Candidates respond to Air Quality Questionnaire
Breathe Clean Air sent a questionnaire on air quality to candidates in Comox Valley's 2018 local government elections. 44 of 46 candidates responded in full or in part.
Our goal was to learn where candidates stood on different aspects of the issue and about their commitment to action. Read our News Release about the results.
Yes or No
For all five questions (see below), a "yes" answer reflects agreement with Breathe Clean Air's positions and our understanding of what is needed to make a real difference in our air quality.
A "no" indicates a difference of opinion from the candidate (an "n/r" indicates no response to that question).
Raise your concerns
As candidates knock on your door, or talk at forums, please continue to bring up air quality. Share your personal stories about how our poor air quality impacts you or your family, or ask them to clarify their positions on this important topic. Change happens when people speak up.
Please vote for action on air quality!
Question 1: Concern for air quality
Every winter, there is poor air quality in the Comox Valley due to high levels of harmful fine particulate matter. We experience multiple air quality advisories, and frequently break BC Air Quality Objectives. We are one of the worst communities of 13 monitored in the Georgia Strait Air Zone. In the Comox Valley, we know wood smoke is the source of most of our fine particulates (or “PM2.5”).
Everyone’s health can be impacted by poor air quality, particularly children, seniors and people with pre-existing conditions. Studies show these particulates increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, increase the rate of respiratory infections and lung cancer, impact lung development in infants and children, and much more (see Doctors & Scientists Against Wood Smoke Pollution).
Q. Are you concerned about winter air quality in the Comox Valley and how it is affecting people’s health?
Question 2: Commitment to multi-pronged strategies
Mobile air monitoring studies in our area have shown that older neighbourhoods (where wood stove use is typically higher) experience the worst air quality in the Valley. Some areas showed poorer air quality than what was recorded at the government monitor at Courtenay Elementary School. The management of wood stove installation and use falls largely under local government control. Local governments can use a diversity of approaches to help reduce wood stove pollution.
For example, local governments can help raise awareness of the health impacts of wood smoke, support incentives for people to switch to cleaner fuels, prevent wood burning on bad air days, disallow new installations to stop the spread of wood stoves particularly in populated areas, and more. A range of approaches needs to be adopted to ensure success.
Q. If elected, do you commit to ensuring meaningful, multi-pronged strategies for reducing wood stove pollution are created and implemented?
Question 3: Certified stoves not best approach
Research in the UK has shown that even a brand new eco-certified stove, burning dry wood at high temperatures, will emit more harmful fine particulate matter per hour than 18 newer diesel cars. A government agency in Puget Sound indicates that a well run EPA certified wood stove puts out 582 times more fine particulates a year than a gas furnace or stove.
Unlike healthier heating options (e.g. gas and electricity), emissions from a wood stove depend completely on how it is operated. Wood stoves require ongoing public spending for education on burning and for enforcement (when people burn inappropriate materials or create undue amounts of smoke).
Q. Do you agree that replacing older wood stoves with newer, certified stoves is not the best approach for reducing wood stove pollution in populated areas?
Question 4: Bylaws to protect against poor burning.
Individuals who burn wet wood or other illegal materials, or who do not use their stove appropriately, will create notably more smoke pollution than people who burn dry wood in hot fires. Neighbours of wood stove users can be exposed to very different pollution levels.
Local governments have the authority to develop and enforce nuisance-like bylaws to protect people’s use and enjoyment of their own property, and their health and well-being. This is done for noise and other disturbances.
Q. If elected, do you commit to ensuring there are workable and fair bylaws that will help neighbours protect their families and property from harmful amounts of smoke created by poor burning practices?
Question 5: End to yard waste burning
Burning of yard waste, including leaves and branches, is regulated by local governments. These yard waste fires create a lot of harmful localized smoke, impacting neighbours’ use and enjoyment of their own property as well as their health.
Although yard waste fires have been banned in Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland, they are allowed in the rest of CVRD. (BC regulates larger open burns and agricultural waste fires and these are not the focus of this question).
Q. Do you support an end to yard waste burning in CVRD, particularly in more densely populated areas that fall outside of municipal boundaries?
Do you have any additional comments on air quality in the Comox Valley or suggestions for how we may effectively clean up our air?