Public consultations on the 2022 budget indicate that climate change is at the top of mind for Collingwood residents.
Two residents showed up to speak on Tuesday afternoon’s virtual public consultation on the 2022 budget. Now on its third draft, the budget now includes the approval of $350,000 for an affordable housing reserve and an additional $1,500 per council member to support professional development, which are two items added since the second draft.
These changes bring the tax increase in 2022 up to two per cent.
Both residents who showed up to speak on Tuesday – Bruce Clark and Catherine Daw – are members of the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and took the opportunity to speak about climate-specific concerns.
“We need to rapidly accelerate our plans to move to a low-carbon future. The climate is changing and it’s not a matter of if, but when it will affect our homes, businesses and environment,” said Clark.
“We need staff to investigate and communicate actions that are being and can be undertaken within our municipal mandate,” said Clark.
Clark said he has seen council and staff take steps toward dealing with some of these issues, for example, by hiring a climate change specialist.
“However, the 2022 budget looks, to us, like a business-as-usual budget, rather than a climate emergency budget,” said Clark, asking what percentage of the budget has been allocated to deal with the climate emergency. “From our review of the budget, the answer is close to zero.”
Clark suggested the town should be actively applying for key funding now as many federal and provincial grants require matching funding from a municipality. Therefore, Clark said funding should be put aside starting right away, including in the 2022 budget, so the town can take advantage of those opportunities.
“We can’t keep kicking this issue down the road because we don’t have any more time,” said Catherine Daw. “We can’t wait for a community climate action plan.”
“What is holding you back from taking $200,000 or $300,000 and putting it into the budget now? We’re trying to build an airplane while we are flying it,” she said.
Heather McGinnity, manager of environmental services, pointed to the water treatment plant expansion budget items, with $660,000 going toward refurbishment, $11.6 million toward the expansion and $500,000 going toward membrane filter replacements in 2022.
“It’s one of the town’s largest infrastructure projects to date and as part of that project, we are definitely incorporating climate adaptation measures,” said McGinnity. “While they may not be flagged, we are taking that seriously in the delivery of these capital programs.”
Coun. Yvonne Hamlin asked staff if they could compile a list of the climate-friendly aspects of the 2022 budget for review prior to the next budget meeting. The town has also earmarked $1 million out of the town’s asset sale proceeds to a “greening” fund, meant to cover environmental initiatives related to capital projects in town.
A fourth draft of the 2022 budget is expected to go before council the week of Dec. 13, with final approval expected the week of Dec. 20.