University of Regina professor defends executive committee’s fossil fuel motion

Emily Eaton, University of Regina associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, is defending members of the executive committee and the motion surrounding fossil fuels and advertisements. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

An associate professor at the University of Regina is defending the members of the executive committee who voted in favour of a motion that would prevent businesses who sell or produce fossil fuel products from advertising or sponsoring with the City of Regina.

Under the Sponsorship, Naming Rights & Advertising Policy, Ward 6 Coun. Daniel LeBlanc proposed an amendment that would put fossil fuels in the same light as tobacco, cannabis, weapons and sexual services when it comes to advertising and sponsorships.

It was backed by seven of 11 members at Wednesday’s meeting, but still needs to be approved by city council at its next meeting on Jan. 27.

“They are continuing on with the mandate from the old council, which is to transition the city to 100 per cent renewable sources of electricity and power citywide by the year 2050,” said Emily Eaton, U of R associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.

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“We have been given a 30-year warning that we are going to be phasing out fossil fuels. We don’t need to be finding space within our city assets and events to promote an industry that, by design, we are moving away from.”

Click to play video: 'Survey shows support for renewable energy in Regina'
Survey shows support for renewable energy in Regina

Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe called the proposed change “absurd” and a “hypocritical attack on the hardworking workers and employers that fuel Saskatchewan’s economy.”

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“The premier has always wanted to be seen as defending the interests of the oil and gas industry,” Eaton said. “I think that this was an easy target for him.”

Moe wasn’t alone in his disappointment as many others shared their concerns with the executive committee’s decision.

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Regina Mayor Sandra Masters was one of four who voted against the motion. Councillors John Findura, Lori Bresciani and Terina Shaw also sided against it.

Click to play video: 'Regina faces backlash over proposed energy motion'
Regina faces backlash over proposed energy motion

“From what we can see here at the city, people are outraged and embarrassed,” Masters said on Thursday.

The largest industry in our province is mining, oil and gas. Agriculture doesn’t exist without it.”

“So much of the sponsorship that exists for events in our city come from the oil and gas sector. We have thousands of jobs in our city that depend upon the oil and gas energy sector, both union and private. It is deeply troubling to me.”

On Wednesday, LeBlanc stood firm on bringing forward the proposed change, saying he was sticking to the platform on which he ran — sustainability and moving away from fossil fuels.

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Given the city’s commitment to be net neutral carbon-wise by 2050 and its commitment to phasing out fossil fuel, he said it was important for the city to treat fossil fuel similar to things like tobacco.

Ward 10 Coun. Landon Mohl has already changed his mind after receiving negative feedback from his constituents.

Ward 9 Coun. Jason Mancinelli said on Facebook he would change his vote come Jan. 27 if the wording behind the amendment continues to put the oil and gas industry in a negative light.

LeBlanc said he would like to see members stick to their guns, despite the backlash.

“I hope people voted their values today (Wednesday) and I hope they do that again,” LeBlanc said.

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“I don’t think it’s a surprise that we have a premier who would be upset at this sort of thing. I don’t think that would have been a surprise to councillors who voted in favour of it. I hope that won’t change their vote afterward.”

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Like LeBlanc, Eaton is hoping those who voted in favour of the motion stand their ground.

“I would hope that council is not intimidated by the bullying tactics of both the premier and the fossil fuel industry,” Eaton said.

“I would hope that they step back and look at their mandate around the implementation of its renewable Regina effort.”

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