The Langley Advance Times recently introduced this new weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Each member of council was asked the same question: Langley City has a very large population of seniors, many living without air conditioning. What can and should the city do to help its seniors through extreme weather events in future?
Mayor Val van den Broek
A. Let me begin by extending my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones during the recent heat wave, and my support to those who continue to struggle with the unusual weather that we are experiencing.
I think most of us will agree that climate change is here to stay, and we must acknowledge that we will experience more extreme weather going forward.
While the City did extend spray park hours, open all park washroom facilities, and encourage citizens to spend time in our public library, there is always room for improvement.
We did, and will continue to, coordinate with the Langley Senior Resources Society and other organizations (Langley Lions and LSCAT) that support our seniors to ensure that their outreach work reaches as many citizens as possible.
As many buildings within the community do not have air conditioning, we may look at encouraging the province and organizations such as BC Hydro to consider offering incentives to retrofit older buildings with proper systems.
Additionally, we need to work with developers to be forward-thinking so that future builds include necessary amenities such as air conditioning and even natural amenities such as adequate treed areas to offer shade.
The heat wave has served as a reminder that various levels of government need to work together to support our community, and it is a time to coordinate with the province to develop an emergency response plan for all extreme weather situations, so that we are better prepared in the future.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. This is an interesting and complex issue that involves private home ownership, rental, supportive housing, older and new buildings types.
The ability or inability to finance the upgrades required to install air conditioning of the owner as well as determining where the seniors are located.
To be clear our community service providers were outstanding during the recent heat wave.
They made every effort to connect with our senior population, to ensure their health and safety was provided for and their needs were met.
City staff were proactive and connected with these community partners to ensure they knew that the City facilities where available for water, a cool environment, or other needs that anyone might have in obtaining a location to find relief.
As City councillor, I have been continuously requesting new housing projects to either provide or to ensure that the development is equipped to facilitate air conditioning for the future owner/renters.
The City’s environment committee and our new OCP update will implement many strategies and initiatives to address climate change to help our community and improve our impact on the world.
Measures such as increasing our tree canopy, limiting the loss of water, providing green roofs, or at least reducing the heat island effect associated with buildings to reduce our green house gas effect to name a few.
But how about using solar energy to power air conditioning?
We are in a climate emergency that will require all orders of government working together to make the required changes.
Councillor Teri James
A. The unprecedented heat wave we recently experienced was hard on many people, but particularly our most vulnerable population – which is our seniors.
They are often shut in their homes with nowhere to go and no relief from the heat.
What Langley City was able to do was connect with the service groups that support seniors such as the Langley Seniors Resource Society, Langley Seniors Community Action Table, Langley Lions, and Langley Meals on Wheels.
They created a phone and email tree to fan out information to their clients encouraging them to visit nearby community organizations or Timms Community Centre and the library to seek some relief from the heat.
Additional chairs were made available on both floors in the Timms facility and water was made available to everyone.
Phone calls were made to those most in need and door knocking was conducted in the senior’s facilities.
The City has created a webpage where people can find useful tips and information on how to stay cool in extreme weather.
Emergency volunteers could be contacted to drive those seniors who can’t get to air-conditioned City facilities on their own due to mobility reasons.
If more volunteers are needed, City staff and members of council should be approached to volunteer if they are able to.
As a community, and as a City, we must remember that global warming is in an emergency state, and any measures we can take to reduce our carbon footprint should be undertaken.
Some examples of these would be:
• installing more e-charging stations throughout the City
• converting the City’s fleet, where possible, to electric vehicles
• planting more trees in our parks
• The anticipated arrival of SkyTrain to Langley City will also reduce GHG emissions as people will be less reliant on the use of vehicles.
The policies in the new OCP are:
• we want a highly connected City aligned with rapid transit that support new growth with transit, creating pleasant, multi-modal streets and preparing for more electric vehicles.
• we have targets for reducing emissions that cause climate change by protecting environmentally sensitive areas, supporting green infrastructure, finding innovative waste reduction solutions and strengthening the City’s tree canopy.
Working together is the only way we are ever going to see a decrease in extreme weather events such as the one we just experienced.
Councillor Gayle Martin
A.Yes, the City can and have done what they could to provide relief to ours seniors and our community.
This plan could continue in the future for extreme weather events.
Staff handle events as they see fit and I agree with what has been put forward, so I’m not going to re-invent a plan.
I have included (verbatim) the communication council received re the extreme heat, which I fully support and thank the staff for the plan.
Thanks should also go the community groups assisting with getting the message out to our seniors.
“As you may be aware, there are many people, especially seniors, who have suffered and died as a result of the heat wave.
The EOC management group, are working on a plan to assist those who are suffering from the heat for the next four to five days.
We will be contacting the Langley Seniors Resource Centre, LCAT, and Meals on Wheels to fan out to their clients and encourage them to come down to Timms Community Centre and the library to seek some relief.
We will be putting out additional chairs on both floors in the facility to accommodate people who are seeking relief and water bottles will be available for them. We are also attempting to have emergency volunteers to drive those seniors who can’t get to the Timms Community Centre and the library on their own due to mobility reasons.”
Councillor Nathan Pachal
A. The recent heat event that lingered over Langley City will likely change from a 1-in-100 year event to a 1-in-10 year event due to climate change.
As municipalities, we need now to consider extreme heat as a part of everyday life.
Langley City did work to provide access to our air-conditioned Timms Community Centre and library for seniors to cool down during this extreme heat event.
Douglas Recreation Centre and Al Anderson Memorial Pool are available for seniors to cool down in the future.
In partnership with our community services providers, such as the Langley Seniors Recreation & Resource Centre, the City can help make sure that seniors can get a phone call to check on their wellbeing and know where they can cool down.
The City can also work to adopt the BC Energy Step Code for new construction, which among other things, better manages temperature inside buildings.
Councillor Rudy Storteboom
A. The City of Langley is helping residents stay cool during this unprecedented heat wave by offering respite, expanding services, and partnering with service groups to provide hot weather relief.
Timms Community Centre and the Langley City library are air conditioned and open to the public, with COVID-19 protocols.
Our Emergency Operations Centre is coordinating with our community service groups to reach out to seniors and offer help.
I understand that Langley Seniors Resource Centre, Langley Seniors Community Action Table (LSCAT), and Meals on Wheels are contacting clients to encourage them to beat the heat by going to Timms and the library.
Additional seating is being made available at Timms and bottles of water are available for free distribution.
Also, some Langley emergency program volunteers are being asked to drive those seniors who may have mobility challenges to the Timms Community Centre.
Likewise, I understand the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope is providing respite shelter from the heat at their facility, on the Langley Bypass.
Langley City has faced unprecedented challenges in the past year – from the COVID-19 pandemic to this extraordinary heat wave.
Yet, I am heartened that our organization continues to demonstrate the utmost resilience, professionalism, and dedication through these challenging times.
For more information including hours of operation please call Langley City at 604-514-2800 or click on the following link to see the Langley City webpage “Extreme Weather: Stay Cool in Langley City.”
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. Langley City has a large population of seniors, many living in inadequate housing that continually creates barriers to feeling well, specially in extreme heat and poor air quality.
Many older buildings do not have air conditioning or larger amenity cooling areas for seniors to have respite from the extreme heat.
Although there have been measures put in place and extended to several seniors by the City, community outreach and amazing organizations catering to seniors, there are still too many not being helped because of social isolation, not knowing how to ask, where to go, or afraid to leave their homes because of poor health conditions and insecurities.
Building managers and housing providers could play a part in the outreach and connection through the sharing of information and resources by getting to know the seniors who live in their buildings.
Global warming is real and it is not going away, extreme weather conditions will continue to affect the livelihood of seniors and others, and will be a detriment to the quality of life, specially for the vulnerable aging population.
The City of Langley must continue to build to adapt to climate change but in the meantime push for funding from other levels of government to aid in emergency preparedness and the retrofitting of older buildings to meet standards needed in providing good air quality and cooling systems.
We must continue to build public areas that serve as cooling areas in creating shade, innovative infrastructure mitigating the effects of extreme weather conditions.
Next week’s Langley Township council is being asked: Should every neighbourhood in Langley Township have its own public pool?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.
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