CANMORE – The 25-year-old environmental advisory review committee has been dissolved.
Council last week repealed the Environmental Advisory Review Committee (EARC) bylaw following three readings based on a recommendation from administration, with only councillors Wade Graham and Jeff Mah in opposition.
“By no means is accepting this a diminishing of our commitment to the environment, nor is it not appreciating what has gone before,” Mayor Sean Krausert said.
“What it is, is recognizing that we have an efficiency here that we don’t need to apply tax dollars for running a committee that has become redundant over time.”
The committee was formed in 1998 to provide advice and assistance to council concerning the application of environmental provisions of policies in Canmore’s municipal development plan.
In addition, the committee advised and assisted council with the compilation of information to further public awareness and understanding of particular environmental issues.
At the time the committee was formed, Canmore did not have an in-house or contracted resource for advice related to environmental matters. That has since changed, and the Town has created several positions specializing in climate change and the environment.
“In the last number of months, we have had communication or presentations from the Clean Air Society, the Clean Energy Co-op, Biosphere Institute, Bow Valley Naturalists,” Krausert said.
“This community is blessed with having a number of different groups that have different focuses that have an environmental or climate change focus.”
Not all of council was in favour of dissolving the committee.
Coun. Mah said he believed that having the committee, with the weight of council behind it, gave it extra credibility compared to community groups.
“I know the word redundancy has been thrown out a lot. I think sometimes people see redundancy but you could look the other way at oversight,” Mah said. “Having a backup opinion is not a bad thing.”
Recently, council and administrative support personnel were surveyed and asked if the environmental committee was achieving its goals.
The survey found that it was achieving its mandate, but concern was expressed over how little review work there was. Many respondents also believed that the functions of the committee were no longer necessary and created a duplication of efforts within existing Town practice.
Most respondents indicated some concern that some of the functions of EARC, as stated in the terms of reference, are no longer necessary and create a duplication of efforts given existing Town practice. Specifically, this related to the standard of EARC reviewing Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) required by the Town.
Respondents questioned the added value of an EARC review, when expert third-party reviews are now required by the Town.
Coun. Tanya Foubert said she was not opposed to the desired outcome.
“I agree to the concerns that the committee doesn’t really bring value that we would like to see as an advisory committee,” she said.
While she understood the rationale and supported repealing the bylaw, Foubert also saw the value in the committee.
“This one was a council advisory committee, this was one of ours,” she said. “A direct line from the environmental committee to us in that way. I think that committee has extreme value in that.”
Due to the survey feedback, administration felt there was no longer any requirement to have the committee play a role in the review of environmental impact statements and assessments.
“To me, I see the redundancy,” Coun. Jeff Hilstad said. “I have read many of their reports and most of the time, there is nothing different.”
Unanimous support was needed for the repeal bylaw to move to third reading. With Couns. Mah and Graham opposing, it could not move into third reading. Without third reading, it would have to come back to council at a later date.
As a result, Mayor Krausert raised concerns about delay.
“If there is going to be no committee, but we have not made the decision yet, administration has to continue to advertise for those positions and accept applications,” he said. Krausert said. “It does not help to delay.”
After a brief break, Mah asked council to reconsider the motion to allow third reading to move ahead so it could be voted on. In the end, Mah and Graham still voted against the bylaw to dissolve the committee.