Critics question NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton’s approach to peak oil

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      Kitsilano-based architect Richard Balfour believes Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton understands the issue of peak oil, but won’t address it publicly.

      “She can’t really talk [about] the reality of it either, because there are all these people going, ”˜We can’t really talk like that,’ because it’s just not acceptable to talk about peak oil and radical changes and all this stuff,” Balfour told the Georgia Straight.

      Balfour, a member of the Vancouver Peak Oil Executive, has long believed that current economic growth models won’t work. He also believes it is time to populate hillsides and stop destroying precious farmland.

      But he said local and regional politicians are demonstrating political inertia when it comes to peak oil. That’s the point at which global oil production tops out and goes into an inexorable decline.

      “It’s against the growth syndrome and the business models that we have,” Balfour said. “There are huge vested interests in doing what we do, keeping going as long as possible. Even if it means killing the planet, they’ll keep on doing it. They’ve got such a short view of the future of the world.”

      Balfour’s comments followed Anton’s news conference on June 14, when she again assailed Mayor Gregor Robertson and the ruling Vision Vancouver. This time, she zeroed in on the permitting of back-yard chicken coops and issuing green grants, including one that explored growing grain in the city.

      After her City Hall statement, the Straight asked Anton if she was concerned about peak food and rising oil prices making it necessary to grow more food locally.

      “Go around the back gardens of Vancouver—and I would say of East Vancouver in particular—and there are the most inventive and creative gardeners you can imagine,” Anton responded.

      Balfour said he doesn’t understand Anton’s opposition to the city’s initiatives.

      “She’s getting some strange advice,” he said, before adding: “And there’s nothing wrong with back-yard chickens. Anything you can do to grow food in the city is fine.”

      The elephant in the garden plot, according to Balfour, is the fact you can’t grow food in the city at a sustainable level.

      “Take a look at the grass and the land it takes,” he said. “For intensive farming, you need an acre per person. And a four-person family might be able to get by with an acre of food to grow food, but 100 units per acre needs 100 acres. So that’s the thing: the big cities of the world can’t be fed.”

      Former NDP cabinet minister Bob Williams told the Straight by phone he also disagreed with Anton’s two-pronged attack on local chickens and grain production.

      “I mean, a lot of our parks are dog-shit parks anyway,” he said. “We have too many dog-shit parks. There’s no question about that.”

      Asked if Anton got the issue of peak oil, Williams declared, “I doubt it, but isn’t she a classic [federal] Liberal? Where are they going these days?”

      Balfour did not spare Robertson from criticism, claiming the mayor has been too slavish in his praise of the Regional Growth Strategy. It’s a legal document set to replace the Livable Region Strategic Plan and plan the region’s growth out to 2040.

      “They don’t get it either,” Balfour said of Vision Vancouver. “They’re influenced by the Tides [Foundation] group, from what I understand, and they’re influencing Gregor—telling him not to talk to people like me or Bob Williams or anybody else that’s talking about the need to make radical changes to the way we do things.”

      Balfour said he has asked seven times to meet with the mayor and has not been successful.

      Robertson did not return calls by the Straight’s deadline.

      Comments

      4 Comments

      Andrew

      Jun 16, 2011 at 9:12am

      The Regional Growth Strategy is focused on Sprawl and not Sustainability. Council members from Vision Vancouver present on March 3rd voted to ratify the disastrous RGS while NPA and COPE voted against it. The RGS would open the door to very low density housing to be built almost all of the way up the forested slopes of West Vancouver! There's a good article on the problems with the RGS in an earlier straight.com article:
      http://www.straight.com/article-376815/vancouver/metro-vancouvers-region...

      Bill McCreery1

      Jun 16, 2011 at 6:13pm

      Rik, perhaps I can clarify what Suzanne Anton was saying from my own perspective as an NPA Council Candidate. The NPA supports green initiatives such as home gardens. The City's role is to encourage, educate and facilitate such programmes, not subsidize them with taxpayers money as the Vision Council is doing. Their latest "front yard wheat" subsidy is another example of ideology trumping common sense. I say that because I grew up working on farms and have shovelled more grain than most people have ever seen. Carrots in your back yard make sense, even though they may not pass a strict cost/benefit test, but front yard wheat? The logistics of harvesting and processing the wheat make such a misadventure beyond goofy, it's silly.

      Kim Collins

      Jun 16, 2011 at 10:55pm

      As a local voter who supports building a Vancouver that can thrive in the face of peak oil and climate change I find it disheartening that part of the NPA election strategy seems to be to mock ideas that will help us do just that. I recognize that some of these ideas (e.g. allocating infrastructure and road space to increase bike commuting, encouraging local food production, loans for home energy retrofits) are new to a lot of us and may seem at odds with the assumption that globalization will continue to supply us with all the food, energy, and everything else our hearts desire, without interruptions. But, climate change is already raising food prices to record levels due to droughts and flooding around the world (e.g. Manitoba, Russia, France, Texas, China) and global demand for oil is for the first time in history outstripping supply (http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/06/oil-production-and-con...), signaling further price rises in the coming years in terms of producing and delivering food to markets (http://www.energybulletin.net/node/52460). In this context, it’s inevitable that we’re going to have to produce much more of our own food locally and doing so will require both trial and error and time. I assume Suzanne Anton understands this. After all, she mentions peak oil and climate change on her website, is an intelligent person and knows former NPA councilors Gordon Price and Peter Ladner, both of whom have spoken and written about the importance of making our city and region more resilient. But instead of speaking to this dynamic Anton appears to be choosing to capitalize on the lack of broad public awareness of the local implications of peak oil and climate change to score political points. It’s both sad and short-sighted in my opinion. Hopefully, she will choose a different approach in the coming weeks and start offering some serious policy ideas to address our predicament rather than mock those trying to address it.

      April Reeves

      Jun 17, 2011 at 9:11am

      Thank you Richard Balfour for this article! Wheat in the front yard: why not? It's not about growing it to feed yourself for the year. It's about growing it to see how to make bread on your own. Self sustainability. People are eager to reach and grow and learn. Rules and policy squash it all. What do you think started the "Canuck riots"? Young people? Look deeper. It was the type of ideology Anton seems to be preaching. People are frustrated, angry, and looking for a way to vent it. I for one, like our current Mayor. What I don't want is someone whose immersed in corporate rule over citizens. Liberals have shown us that for years now. The next election will tell a story.