British Columbia

Transportation and climate change take back seat to other municipal issues, B.C. prof says

Despite its potential impact on municipal life, climate change and transportation issues seem to have taken a back seat to other topics in this municipal election, according to a B.C. political science professor. 

Crime and homelessness have higher visilibility, says Thompson Rivers University's Terry Kading

The transportation options a city provides affect nearly every resident's daily life, according to UBC-Okanagan transportation professor Mahmudur Fatmi. (Tom Popyk / CBC)

Despite its potential impact on municipal life, transportation and climate change issues aren't getting much attention on the campaign trail compared to other topics in this municipal election, according to a B.C. political science professor. 

Transportation affects almost every member of a community in their daily lives, but creating more transportation options is not a top campaign priority for many candidates, says Terry Kading, a political science professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. 

"I get a sense it really has been bumped off the agenda quite significantly. I think it's unfortunate, and I think it's mainly because of the visibility of the crime and the visibility of homelessness relative to concerns people have with transportation."

Transportation and climate change have surfaced as important topics in debates in some communities, such as Nelson, B.C., but they have not become a major issue in many election campaigns in larger centres across the province, Kading says.

"Because of events from last fall's atmospheric rivers or the fires around Lytton and elsewhere, I am a bit surprised that there hasn't been a bit more focus on adaptation to what became much more evident last fall."

Transportation critical element for a city

Despite not getting a lot of attention, transportation and climate change are issues that touch nearly every resident in a municipality, according to Mahmudur Fatmi, who lectures on transportation and travel behaviour at UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C. 

"Transportation, in general, is a critical element for a city because it's closely related to the economic growth of a city," Fatmi said. 

"It provides an option and means to travel, to work, to move goods between point A and B. It is also closely related to the quality of life of people."

Transportation is one issue where local voters can weigh in in a way that can also impact climate change, he says.

Locally elected officials play a significant role in shaping their community's future transportation priorities — everything from approving new roadways and bike lanes to expanding public transit and bringing in alternative ways of getting around the community, such as electric bike and e-scooter share programs.

The city of Kelowna's e-scooter and electric bike share program gives residents and visitors more sustainable options to get around the city. (Tom Popyk / CBC)

Fatmi says transportation is also tied directly to a city's sustainability goals.

"In Canada, around 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. So it is a pretty important component to design, plan and live in a sustainable city," he said.

Transportation may not be top of mind for everyone who casts a ballot, but it's a definite priority for the people who rely on it to get around.

"Yeah, it's definitely on the top of my list of things that I care about," said Melissa Spanjer, who uses public transit in Kelowna to travel with her son to activities in the city centre. 

It's definitely one thing I would want to be at the top of a candidate's list too." 

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