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Declaring a Climate Emergency

Declaring a Climate Emergency

Greta would not be amused by Thunder Bay Council

On Monday evening, Thunder Bay City Council will be hearing from a deputation that will ask it to declare a climate emergency.  According to a front page story in the January 11th Chronicle-Journal: “Thunder  Bay’s  EarthCare  climate  adaptation  working  group, led by chairperson Aynsley Klassen,  is  set  to  make  a  deputation to council asking for them to declare a symbolic climate emergency.”

 According to Chairperson Klassen, they are not asking for a declaration under the Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act that would include asking for actual resources but are simply asking for a symbolic message to be sent.  Thunder Bay City Councillor Foulds – who is the chairperson of the City’s EarthCare Advisory committee - is championing this cause and argues that: “Declaring a climate emergency is a way for governments to publicly acknowledge the need for urgent action.”
This is the kind of declaration Thunder Bay City Council will enjoy debating and making and will likely spend several hours on it as each Councillor voices their lengthy support for dealing with the effects of climate change, making sure everyone publicly knows that they are on the side of the environment and future generations by declaring a climate emergency.  Moreover, given that it is “symbolic” it means they will not have to ask the provincial government for any resources or better yet not have to commit any City resources to dealing with the “emergency.”  In many respects, they are simply doing what climate activist Greta Thunberg has railed against – the inaction against climate change.
As she noted in her address to the UN - “How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight,” … ““You say you ‘hear’ us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that.” I also refuse to believe politicians are evil when self-absorbed, opportunistic and short-sighted are much better descriptors. 
I would opine that simply declaring a climate emergency and not acting on it is simply paying lip service to climate change and trying to score some political points with climate change activists.  If Thunder Bay City Council really wants to do something to deal with a climate emergency, then they need to back up their “feel good” declaration with some concrete action. It is not about what they have done to date – such as the stated  reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent since 2007 – it is about what they are going to do.
An emergency requires drastic action.  What will be done to expand use of Thunder Bay Transit in order to reduce reliance on personal automobiles?  Is not raising city transit fares by 11 percent - as proposed in the 2020 budget – contrary to bringing about a more sustainable economy?  Maybe City Council should aim to reduce the “footprint” of City government by pledging to reduce its employment via a process of attrition – that is through not filling retirements and exits – by 10 percent over the next five years and reinvesting the savings in climate initiatives such as planting more trees in the intercity area or expanding sewers to deal with heavier rainfalls?  Maybe there should be a permanent reduction in property tax rates for new homes constructed that are under 1000 square fit in order to promote more sustainable lifestyles with less “stuff”? Need I go on?
Enough with the political grand standing.  Where are the solutions? If you are going to declare an emergency, back it up with some action.  Words and symbols are not enough.  Thunder Bay does have a climate emergency – it is the climate at Thunder Bay City Hall.

By: Livio Di Matteo: 


Livio Di Matteo


Livio Di Matteo   Lake Superior News



Professor of Economics, Lakehead University


Livio Di Matteo is a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute and Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where he specializes in public policy, health economics, public finance, and economic history. His recent work examines health-care spending and its sustainability. As well, he conducts research on the historical evolution of economic inequality.  Di Matteo is a member of the CIHI National Health Expenditure Advisory Panel, the Evidence Network (, and is a contributor to the economics blog, Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.  He has been listed in Canadian Who’s Who since 1995 and holds a Ph.D. from McMaster University, an M.A. from the University of Western Ontario, and a B.A. from Lakehead University.






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