October’s Elections in 905 and 519 Municipalities are Important for the Future of Ontario’s Environment
Barring a dramatic u-turn by the provincial government, for the next four years, much of the burden of diverting new homes away farmland and natural spaces, slashing carbon emissions, and ending car-dependency will fall on the 905 and 519’s City, Regional, and local governments.
The good news is that there’s a great deal municipal governments can do – as long as this October’s elections produce mayors and councils committed to delivering the policy changes needed to protect Ontario’s environment.
To help candidates craft their platforms –and help 905 residents decide how to use their time, money, volunteer hours, ballots – Environmental Defence is flagging the municipal policy changes and initiatives in the 905 and 519 that would have the biggest positive impact on Ontario’s environment.
Here’s how to distinguish environmental champions from environmental villains.
What makes a strong environment platform
See what makes a strong environment platform for Toronto
Top Photo by Amir Syed via Flickr Creative Commons
Centre Photo by Sydney Smeets
Bottom Photo by Mary Crandal via Flickr Creative Commons
A strong environment platform for your 905 or 519 municipality will:
- Protect what remains of Canada’s quality farmland & most rare and biodiverse wildlife habitats by maintaining your region’s pre-2022 settlement boundaries until at least 2051, and by approving enough new compact, land-efficient homes and workplaces within those boundaries to accommodate all the new residents allocated to it under the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
- Rapidly enhance the range, frequency, reliability, density and directness of public transportation in your municipality to levels that make it comfortable and convenient for the vast majority of residents in urban and suburban neighborhoods to access work, school, shopping, healthcare and recreation without a car.
- Transform car-dependent subdivisions throughout your municipality into complete communities with densities and a mix of uses that support public transit and active transportation, by changing zoning to add more land-efficient, lower-cost housing types, as well as amenities like small corner stores & pharmacies, to the areas currently restricted to single detached houses.
- Oppose the construction of Highway 413, the Bradford Bypass and other major limited-access highways and extensions cutting through Greenbelt, farmland or natural heritage, both by using all means within your municipality’s own jurisdiction to prevent or delay its approval or construction, and through Council resolutions, public statements, and communications with the federal and provincial governments.
- Make it safe and much more convenient to get around on foot or by bicycle or mobility device by providing protected bicycle lanes on busy or fast-moving streets, and by requiring pedestrian markings and accessible crosswalks or traffic signals be added to far more intersections, including all intersections near schools, community centres, parks, and commercial streets.
- Commit to rapidly and substantially reduce both the share of travel and overall distance traveled using private automobiles, establishing those reductions as a central objective and premise of all future decisions about land use planning, infrastructure, transportation and public services.
- Reduce tailpipe emissions from those motor vehicle trips that can’t be eliminated by prohibiting the inclusion of non-EV parking spaces in new developments or in replacements of existing off-street parking, and by rapidly adding electric vehicle chargers to all parking lots and sidewalk chargers to all curbside parking spaces.
- Reduce environmental racism and classism by removing zoning and other obstacles that tend to limit less-expensive housing forms to noisier, more polluted places, or that make it illegal, impractical or too expensive in many neighborhoods to build non-profit, deeply affordable, supportive and other “social” housing.
- Reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating and electricity by opposing the construction, expansion or increased use of gas plants, by supporting a provincial phase-out of gas plants, by requiring that furnaces, water heaters, stoves and ovens in new homes operate using electricity instead of fossil fuels, and by helping fund energy efficiency & electric retrofits, solar energy systems and battery storage units in homes of all types.
- Support the Reform Gravel Mining Coalition push for a temporary moratorium on new gravel mining applications in Ontario, by opposing new permits within your region.
- Follow the region-specific recommendations of your City or Regional Environmental NGOs: Environment Hamilton, Stop Sprawl York Region, Stop Sprawl Durham, and Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
Beware of an Environment Platform that:
- Plans to maintain, or only moderately reduce, the current number of private automobile trips, based on the false assumption that the necessary transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles will be sufficient to deliver the emissions reductions we need.
- Co-opts rhetoric about “complete communities” or “mixed use development” as window dressing for greenfield development that sprawls beyond pre-2022 settlement boundaries, which does not border existing built up areas, or which will be occupied before it is built to the bare minimum densities (~90+ people and jobs per hectare) to support frequent transit, and a full range of amenities within walking distance.
- Leaves in place rules that make it hard to add more compact and lower-cost low-rise housing types to existing “single detached” residential neighborhoods, based on the false assumption that highrise and mid-rise buildings in downtown, on avenues and around GO stations will be sufficient by themselves to meet housing demand and prevent sprawl.
- Obstructs the reform of discriminatory and “low-density” zoning by misrepresenting the preservation of aesthetic preferences – such as large front lawns, physical separation between houses, low building heights, or even the absence of playing children and pedestrians – as “environmental” priorities.
- Mislead voters by paying lip service to the overhaul of land use planning, the rapid expansion of public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and the other environmental policies your municipality needs, while refusing to fund those changes..
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