Halifax MP Andy Fillmore is unlikely to forget the month of September 2019.
Hurricane Dorian swept through the province, ripping up trees, crushing cars and forcing thousands of residents into emergency shelters as their homes were left in darkness.
Days later, an election campaign began, and Fillmore opened up his campaign headquarters with a relief drive for Dorian’s victims.
At that time, Fillmore told Global News, he realized the role his riding could play in the global fight against climate change.
“The thing that has really become front and centre for me as a result of hurricane Dorian is the very real and present impact of climate change on our city,” he said.
“As a coastal city with both urban and rural populations and coastline conditions, I don’t think there’s a better laboratory in Canada for studying the impact of climate change and sea level rise than Halifax.”
Fillmore spoke with Global News before the House of Commons adjourned for the holidays. In the new year, he says one of his priorities will be supporting climate change research in Halifax, with the goal of positioning the city as a world leader in coastal climate mitigation.
“Halifax has a tremendous amount of intelligence in our local researchers and people with lived experience — fishers and so forth — that position us well for that.”
Fillmore has previously served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic institutions. This term, he’ll act as the parliamentary secretary for the minister of infrastructure and communities, and as a former urban planner, he says environmental sustainability has always been a priority.
In 2016, he introduced a successful motion in the House of Commons requiring the government to evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions of all its existing infrastructure and take them into account in all future projects built with federal funding.
“That’s from design in the construction phase to operation to what happens when the thing becomes obsolete — a whole life cycle worth of carbon we need to understand,” Fillmore explained.
The federal government has outlined a $180-billion federal infrastructure plan over the next 12 years. Fillmore says that in the next four years, he’ll be watching to make sure those dollars are spent wisely — and sustainably — in Halifax.
“One of the things I’ll be doing is continuing to make sure that climate lens is employed to the greatest effect and finding ways to strengthen it even further in a way that can accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy,” he said.
Fillmore also hopes to encourage his constituents to make their homes more efficient and switch to zero-emission vehicles. Part of equipping them to do that, he added, is making life more affordable.
“The way we make people’s lives better in a city like Halifax is to make sure that housing is affordable, that people have a really well-functioning public transit system and active transportation system such that they can choose not to own a car if they don’t want to, so our ongoing investments in really good public transit systems are going to become very important, our investments in housing stock through this climate lens that we talked about,” he said.
Fillmore would also like to see construction of a new Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre through to completion — a project for which he helped secure dollars in the last term but that has yet to put shovels in the ground.
Fillmore encourages his constituents to hold him accountable for his commitments and believes one of the marks of an effective MP is the quantifiable changes to goods and services around them.
“I think the way we can measure that is… investment in community infrastructure that touches people’s lives every day,” he explained.
“So, for example, we’ve been able to provide water and wastewater infrastructure in areas like Herring Cove. We’ve been able to remediate a very unhealthy industrial waste dump in Harrietsfield that is now going to improve groundwater quality.”
Last term, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Fillmore’s riding ranked eighth out of 338 in Canada for its overall number of federal funding commitments — 166 in total as of Sept. 3.
Fillmore told Global News he’ll spend the holidays in Halifax, attending tree lightings and spending time with family, but he looks forward to resuming work in the House of Commons in January.