North Saanich’s newest councillor places agriculture and climate-change top of her agenda, and looks to increase cooperation between municipalities.
In early April, Patricia Pearson comfortably won the competitive eight-person byelection, running on an energetic green platform, and she seems to have stayed true to her campaign priorities.
“In February, before I was elected, the CRD chair sent a letter urging districts to declare a climate emergency,” says Pearson. “North Saanich chose not to do anything. I hope to introduce a motion to declare a climate emergency.”
Recent alarming reports from scientists and the UN, prompted multiple districts across the south Island to declare an emergency and Pearson hopes her fellow councillors, will follow suit.
“It [council members’ focus on climate-change] hasn’t been as strong as I’d like to see. It is in the strategic plan to review the climate plan but I haven’t seen a lot of action.”
Pearson says residents want to see swift action on this topic, but council is not due to review the plan, which sets staff commitments and budgets, for another year. She is hoping a committee can be arranged in the future, including residents and councillors, to research the issue.
North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr calls Pearson’s “environmental advocacy voice” a “positive addition to council’s table,” and while he concedes the District hasn’t gone as far as some municipalities, such as bans on plastic bags and drinking straws, he says the environment is “a priority for the municipality.”
Climate-change has emerged as a hot topic in local municipalities and Pearson, who holds a master’s degree in Public Administration, says she does not want North Saanich to waste time doing research already being completed by other municipalities. Although not a supporter of amalgamation, she advocates a joined-up approach, working with other districts so the same work is not duplicated.
In the byelection campaign, Pearson clearly courted the youth vote and she is keen to respect the current youth and student mood on green issues.
“It’s exciting and really encouraging to see youth stand up for what they believe in and put forward action plans. I hope councils listen and heed what they have to say.”
Recently, North Saanich council, including Pearson, voted to support the CRD’s Farmland Trust. Despite some established farmers’ reservations, Pearson says “the market is changing and consumer needs are changing.”
She supports helping local farmers access the big grocery stores and public institutions, and wants agriculture to be profitable for newcomers and established farmers alike. But Pearson also says the commercial landscape has changed and more collective organization and dynamic practices, such as connecting with consumers through social media, are needed. She hopes the CRD’s Farmland Trust will provide a focus for these issues, and play a role in giving farmers some of the support they need.