberta finally finding their voices and going on a campaign to recoup the losses resulting from oil companies criminally refusing to pay municipal taxes (individuals would be jailed for that) and cleaning up their abandoned wells.

Residents of small town and farmers are the UCP's base, which makes their plight easier to ignore, knowing that conservative support from the grassroots is also capable of supporting a conservative government that works against them.

Pretty strange, that. Which makes targeting a town in another province very easy.

While reading this story some questions came to mind.

What exactly is this ALBERTA agency hoping to accomplish with their intimidation tactics against a medium sized city in another province? Is it to create fear? If so, why are the multiple critics striking back without fear? Why don't the bright minds in the CEC go after the big cities? Are they scared bigger agencies will shove it right back?

Let's pretend Alberta got its way and every town and city council in the western provinces trembled and cowered in their seats at the sound of Her Majesty's voice and mandated gas hookups to every home in four provinces. How will they enforce that, with the Gas Police? This effort is really inviting ridicule.

Step back a few paces and give Alberta's recent efforts a long, hard look. Lashing out with hubris even against democratic rights in minority jurisdictions in other provinces is a sign of weakness, of insecurity, of fear of the very real threat of the transition from the lifeblood Alberta's governments are unfortunately addicted to.

They know not what they do. Try to manipulate the democratic process in smaller towns in other provinces and there will be multiple backhands across their faces in the form of public criticism, which will only cause more attention to be cast on the damage fossil fuels have done. Put a nonsensical moratorium on the Alberta renewables industry and invite lawsuits and a business exodus just when the province could use genuine diversification. Real smart.

I remember Rachel Notley's ban on BC wine. Did that cause great fear and trembling in BC? Nope. Sales went UP! The spike was driven in part by Albertans driving to the Okanagan vineyards to bulk purchase vino by the van load and smuggle it back to Alberta to sell at jacked up prices. I bought a case of myself from Vancouver's largest liquor store where the manager placed BC wine on prominent display. He laughed when I asked about sales, saying they were never better. Sipping Hester Creek and Inniskillin pinot grigio with friends over the following weeks meant Alberta became the butt of jokes.

Alberta takes itself too seriously. These latest efforts deserve all the mockery they can get.

Don't know your, uh, vintage, Alex, but visions of Trudeau père come to mind, and a certain 4, no, 12-letter word. I think we'll need to add a new word: fossilmockery? Fuddlefossil? (Surely someone can come up with something better).

At some point, the only sane way to deal with Alberta's provincial leadership will be simply with belly laughs and a print subscription to "The Short: the lifestyle magazine for the menopausal toddler."

LOL!

As for my vintage, it's a nicely aged cabernet sagvignon, a blend from primarily Vancouver vineyards with a touch from Calgary's limited knowledge vintners.

I grew up in Calgary and left in '79. The Andres Wines "factory" was still occupying a prominent location overlooking the Trans Canada Hwy as I was leaving town. Hopefully, BC wines brought some maturity to Calgarian's taste ... but something tells me sickenly sweet Baby Duck still exists there. ;-)

I hope Nanimo tells the CEC and Ms. Smith to get bent.