So I went in to chat with our new Member of Parliament last month. March 3rd.
I won’t lie, it was because it was Federal budget time and I wanted to put retrofitting homes for energy efficiency in the back of his head. It’s one of those things, like funding the arts, that people say we can’t afford but which are actually a great return for the investment.
As you may know, we elected a new government last year. Justin Trudeau is our Prime Minister now and, surprise of surprises, our local Liberal candidate, Dan Ruimy, is part of Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal majority government in the House of Commons.
I say it was a surprise because Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows (and formerly including Mission) has been a polarized Reform/Conservative vs. the NDP riding for a loooooong time. In 2015 I supported the very strong NDP candidate, Bob D’Eith, because I felt that if we sat back and pondered who to support, Stephen Harper would win.
Dan told me he doesn’t want to waste time. He wants to make a difference.
I made an appointment to see Dan in his brand new office before its official opening. I told him about the Maple Ridge Net Zero Home Energy Retrofit Project now waiting on the shelf for someone to dust it off and set it going.
I told him about the Nelson BC Ecosave Energy Retrofits program.
I told him about Solar Colwood which released its final report last year.
And I told him about the Design Charrette we held in 2013 to move the Retrofit Project to the next step: a project manager and project design.
Unfortunately, I have been too busy with our own retrofit and renovation of Hammond Forever House, which I hope will be the test case for the larger project, to have a clear proposal ready for Dan (and Justin, for that matter).
Among other things, we chatted about Dan’s apartment which he said is so badly insulated that there is no point wasting the energy to leave the heat on when he is not home. What a common problem! Tenants and homeowners alike suffer with high energy bills while the climate changes. Our best information estimates that Climate Change will cost Canada $5 billion per year by 2020 and there is very little being done to address the problem of inefficient existing buildings in a meaningful way.
The new Liberal Government, Dan said, is looking for innovative and unique programs they can support. Heritage, Energy, Climate Change, reducing home-heating costs for families–all these things are easy to support. Neither of us had a clear idea for the next steps in the Maple Ridge Retrofit program but Dan suggested we keep talking about it. Then he pointed to the large conference table in the next room and told me what it was for.
I left our meeting thinking it may be time to renew my conversation about the community project with our excellent City Staff to see if they have some new ideas on the subject. After all, I’m not the only one around here with ideas. (I haven’t had time to make that call, yet.)
It seems that since that first meeting with Dan, he spoke to a few other people because last week Leanne and I both found ourselves in that next room sitting around that big table with a bunch of other like-minded people. Leanne was there representing Ridge Meadows Recycling and I was there representing, well, this blog I suppose. Others from local environmental organizations were there, too.
Dan’s idea was to start some sort of ongoing advisory panel on the environment.
There was a kind of stunned optimism in the room as a result of being invited. Many in the room remarked how much of a change the approach was to the previous government. If you remember, I had some professional criticism for our previous MP.
I also remember appealing to our former Prime Minister to attend a climate meeting while he was in New York in 2014. No luck.
It struck me afterwards that many Canadians may prefer the government to make decisions on their behalf without them having to lift a finger. I can understand that and it would be fine if our MPs were infallible gods and/or if everyone agreed with them. Other people, like myself, believe that building consensus is key and that means citizen engagement.
Dan admits that he doesn’t know everything and is willing to collaborate and learn how he can help.
I think I can safely say that everyone in that room will be there next month with bells on. We have a lot of catching up to do!