'This is a game changer for the restaurant industry'

Vancouver chef Siddharth Choudhary has been an undecided voter for much of this election campaign.

That was until Sunday, when the B.C. Liberals said, if elected, they will overturn new rezoning policies by the City of Vancouver which will effectively ban the use of natural gas within city limits

“This is a game changer for me and the restaurant industry,” said Choudhary, who estimates that the new rezoning policies would cost him thousands of dollars more to operate his eatery, Sidhhartha's Kitchen on Commercial Drive.

“For most of us restaurant owners and chefs, this policy by Vancouver does not make sense and is unaffordable…any party that will stop this gets my vote,” he said.

Choudhary, is not alone with his views.

“There are more than a thousand restaurants in Vancouver who use natural gas as a key component of their business,” said Ian Tostensen, CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.

“My members and their customers will benefit from the stability of knowing natural gas will continue to be available in Vancouver. This is fantastic news for small businesses and will keep costs down for everyone,” he said after the announcement by Andrew Wilkinson, the BC Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Quilchena.

Samantha McLeod, a Vancouver food writer and filmmaker said while the city insists there is no ban on natural gas, its proposed policies under the guise of new rezoning bylaws, will impact the city’s reputation as the culinary capital of Canada.

“I hope today’s announcement by the Liberals will push for a rethink of the city’s agenda and perhaps we can now get some clear answers from city hall,” said McLeod, whose social-media video series, Gas-tronomy, features some of the city’s top chefs alarmed at the thought of not being able to cook with natural gas.

Wilkinson announced Sunday that the BC Liberals, if elected, will stop the City of Vancouver’s efforts to move forward with a ban on the use of natural gas as a fuel within city limits.

“Vancouver City Council wants to ban natural gas from the city and we think that is wrong and needlessly adds costs to consumers, home buyers and restaurateurs,” said Wilkinson.

“Today’s BC Liberals will ensure that natural gas remains an energy option for residents, restaurants and businesses in the City of Vancouver. While we all agree that climate change must be addressed, banning natural gas from the City of Vancouver at a huge cost to residents is not the way to go.”

“The City of Vancouver is looking to add to affordability challenges for families. As our platform says, we will protect the ability of homeowners and businesses to use natural gas as an energy source across the province,” added Wilkinson.

Responding to Wilkinson’s announcement, Vancouver City Hall once again reiterated that its new energy rules are designed to reduce emissions and that there is no ban on the use of natural gas.

However, FortisBC, and a host of industry players and individual homeowners, say that due to the new standards being imposed that they will have no choice but to pay more for natural gas or switch to the more expensive suite of options that the city says is available.

According to FortisBC, a family of four would spend $1,500 more per year if they were required to use electricity over natural gas for space and water heating alone.

As of May 1, The Globe and Mail reported that furnaces, fireplaces, hot-water heaters and cooktops that use natural gas will become a thing of the past for some new building projects in the City of Vancouver.

All developments requiring a rezoning will become the first wave of buildings that have to comply with new standards designed to make Vancouver a zero-emissions city, the paper said.

A recent Simon Fraser University report concluded Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy sets targets but without specific policies for meeting them.

This has led to confusion and scenarios that Vancouver in the future will be a city without balconies and sealed buildings, people having to pay more for having a gas barbecue, restaurants without gas burners, no parking spots for vehicles using petrol or natural gas, and a range of punitive measures to force compliance with the green vision, according to recent op-ed in The Province.

Political commentators said the BC Liberal announcement to stop Vancouver City Hall’s new energy plans will resonate with voters if the message gets out loud and clear over the last leg of campaigning.

“Affordability is the key issue for the 11 Liberal candidates in the Vancouver area and they need to promote and keep this promise if they are serious about keeping Vancouver affordable,” said a local pollster.

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