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Why I won’t be voting for David Brett

David Brett is running for New Westminster city cuncil in 2014. I was initially planning on voting for him, but after doing a little more research I won’t be voting for David Brett.

See, Mr. Brett is involved in his community, and for someone running for council, that’s a good thing. He’s president of the Queen’s Park Residents’ Association, he’s on the Community Policing Committee, he’s involved with the Hyack Festival Association (and hopefully not in a crazy way like some of them). Those are good things.

He also says he wants to attract knowledge-based employers (such as technology) to New Westminster. As someone who works in technology, I’d love for that to happen.

But when you’re not an incumbent, you don’t have much of a record. For non-incumbents it’s important to go beyond the candidate’s website, because that’s where you’ll find out how they think when they’re not campaigning.

So I Googled for “David Brett New Westminster” and found his blog. In it is a post about how banning coal is unwise. Keep in mind that this article was written right around the time when people in New Westminster were protesting against a coal port right across the river in Surrey. (As an aside, this is one of the issues where I agree with mayoral candidate James Crosty — I wish others had his passion for stopping the coal terminal). The coal terminal is a big issue for New Westminster residents, with Crosty claiming that a petition he initiated received twice as many signatures from New West residents than those who voted in the last election, which would be about 20,000 signatures out of about 58,000 voting-age people. That’s a lot of people opposed to the coal terminal. Mr. Brett isn’t one of them.

It also appears that Mr. Brett is a climate change skeptic. Or, at least he was in 2007. Never mind that just before Mr. Brett wrote this the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report came out (specifically the Contribution of Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis) which stated that “warming of the climate system is inequivocal” and “most of the observed increase in global average tempeartures since the mid-20th centure is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” But yeah, I guess when thousands of scientists come out and say that global warming is here and it’s at least 90% likely that humans caused it, “it’s time to become skeptical”, as Mr. Brett says.

I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who not only gets quite a bit wrong about coal (Mr. Brett’s arguments about “if we ban it someone else will just do it” are nearly the same as those the Harper government gave when it wouldn’t block the listing of chysotile asbestose as a hazardous substance, thus allowing Quebec asbestos mines to stay open) but also expresses skepticism over something that the overwhelming majority of scientists say is happening. Climate change is the biggest crisis this world is facing, and it’s something that we can tackle on a local level. It’s not as bad as it is in the United States but I strongly believe that climage change skeptics have no place in any elected body.

Further, about the coal thing. I compared it to asbestos above, but perhaps that’s being unfair. They’re kind of apples and oranges. Yes, you dig both out of the ground, but one causes 22,300 premature deaths a year in Europe and 250,000 premature deaths in 2011 in China, has more radioactive impact than nuclear plants, can pollute not only the atmosphere but also rivers, and the other is asbestos.

The coal that would be shipped through Fraser Surrey Docks is thermal coal mined in Wyoming. It would be loaded onto barges, sent to Texada Island, and then shipped to Asia to burn for electricity. The primary economic benefit to Canada is 25 full-time jobs and 25 indirect jobs. In defending his position Mr. Brett links to an article talking about the coal mining and transportation industry in BC, and how it’s responsible for 26,000 direct and indirect jobs. That’s fantastic, and it’s an important part of our economy. However, the FSD coal terminal wouldn’t support BC’s coal mining industry, it supports Wyoming’s coal mining industry. The FSD coal terminal would increase the number of jobs by 0.2%. That’s peanuts. 50 jobs are important, but to fear-monger by saying things like “British Columbia cannot afford to lose 26,000 jobs created by the coal industry” is incredibly disingeneous. If it is all about the jobs, then why don’t we keep mining asbestos?

Then there’s the argument that they need it for electricity. That’s right, they do. And they need to wean themselves off of it, because pollution caused by burning coal for electricity causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year. It’s dirty, it pollutes our atmosphere and it kills people prematurely. And China gets it, aiming to have a peak for their carbon emissions by 2030, after which they will begin to move downwards. They know they need to curtail their carbon emissions. They know that they burn too much coal for electricity. We should be helping China in their targets by slowing coal exports to them, not making it easier for them to burn coal. Like the UN put it, “China and the United States have demonstrated the leadership that the world expects of them.”

I expect the leaders of my community to demonstrate the same leadership, and that’s why I’m not voting for David Brett.

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