Candidates respond to Air Quality Questionnaire
Breathe Clean Air sent a questionnaire on air quality to candidates in Comox Valley's 2022 local government elections. Most candidates responded in full or in part. Their responses are below.
Our goal was to learn where candidates stood on different aspects of the issue and about their commitment to continued action to reduce wood smoke.
Please read our news release for more background and perspectives from 2 of our volunteers.
Yes or No
For all six questions (see below), a "yes" answer reflects closer 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.
Comments were also allowed for each question so the candidate could further explain their position.
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!
Click on an area to view the questions and candidate responses (Opens a PDF in new tab)
Every winter, the Comox Valley experiences poor air quality due to high levels of harmful fine particulate matter. We experience 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).
Are you concerned about wood smoke in the Comox Valley and how it is affecting people’s health?
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.
If elected, do you commit to working to ensure meaningful, multi-pronged strategies for reducing wood stove pollution are created and implemented?
A wood stove, even when it is new and run perfectly, will put out far more fine particulate matter than any other source of home heating. 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. 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, all in one fixed location.
This means people living near wood stoves, especially in more densely populated areas, are exposed to far more fine particulate matter than people living near other types of heat. Health experts say there is no safe level of exposure to fine particulate matter and that any reduction will reduce health impacts.
In 2021, CVRD convened the multi-stakeholder Airshed Roundtable to develop and implement a Regional Airshed Protection Strategy to guide air quality actions. To help protect public health, one of the main actions in the draft plan is to transition homes in populated areas away from using wood heating.
Do you agree that we need to work towards transitioning homes in populated areas away from using wood stoves (except in emergencies)?
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 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. They also have authority to regulate wood stove use.
If elected, do you commit to ensuring there are workable and fair bylaws that will help neighbours protect their families and property from harmful wood smoke?
To help ensure the wood smoke problem did not get any worse, all three municipalities passed bylaws in the last few years to prevent wood stoves from being installed in new construction. In Comox and Courtenay, the bylaws also said homes that did not already have a wood burning appliance were not allowed to install one after the bylaws were passed.
These bylaws effectively capped the number of wood stoves in these three municipalities, helping to ensure the problem would not get any worse. It also protected people who intentionally moved to cleaner areas from having a wood stove pop up next door.
Do you commit to keeping your municipality's “no new installation” bylaws in place to prevent the increase in the number of wood burning appliances?
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 the CVRD and are impacting both neighbours and neighbouring communities. (BC regulates larger open burns and agricultural waste fires and these are not the focus of this question).
In 2021, the CVRD convened the multi-stakeholder Airshed Roundtable to develop and implement a Regional Airshed Protection Strategy to guide air quality actions. To help protect public health, one of the main actions includes eliminating yard waste burning.
Do you support the elimination of yard waste burning in the CVRD?