Saanich council considers warning labels for gas pumps

Former Gordon Head resident has designed climate change warning labels for gas pump handles

Former Gordon Head resident and UVic student Rob Shirkey has designed climate change warning labels for gas pump handles.

Former Gordon Head resident and UVic student Rob Shirkey has designed climate change warning labels for gas pump handles.

Saanich is taking a serious look at putting climate change warning labels on gas pump handles.

On Monday, council voted unanimously to have staff research the legal implications and financial feasibility around a bylaw that mandates Saanich gas stations introduce the warning labels.

It follows the same path as North Vancouver, which is the first municipality in B.C. to implement the bylaw. That city is currently in a label design stage after its council voted unanimously on the bylaw in the fall. West Vancouver is following suit.

Coun. Fred Haynes initially brought a resolution for gas pump labels to council in January 2015 which was supported. This time, however, it’s a much bigger step, as staff can follow North Vancouver’s lead in making the labels a reality, Haynes said.

“There was a study just released that said there may be a three-metre change in ocean level between 2050 or 2060, so it’s imperative we look at the tools that can help change our community’s reliance on gasoline and petroleum products. On the other hand, we need to embrace solar power, electric vehicles and these types of tools.”

Putting climate change warning labels on gas pump handles has become a full-time campaign for executive director Rob Shirkey of Canadian not-for-profit organization Our Horizon.

The 2006 University of Victoria law grad spoke to council on Monday night about his outfit’s goal to introduce the labels not just in Canada but around the world. Shirkey believes implementing the bylaw on a city-by-city basis is the best approach.

“The story I tell is of Hudson, Que., which was the first municipality in Canada to pass a bylaw banning pesticides in home yards,” Shirkey said. “The industry was breathing down their neck, but eventually, so many neighbouring communities passed a similar bylaw that the province stepped in and applied the law uniformly.”

The pesticide industry contested the bylaw numerous times and appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court, but it was upheld.

“Now you have 80 per cent of Canadians living in a place with a cosmetic pesticide bylaw that can be traced back to a few councillors at Hudson,” Shirkey said.

Shirkey lives in Toronto but was a Gordon Head resident during his time studying law at UVic. He started Our Horizon in 2013, and in 2014 seven law students from the UVic Environmental Law Club took his Ontario-focused research and adapted it to B.C.’s legal environment. They released a report in January 2015, which caught Haynes’ attention.

“It doesn’t look like the oil industry is challenging the gas pump label [bylaw] at this point, which they could,” Shirkey said. “It would be bad [public relations] if they did.”

CAO Paul Thorkelsson is unsure where this fits in Saanich staff priorities and therefore withheld from giving a timeline on a gas pump label report.

“Having info at the point of purchase is not just for people buying gas but for the rest of the people in the car,” Haynes said. “Children will see the images on the gas pump.”

 

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