October’s Municipal Election in Ottawa are Important for the Future of Ottawa’s and Ontario’s Environment
From greenhouse gas emissions to the loss of farmland and wildlife habitat, car dependency and sprawl are at the root of Ottawa’s biggest environmental problems. If the City is to have any hope of meeting its climate change obligations – and protecting nature – its next Mayor and City Council must slam the brakes on further sprawl and quickly overhaul Ottawa’s roads, public transit and land use planning to divert most car trips to public transit, bikes, or walking.
Here are the 5 “litmus test” policies that Ottawa’s environment voters should use to identify the candidates who will deliver the rapid change the City needs.
What makes a strong environment platform
Top Photo by M Sidhu via Unsplash
Centre Photo by Tony Webster vis Flickr Creative Commons
Bottom Photo by Bobbsled via Flickr Creative Commons
A strong environment platform for Ottawa will:
1. Divert Car Trips to Public Transit: Make public transit the most convenient and cost-effective way for people in every part of Ottawa to commute, run errands and get kids to their activities, by rapidly expanding public transit operations, and by making public transit free for children and teenagers 17-and-under
2. Divert Car Trips to Cycling: Quickly make cycling a safe, convenient, and preferred mode of transportation for residents in every part of Ottawa by delivering all of the City’s planned cycling network expansion within the next 4 years.
3. Transform Post-WW2 Subdivisions Into Complete Communities: Replace Ottawa’s exclusionary “R1” zoning with new rules designed to add compact and lower-cost housing types, such as semi-detached homes, townhomes, duplexes and amenities like corner stores and pharmacies, to streets currently limited to single detached houses
4. Slam the Door on Sprawl Permanently: Put a permanent end to urban boundary expansions in Ottawa, and plan and approve enough compact, land-efficient homes of all types within the City’s pre-2021 boundaries to accommodate all of the city’s future population growth. Use those new homes to bring all Ottawa’s suburbs up to densities that support high-order transit, schools, and amenities like corner stores & pharmacies within easy walking distance.
5. Get the Details Right: Implement the other, more fine-grained local policy initiatives advanced by Ecology Ottawa through its 13-question All Candidates Survey – https://www.ecologyottawa.ca/election
For almost all of the past few decades, the City of Ottawa and its suburban predecessor municipalities have been governed by Mayors and Council majorities who have co-opted “green”-sounding rhetoric while bulldozing ahead with sprawl and car dependency.
In order to clean up their mess, it’s vital that “environment voters” in this October’s Ottawa municipal election spot – and avoid – the latest crop of environmental villains offering green buzzwords when what is needed is rapid, visible, on-the-ground change.
Here are the 5 red flags that mark a candidate you should not vote for:
1. Accepting car-dependency as an immovable feature of life in Ottawa’s suburbs, rather than a problem that must be solved, 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.
2. Treating Ottawa’s planned bike lane network as a frill or “nice to have” that can wait decades, rather than vital transportation, public safety, and emissions reduction infrastructure that must be completed on an emergency basis. Scoffing at the idea of bikes as a practical way of shopping, commuting, and transporting children.
3. Refusing to make transit work for families: Candidates who pay lip service to supporting public transit, but balk at paying to eliminate public transit fares for children and youth and rapidly expand neighborhood bus service, should not get your vote. Ottawa must make it practical for families with children to get by without a car.
4. Fearmongering about change and densification in existing neighborhoods rather than recognizing that the low densities and segregated land uses locked in by “R1 zoning” make life harder and more expensive in communities like Stittsville and Orleans.
5. Leaving the door open to further sprawl after Ottawa has “used up” its existing greenfield area, by supporting the 2021 boundary expansion and refusing to commit to a permanently fixed urban boundary.
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