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Jody Vance: Time to go all in on AC

COVID-19 and the heat dome laid bare an uncomfortable fact: in a crisis, seniors get left behind. With another heatwave around the corner, have we learned the lesson?

Is BC ready for our next test? A test to see if our governments and society have learned the lesson of leaving vulnerable seniors last when hit by an urgent crisis.

Did COVID-19 and the June Heat Dome lessons sink into policy and set us up for protecting our elders – or was the mea culpa on those files simply lip service?

My expectation, and sincere hope, is that we have. Either way, we’ll see for ourselves as, once again we step straight into yet another potentially deadly heatwave this week.

There’s no time to pause – to do so risks lives – and the answer is as simple as allowing AC units or even better, supply them.

It’s go time.

As we stare down yet another 40+ degree inland forecast in southern BC the time is now to get real about protecting our most vulnerable.

Today’s Middle searches for someone at the top to lay it down, without delay.

Perhaps Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Health Minister Adrian Dix, or the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry? Mayors? Councillors?

What’s needed is an order in council striking down rules and bylaws against AC window units, anywhere.

No press conference required. Just do it.

My suggestion is to make it illegal to deny the use of a cooling system in anyone’s dwelling, no matter where, during extreme weather warnings.

It is cruel to argue otherwise. Just look at the recent coroner’s report on the June heat dome, where 570 of 815 sudden deaths during that span were deemed “heat related.”

The argument against these units is often that it messes with the building aesthetic – come on. Really?

There should be consequences for those using (hopefully) outdated bylaws within stratas or rentals. There should be no way to deny what very well could be lifesaving measures.

This particular brand of NIMBY is being called upon – and called out – here to halt discounting the danger to their neighbours.

This is not something to be slowly pushed through the filter of bureaucracy and red tape; but urgent and immediate and requires action.

My realtor friend Sarah Daniels pointed out recently just how many places do not allow this upgrade, even at the resident’s expense.

“Nobody ever thought we would need AC in BC on the regular.”

Daniels is teaming up with others to raise money to help at-risk seniors afford window AC units. Something government should look at as a way to support taxpayers in need.

The need to step up and demand dated bylaws be abolished seems the minimum we can do here. At the very least, let’s agree that the very right to install window air conditioners should be a matter of health and welfare.

Our society, as a whole, has seen what happens when elders are left to be last. Time to step up and show the lessons learned – and how last will never be acceptable again.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.