You asked the following questions so CAG sent to all Councillors. CAG received the responses below from Councillor David West.
Motion on climate change: Is there an expected report related to a climate change motion? If so, when is it anticipated? Will Council address a climate change motion again?
Councillor West’s response: The report back from staff that was initiated by Council’s Referral of the Climate Emergency motion will come to Council on Feb 12th. This report will outline some of the significant actions that Richmond Hill has already taken, and will continue to take, to reduce our GHG emissions and also to make our community more resilient to the impacts of Climate Change. It is also my intention to ask Council to give more focussed and specific direction to staff to support this work but also to take further and deeper steps to do what we can as a community to reduce our GHG emissions as a corporation and as a community. While I believe Richmond Hill has always taken a proactive approach to creating a healthy environment, Global Warming is an issue that requires our immediate attention and I would expect that our Council will help us to be leaders in this area.
Indigenous Peoples: Will the Land Acknowledgement motion be brought back to Council? How many Richmond Hill staff have been offered the Indigenous Peoples education package and how many staffers have participated in the course? Will this course be offered to residents?
Councillor West’s response: I continue to be committed to doing what I can to work towards Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in our community and in Canada and in doing so support the goals and findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that were outlined in its final report. The Land Acknowledgement that I proposed to Council was an example of one action – a first step that I believe we should take towards this goal.
I remain disappointed that Council did not adopt this motion to simply begin our Council meetings with a Land Acknowledgement. However given this outcome, I have continued to make a point to include, where I can, opportunities for citizens to gain a better understanding of the history of our past treatment of Indigenous Peoples in order to gain a better understanding of how we can make reconciliation a reality. In some of my communications and in all of the events that I host I have included content and activities that help to provide educations and awareness of these issues. I have also worked with a local citizens’ group called Pathways Toward Reconciliation to advance any steps we can take to create awareness and also to walk towards reconciliation with First Nations people.
I will continue to look for opportunities to bring this motion and other initiatives forward in the future but I do not want to do so unless I have good reason to believe it will pass at Council. I have spoken to Indigenous people from across the country after the Land Acknowledgement motion failed, and I know that it was embarrassing and potentially hurtful to have us deny this motion. In good conscience, I do not want this situation repeated.
The Learning module on Indigenous history since European contact that was passed by Council is for staff only, not the public. It is an idea that I supported but I still believe it should have been an idea that was included in addition to the Land Acknowledgement motion, not instead of a Land Acknowledgement. I am not sure how many staff have opted to take the online course so far (I have done so).
Fire Safety: How did the Council determine the number of firefighters needed for Richmond Hill? Has do those numbers per-capita compare with other municipalities in York Region? What is the plan for a highrise emergency? To what extent are the firefighters of Richmond Hill equipped/prepared to handle such a crisis?
Councillor West’s response: The guidance that I primarily reply upon for when making decisions related to Fire Safety comes from Richmond Hill’s Fire Master Plan. This plan outlines the likely future needs of our Richmond Hill Fire Department under a set of expected circumstances. The Fire Master Plan takes into consideration the built form of our community and any other specific features of our demographics and geography. Like any plan that predicts future needs it is likely not perfect but I think it is a comprehensive plan and it serves as a good direction. It was clearly stated by the Fire Chief at a recent Council meeting that our level of service compares favourably to other municipalities and that we are well protected at the moment in Richmond Hill.
However I also know that we are not where I would like to be in terms of the staffing levels outlined in the Fire Master Plan. I also know that we recently approved an additional fire truck in a capital budget that has not been ordered yet because we do not have enough personnel to staff this extra truck. It is my understanding that this truck could be put in service if we hired 6 or more new firefighters. At a recent Operating Budget Meeting it was my intention to move a motion to hire 4 firefighters that had been approved in the 2019 budget but never actually hired, and also hire an additional 2 firefighters in the 2020 budget so that this truck could be put in service. Unfortunately I was not able to make this motion because the majority of Council decided to cut the 4 previously approved firefighter positions from the 2020 budget.
It would have been my expectation that this additional truck would help our Fire and Emergency Service provide a deeper level of response when an emergency happens both now and as we grow into the future. It is my understanding that this extra resource would be valuable to further improve safety, and as such I was in favour of the relatively small additional cost to do so.