Themes:

Strategy trumps shiny new objects

March 11, 2015

The recent story of Blind River’s failed green energy plans is a sad one. One sentence stood out for me in the Globe and Mail story: “The solar farm couldn’t get approval to hook into the provincial grid.”  It appears this might have been when the project began to go off the rails.  It is not the only solar project...

Infrastructure relics

March 9, 2015

Deicing at Cambridge Bay Airport – Wikimedia Commons This winter has inconvenienced our lives in many ways but not as much as it might. In the developed world, we exert such remarkable control over our daily environment that we can easily forget how much of what we have built to protect us is tied to climate – the old climate. We...

Proposed changes good for communities

March 6, 2015

The Ontario government is proposing changes to the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act. This is good news for municipalities and it is great to finally see the results of the extensive consultations that occurred over a year ago. Municipalities collect development charges to pay for a variety of infrastructure – from roads to fire stations – to serve new homes and businesses. ...

Great cities raise the bar for everyone

March 1, 2015

Cities have always been places where people and ideas come together, where creativity and innovation find their roots.  With urbanization and globalization, cities are emerging as an important force in the 21st century. When countries compete it can get messy; often neither side emerges a clear winner (think war). When cities compete, it is different.  We all win because they...

What about Open Community?

February 25, 2015

What about Open Community? What would that look like? Open Government is a catchall phrase to describe a fundamental remaking of government so its works better – within and beyond its own walls. Scorn will be heaped on those institutions who have the courage to push down this path for not being able to turn decades (or centuries) of entrenched...

World class energy performance for Ontario

February 23, 2015

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has just released Ontario’s Climate Change Discussion Paper 2015 and is seeking input. The Ministry of Energy also has a program to encourage energy planning in communities. This is a great opportunity to marry the two initiatives to help achieve the province’s vision to establish Ontario as a leader in climate change mitigation...

Long-form census improves lives

February 16, 2015

“Cities to weigh loss of long-form census for community planning”, read the headline in the Globe and Mail a week or so ago. No kidding.  It should come as no surprise that the cancellation of the mandatory long-form census is hampering evidence-based decision making by local governments. I spent three days last week at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Conference in...

The next is harder than the last

February 14, 2015

There is a bit of a myth about municipal budgeting in Ontario. Unlike the federal or provincial governments, local governments cannot carry an operating deficit.  They can use debt to pay for capital projects like roads and water pipes but not to pay to plow those roads or pump water.  If they overspend their operating budget, they must address that deficit...

Changing relationships

February 3, 2015

What does it mean to be an urban citizen in the 21st century?  What does it mean for our relationship with our local government? Last Halloween, a constituent sent me a photo with his smart phone of a squashed pumpkin lying at the curb in front of his house. He expected (and that is putting it politely) a public works crew...

Early adopter of climate change

February 3, 2015

Relatively speaking, I was an “early adopter” of climate change.  While there were scientists in the 19th century that believed climate would be changed by human emissions of greenhouse gases, it wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that a consensus emerged that this was indeed the case and that there would be consequences for human and natural systems. In the...

Open Government: more than transparency and technology

February 3, 2015

Open Government is a bit of a buzzword right now in government circles and like so many buzzwords it gets interpreted to mean different things to different people. The media quickly assumes that it means that they can get any information they want regardless of privacy legislation or the cost to the taxpayer.  Improved access to information and transparency will...

Turn to cities for help on climate change

February 3, 2015

The first time I stood in a city council chambers and advocated for local action on climate change was in 1993. I was part of a delegation of urban citizens asking that a target be set for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in our community. While the primary concern of our delegation was the impact of climate change on the...