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British Columbia Vancouver’s plan for greenhouse gas emissions would affect every resident

Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver here.

The introduction of separated bike lanes through downtown Vancouver never ceases to inflame residents. A city proposal earlier this year to turn over up to half the width of the busy Granville Street Bridge, a major downtown-bound artery, to bike and pedestrian traffic has generated familiar division between motorists and those who prefer to get around on their own steam.

But the city’s latest suggestions aimed at dramatically reducing Vancouver’s carbon footprint, will take residents well past those debates. If city politicians sign on to the new, more aggressive approach to climate change, almost every resident will be affected one way or another, not just motorists and cyclists.

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As Frances Bula reports, city staff have recommended blocking gas-powered cars from certain parts of the city, discouraging builders from dedicating so much space to concrete-intensive basements, and adding 500 electric bikes to the city’s bike-share program.

The plan’s ultimate aim is to have Vancouver powered by 100-per-cent renewable resources by 2050. The city would embrace what the plan calls “six big moves,” some of which are to be made by 2030. They include policies to ensure 90 per cent of Vancouver residents live within walking distance of work, shopping and schools; replacing half the gas-powered vehicles on Vancouver roads with zero-emission vehicles and taking steps to ensure two-thirds of trips within Vancouver are by transit, cycling or walking.

“They will push the limits of what staff think can be accomplished in the next decade and staff realize that there will likely be political, financial and ‘pace-of-change’ challenges to their implementation,” says the report.

But, the report says, it’s worth trying to push the boundaries to show other cities and countries what can be done about climate change.

The 11-year time frame is tight.

But Alberta premier-designate Jason Kenney suggested in his election-night victory speech that his government could speed things along considerably for Vancouver. Mr. Kenney was referring to his government’s plans to “turn off the taps” of fuel to British Columbia in retaliation for its failure to co-operate in getting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built.

“If the B.C. New Democrats continue to block our energy, we’ll happily give them a carbon-free Vancouver by 2020,” he said.

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Vancouver city councillors vote today on whether to ask city staff to come up with a detailed strategy for implementing the changes.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.

Around the West:

PIPELINE PROTEST: The company behind a natural gas pipeline that faced a blockade by First Nations protesters will be in B.C. Supreme Court in June seeking a court order granting it access for construction work. Coastal GasLink launched the court case in November after a blockade involving hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en Nation. The pipeline would carry natural gas to Royal Dutch Shell-led LNG Canada project in Kitimat.

ALBERTA ELECTION: Jason Kenney has named key members of his staff as he prepares to be sworn in as Alberta’s premier next week.

HOMELESSNESS: The mayor of Maple Ridge, B.C., is trying to recruit other local governments in his fight against the province’s push to expand supportive housing. Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden has written to members of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The province plans to build a supportive housing project on provincial property in Maple Ridge over the city’s objections.

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TRANSALTA: A U.S. activist investor is suing TransAlta Corp. in a bid to stop the Calgary-based power producer’s $750-million partnership deal with Brookfield Renewable Partners LP. New York-based Mangrove Partners Master Fund Ltd. argues executives and directors are putting their own interests above those of shareholders.

CONSERVATION: A new report is singling out the grasslands of the Prairies and British Columbia’s Okanagan in a list of the most vulnerable and under-protected ecological regions in Canada. The report, from the environmental group WWF-Canada, says that across the Prairies, large-scale agriculture and other forms of development have already eaten away about 80 per cent of one of the world’s most threatened natural landscapes. In the Okanagan, the report says wilderness areas face increasing threats from population density and land use.

4/20: Marijuana may be legal, but Vancouver’s popular 4/20 festival remains an outlaw. Tens of thousands of people flocked to the festival along the city’s Sunset Beach, despite demands to cancel an event that does not have a permit from the city, which says it’s damaging to the park.

SOCIAL HOUSING: A family that owns several run-down low-income single-room hotels in Vancouver has agreed to pay a fine of $150,000 and donate $25,000 to two local charities to settle dozens of bylaw charges. The Balmoral and Regent hotels, owned by the Sahota family, were ordered shut down in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

WILDFIRE: A Saskatchewan grass fire has prompted a state of emergency in an area west of Saskatoon. The fire, near the small community of Biggar, was 15 square kilometres as of yesterday and had prompted evacuations and hospital admissions due to smoke.

ARCHITECTURE: A Vancouver architect has come up with plans for the world’s largest wood tower, a 35- to 40-storey mixed-use building proposed for an area just south of the city’s downtown core. Peter Busby, an architect best known for his focus on sustainable design, says the building would hit the limit of what’s possible with wood construction today.

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ELIZABETH MAY: Green Leader Elizabeth May spent Earth Day getting married in Victoria. Ms. May married John Kidder, a retired technology entrepreneur and long-time Green party member, in a ceremony attended by about 500 guests.

Opinion:

Preston Manning on Jason Kenney: “First, the NDP and its social-media allies tried to tell Albertans that the ballot question was about identity politics. The majority of Albertans said the ballot question was about economic issues – jobs, taxes and pipelines. Mr. Kenney and the UCP listened and responded accordingly; the NDP didn’t – and paid the price.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Jason Kenney’s climate policies: “Mr. Kenney knows climate change is a real issue, and he’s not planning on doing nothing about it. He just isn’t planning on doing much.”

Justine Hunter on Kenney’s threat to turn off the taps: “The economies of B.C. and Alberta are deeply entwined, with billions of dollars’ worth of goods flowing each way across the Rockies each year. Both provinces have no shortage of weapons if they wish to escalate.”

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