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Guelph city council votes to ‘acknowledge a climate crisis,’ not declare climate emergency

Guelph city council voted to "acknowledge a climate crisis" rather than "declare a climate emergency" on Monday night.
Guelph city council voted to "acknowledge a climate crisis" rather than "declare a climate emergency" on Monday night. Matt Carty / Global News

Guelph will not be declaring a climate emergency, like many other Canadian cities have done, in what has become one of the most controversial decisions so far during this term of city council.

Instead, council has opted to “acknowledge a climate crisis.”

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Councillors debated and heard from many delegates about making the declaration during a six-hour meeting on Monday night.

But late in the meeting, council narrowly voted 7-6 in favour of Ward 1 Coun. Dan Gibson’s motion to alter the wording by changing “declare” to “acknowledge” and “emergency” to “crisis.”

Council then voted 9-4 in favour of the amended motion with the new language. Leanne Piper, Mike Salisbury, James Gordon and Phil Allt voted against it out of protest for not declaring a climate emergency.

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READ MORE: What is a climate emergency? Liberals, NDP table duelling motions on climate change

Several city councillors took to social media to voice their frustration with the vote.

Gordon said it was embarrassing.

“Our goal, apparently, is to be ‘palatable,’ not bold decision-making,” he said.

Salisbury called the new phrasing watered-down and likened it to using the term “oilsands” instead of “tar sands.”

Piper spoke out against the new wording and said she could not support it.

“7-6 vote to change the word ‘declare’ to ‘acknowledge’ completely alters the intent of the climate emergency motion,” she said on Twitter.

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“It’s a sad moment in council history.”

Gibson defended the wording change and council’s decision.

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“Guelph has one of the most ambitious climate plans in Canada,” he said. “My commitment will always be to find common ground on the climate and energy file.

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“I’m proud of our council decision.”

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