'We need to prepare,' climate change minister tells local mayors

Federal Climate Change Minister met with mayors of Hamilton, Burlington and Milton to discuss climate change implications.

Catherine McKenna stresses need for climate resilient infrastructure

Catherine McKenna met with Mayor of Milton Gordon Krantz, Mayor of Hamilton Fred Eisenberger, and Mayor of Burlington Marianne Meed Ward to talk about climate change. (Christine Rankin)

The message from federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is clear: we need to prepare. 

McKenna sat down with local mayors on Thursday for a pre-election talk on climate change. Mayor of Hamilton Fred Eisenberger, Burlington mayor Marianne Meed Ward, and Milton mayor Gordon Krantz met privately with the minister at Hamilton's city hall.

McKenna talked about how climate change could affect local communities. She referenced Canada's Changing Climate Report, which revealed Canada is warming at two times the global rate. She said that the dramatic changes noted – like the extreme weather – would have direct impacts. 

 "We need to understand what the future looks like so that when we invest in infrastructure, we're building climate resilient infrastructure," McKenna said. "We need to be acting together." 

When asked about what this could look like in Hamilton, Eisenberger noted the need to look at oversizing sewer pipes, upgrading the sewage treatment plant, and putting backwater valves into sewer outfalls.

Though he called the mayors' discussion with McKenna a "global snapshot," he admits that all the changes are relevant to Hamilton. "We're facing all of those impacts," he said.

The city has already been swamped with storms and flooding, and abundant potholes due to the fluctuating temperatures. Hamilton, Burlington and Milton have all declared climate emergencies

Eisenberger said there are two major areas where the city can look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: future plans for housing and public transportation. "We've got to start developing net-zero buildings in terms of social housing and condominiums," he said. "And public transportation is the ultimate answer."

But developments to public transportation in Hamilton, namely the planned light rail transit (LRT) system, have been an off-and-on process. Though the provincial Liberal government allocated $1 billion to the project in 2015, it's yet to be confirmed whether the federal government would help pay if any more funding was required.

McKenna said that the LRT project was discussed at the meeting. She added that the federal government has not "received any requests," but that it "supports public transportation."

When asked whether there was any change in discussing funding, Eisenberger noted that he feels the government is open to applications if more money is needed.

About the Author

Christine Rankin is a reporter and editor with CBC News. You can find her on twitter at @ChrisRankinNews, or send her a message at christine.rankin@cbc.ca.


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