Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas Sides with Bigots to Score Cheap Political Points

Whether one thinks that there may be problems with Ontario's proposed sex-ed curriculum or not, what is clear is that there are many who oppose the curriculum based on bigoted, and frankly, homophobic ideas. In this article, one of my fellow citizens, Paulette Bonin, is quoted as saying that she wants to protect children from "certain lifestyles" which is newspeak for homosexuality. That's disgusting to me, and it absolutely detracts from what otherwise might be legitimate concerns of those who oppose parts of the new curriculum.
It's also an embarrassment to my community that attitudes like this continue to persist in the year 2015.
What's also a real embarrassment, however, is my MPP tacit support for these bigoted protesters who were outside of her office on Wednesday. Instead of condemning their homophobic attitude, in her statement to the Sudbury Star, France Gelinas acts as their apologist, claiming that the Liberals brought this homophobic attitude on themselves because they failed to follow through on a commitment to consultation.
There are two things wrong with that. First, no level of consultation is going to ever change the mind of a bigot. France should know this.
Second, where our NDP MPP ought to be leading the condemnation of this backward attitude, she instead decides to use the episode to score cheap political points by bashing the Liberals - with whom she agrees with on the sex-ed curriculum by the way - instead of making a point to her constituents that bigotry and homophobia have no place in our community.
For Shame!
See: "Sex-ed critics take to Sudbury streets," the Sudbury Star, September 3, 2015.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Leadership Needed to Reverse Sixth Great Extinction


Late last month, the world went crazy when it came to light that Cecil the lion was shot by American dentist Walter Palmer. Cecil was the popular black-maned lion at Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Palmer’s guide lured Cecil outside of Hwange’s protective borders and onto a neighbouring farm where Palmer first shot Cecil with a crossbow before finishing him with a rifle. Both the farmer and the guide have been charged by Zimbabwean officials for hunting lions without required permits. Palmer fled to the United States where he has been the subject of public ridicule (see: Zimbabwe’s ‘iconic’ lion killed by hunter,” BBC, July 27, 2015). 

Protected animals are at significant risk due to poaching in Zimbabwe. Palmer apparently paid $56,000 for the pleasure of killing a lion – big money in Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s poorest nations (see: Lion-killing dentist planned to take down anelephant next,” New York Post, July 31, 2015).

Yet, hunting lions and other large mammals isn’t illegal in Zimbabwe or elsewhere. Although permits to kill animals are sold by the government, Cecil's illegal slaughter is illustrative of how quotas are often exceeded despite the law.

The risks to lions, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species from poaching are exacerbated by climate change, which threatens the economic stability of poorer nations. Human development and a changing climate are also directly responsible for a loss of wildlife habitat. We are in the midst of a sixth great extinction event – one which rivals the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

“Elephants are a keystone species,” says Anne Belanger, Sudbury’s organizer for the International March for Elephants and Rhinos, taking place at Memorial Park on Saturday, October 3rd. “Elephants help assure the health of tropical rainforests by dispersing seeds. This in turn affects the global climate. There are no boundaries with climate change.”

Wildlife habitat loss due to drought is nothing new to Africa, where the frontiers of expanding deserts have been on the march for centuries. However, human-made global warming has been exacerbating desertification, and Africa is seeing more rich savannah lands quickly give way to arid sand dunes. 

Desertification has been a particular problem in Africa’s Sahel region, home to shrinking Lake Chad – a large inland sea that provides fresh water to an estimated 68 million people.  Overgrazing, inefficient water use by humans, and climate change have been the primary culprits blamed for Lake Chad’s loss of volume – estimated to be about 95% between 1963 and 1998 (see: "Lake Chad," Wikipedia). The shrinking lake has been a disaster for local economies and for the wildlife within the lake's ecosystem.

The international community has committed to reversing the sixth great extinction event through treaty agreements including the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. However, Canada pulled out of the UN's desertification Convention a few years ago, becoming the world’s only nation to have reneged on its treaty obligation to tackle droughts from a changing climate (see: UN calls Harper government’s decision to pull out of anti-droughttreaty ‘regrettable’,” the National Post, March 29, 2013).

Here in Northern Ontario, our own threatened and endangered species, such as the woodland caribou, continue to be placed at risk. Changes made to the Endangered Species Act in 2013 now permit industry to destroy the habitat of threatened species in the name of economic development (see: Ontario Has Given Up On Endangered Species,” Anna Baggio, Wildlands League, the Huffington Post, January 23, 2015). A recent decision by Ontario's Divisional Court, brought on by a challenge made by environmental organizations on behalf of endangered species, upheld Ontario's habitat-destroying regulations (see: Statement on Divisional Court on Ontario’sEndangered Species Act,” Wildlands League, May 29, 2015).


More must be done to protect biodiversity and the habitats of threatened and endangered species. Yet we continue to push wildlife to the edge of extinction. Within the next decade, elephants and rhinos may cease to exist everywhere outside of zoos. While we acknowledge that more must be done to protect at-risk species, Ontario and Canada are clearly failing to demonstrate the leadership that the world needs right now – before it becomes too late.

 (opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Originally published in the Sudbury Star as "Only leadership can reverse great extinction" in print and online as "Sudbury column: Reversing the great extinction" - Saturday, August 29, 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sudbury Council's Fiscally Foolish Move to Cancel LED Streetlight Program

Well, we're starting to get a better picture now about regressive our current municipal Council is. First, Council slavishly decided to adhere to the Mayor's election promise to prioritize a 0% tax increase - and raided our reserves to keep this fiscally foolish commitment (see: "Bigger, councillors freeze taxes, pass 2015 budget," the Northern Life, March 5, 2015)

Then, when potential revenue was staring Council in the face in the form of energy sharing agreements with renewable solar energy firms, Council refused to support the majority of projects ("Councillors feel sidelined in solar planning," the Sudbury Star, July 7, 2015).

Now, they've cancelled the money-saving LED streetlight replacement program in the name of short-term fiscal gain (see: "Sudbury's LED streetlight program to go dark," the Sudbury Star, August 12, 2015). This is a deeply idiotic and foolish decision - clearly, the poorly thought out, short term, and largely political priorities of our Council are becoming more important than the long term fiscal health of our community and its residents. 

Dare I suggest that our previous Council would have had the courage the look out for the longer-term interests of our City?

Thank you Councilors Jakubo, Landry-Altmann & Sizer for not supporting this cheap, cynical, politically motivated move (I understand that Councilor McIntosh was not present at last night's vote).

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Elizabeth May: the Hanging Chad of the Maclean's Leaders Debate

It’s the day after the debate, and everyone (well, those paying attention to a 11-week long federal election campaign in August – which probably isn’t everyone), just everyone, wants to know, “Who won the debate?”  And just like the election results in the 2000 Gore vs. Bush stunner south of the border, we don’t really know yet – and will have to wait until at least some of the hanging chads are counted.

Oh sure – it would be easy to say that since all leaders did well last night (and they did), that there was no clear winner – but that’s not the story that Canadians want, and it’s not the story that the media is going to give them.  It may be true – and I think that most of last night’s viewers, even the partisan ones who would never admit it, saw a pretty even match in what was undoubtedly one of the best national leaders debates this country has seen lately (and perhaps that was due to the absence of the Bloc Quebecois – no offence to Mr. Duceppe and past Bloc Leaders, but in debates about Canadian issues, getting bogged down about the rights and interests of a single province can get a little tiresome for those of us not from that province – but that’s another story, and not the one I want to tell today).

The Response to the Reaction

But reactions from those watching a debate are generally far less important than the reaction to those who report on the debates after the fact.  And given that so few viewers tuned in to last night’s debate, the media reaction to it becomes that much more important.  And for the most part, the media isn’t interested in policy, facts and figures – their opinions are nuanced by other matters, including style, flair, who looked the most “Prime Ministerial” and – importantly – which leaders can boast of “mission accomplished”.

Trudeau: Mission Accomplished

This morning, upon reviewing the feeds at the NationalNewsWatch aggregator site, it was clear that the media had chosen the winner: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.  And clearly, more so than any of the other leaders, he accomplished the mission that he had to perform in last night’s debate.  Admittedly, Trudeau also had the easiest mission – “Don’t look like you don’t belong”.  Sure, Trudeau had a few verbal missteps, but generally speaking, it’s clear he “belonged” on the state.  And not just belonged – on his exchange with NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair over the Sherbrooke Declaration and the Clarity Act, Trudeau came across as both in the right, and sympathetic – largely due to Mulcair’s bullying style.  Clips of this exchange played widely in the media, probably more so than any other exchange.  And although Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is probably right – that the Liberals and NDP are pouring gasoline on an unlit fire when they try to make hay out of Quebec separatism – it’s the exchange that many Canadians will be talking about today, and most will be mentioning Trudeau in a positive light.

Harper: Mission Accomplished

Harper, too, largely accomplished his mission.  Going into the debate, he knew that he had a massive target painted on his forehead, so fending off the attacks from his opponents would be job one.  Telling voters what 4 more years of Conservative government would mean for them really wasn’t what he needed to do at this time – and he didn’t.  But Harper proved to be pretty deft and deflecting his attackers and defending his record – and drawing a distinction between himself and Trudeau and Mulcair.  That he was less than truthful on more than one occasion wasn’t nearly as important as looking honest and comfortable. 

Mulcair: Experiencing Slight Turbulence

Mulcair, on the other hand, had a bit of more difficult mission.  With the NDP leading in the polls, but with a sense that Canadians still don’t really know what Tom Mulcair and the NDP are all about, Mulcair had to make the pitch that he is the de facto Prime Minister in waiting.  For the most part, he did this, but he experienced the most setbacks of any of the leaders, in my opinion.  The exchange with Trudeau over the Clarity Act was one, but Mulcair also experienced a horrible stumble when facing off against Green Party leader Elizabeth May over the Kinder-Morgan pipeline.  And while that’s a pretty regionally-based issue that voters along the coast in B.C. might get excited about, the exchange with May itself left Mulcair looking slippery, and not wanting to be pinned down on making a decision.  May dominated him and made him look weak.  Later, Mulcair tried to win back a little of what he lost in that exchange by declaring “climate change” to be the biggest challenge facing Canadians – but the damage was already done.   While Mulcair might have looked fairly “Prime Ministerial”, it’s difficult to make the case that he can brag about “mission accomplished”.

May: Flight Cancelled - or Just Delayed?

May had the hardest mission to fulfill – and it doesn’t appear right now that she accomplished it.  May had to make the case to the media that she belongs in all of the upcoming debates.  Right now, the Globe and Mail, the Munk Debates and TVA have all refused to allow May on their stages, and will only host the other 3 national party leaders (although Gilles Duceppe has been invited to the TVA debate).  Those debates will be taking place later in the election cycle, and more Canadians will be paying attention.  With May’s participation in those debates, once again the Green Party will find itself marginalized by the media – and by voters – at a more critical time in the election cycle.
To convince the other debate organizers to invite her, May needed to deliver a knockout blow against either Harper or Mulcair.  She needed to dominate the debate in such a way that the media columnists and pundits would be talking about Elizabeth May in last night’s news casts and in this morning’s papers.  In that respect, May failed miserably.  While she was arguably the best debater on stage, and the one who made the most prescient evidence-based observations, she was unable to deliver anything close to a the knockout needed for the media to stand up and pay attention.

May's Secondary Mission: On Target

What’s interesting, however, is that May not have realized what her mission actually was.  You see, unlike the other national parties, the Greens are running a somewhat more scaled down national campaign with more limited ambitions.  Without the same money or media interest as the other parties – and fighting against a firm trend in the mainstream media to continue to marginalize the Greens – May might have had a different mission in mind going into last night’s debate.  It’s really no secret that most of the seats the Greens are gunning for are located in B.C.’s lower mainland and on Vancouver Island.  To win there, May and the Greens need to make the case that they have the interests of British Columbians in mind moreso than the other national leaders.  With the NDP polling high throughout Canada’s westernmost province, clearly Mulcair was just as much of a target for May as Harper was.

With this in mind, May’s exchange with Mulcair over the Kinder-Morgan pipeline – which didn’t deliver the knockout blow she needed to make a case with the media – will be important for May and the Greens going forward.  It might actually represent a watershed moment for the Green Party of Canada – especially if it leads to the NDP losing the B.C. coast, and British Columbians ultimately electing a bunch of Greens to parliament.  Mulcair’s deflection and slipperiness on this one issue might be enough to change the face of Canada’s Lower House forever. 

Although it might not.  There are a lot of British Columbians who support Kinder-Morgan.  Maybe the issue of tankers plying the waters of B.C.’s coast and jamming up Vancouver’s harbour aren’t ultimately as important to some as, say, terrorism or daycare.  But I’m not so sure.  I think that what May did last night will have resonance – and it’s why that I’m reluctant to suggest that she and the Greens were the losers of the debate last night.  As long as the NDP refuses to take a public position on Kinder-Morgan (and to a lesser extent, Energy East), the more likely it is that Greens will be elected in B.C.  And after last night’s exchange at a nationally-televised debate, it’s going to be very difficult now for Mulcair to change his mind.  NDP strategists might have to start praying for some sort of ecological disaster to use as a reason for road to Damascus conversion moment for their leader.

So the pipeline issue is one of the matters that leaves the “real” winner of last night’s debate in doubt.  It’s a hanging chad, and it will ultimately need to be counted before a more definitive statement about winners and losers can be made.  Of course, by the time it’s counted, no one will care about who won the early August debate.

The Real Hanging Chad: May's Media Mission Accomplished (?)

The other hanging chad actually has to do with May’s first mission – did she make the case to the media that she should be invited to the Globe & Mail and Munk Debate debates?  Based on last night’s and this morning’s response, it’s clearly in doubt that she made the case.  However, we know that debate-based media coverage has a tendency to morph over a few days.  What was the story on debate night doesn’t always prove to be “the story” emerging from the debate after a few days of reflection.  And while May was clearly not the story last night or this morning, let’s wait and see if she emerges as “the story” over the next few days.

For whatever reason, the media’s expectation of May’s performance in the debate were pretty low going into last night.  Suggestions in the media that she was able to “hold her own” show that the media didn’t put a lot of stock into her ability to prove she belonged on the stage with the other candidates – maybe because she has been shut out in the past, and will be shut out in the future.  So “holding her own” might have come as a surprise.  But did she really just “hold her own”, or did she in fact stand up and demand that the media start paying attention to her and the Greens in a way that they haven’t previously – even without a knockout blow?

The knockout would have helped – if today’s media narrative was about how May skewered Harper on something, there would be no question that the Globe & Mail and Munk Debates would change their minds and invite May to participate.  But was May’s performance last night enough for them to reconsider?  Maybe it was – the next few days will be critical.  If the stories from pundits in this weekend’s papers lead to questions about debate organizers not inviting May after her performance on Thursday night, the matter may very well start to gain enough traction that Canadians start demanding debate organizers to change their minds – similar to what happened in 2008 when the Broadcast Consortium initially refused to invite May, but ultimately did. 

It may not even have to be Canadians who lead this charge.  Given that the Globe & Mail is a media outlet, what other media have to say about them can have a pretty big impact on their decisions.  It may be enough that the political pundits lead the charge.  I’ll be looking for media reaction – and the reaction of partisan strategists – over the weekend.  I’m already seen some evidence that May might be “the story” of the debate.  Pundits like to write about “wonkish” stuff like Twitter mentions.  They also get into the the inside baseball of campaigns.  And let’s face it, who doesn’t love an underdog story?  Some of this is starting to leak out into the mediasphere.  By Sunday, it could be a flood, and May will be “the story”.


Right now, though, May is the hanging chad.  She was either the biggest loser – or she might be its biggest winner.  And last night’s debate might just change everything – or nothing.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Future of Local Food in a Warming World


Locally produced food can be healthier and tastier than mass-produced food products that sometimes travel across oceans and continents before reaching our plates.  The production and distribution of local food keeps more money circulating in our local economies.  With Northern Ontario experiencing a mini-renaissance in agriculture, it makes sense for all of us to start paying more attention to how we benefit from locally produced and distributed food.

The food sector is Canada’s third largest employment sector, with cash receipts totalling $57.4 billion in 2014 (see: "Agriculture, not Energy, will Fuel Canada's Economy in Coming Decades," James Wilt, DeSmogCanada, July 29, 2015).  In Ontario, 720,000 people are employed in the agri-food sector (see: "Farming - an economic driver in the Greater Golden Horseshoe," Environmental Defence, July 20, 2015).  With the global population expected to rise to over 9 billion by mid-century, it’s clear that we’re going to have to find innovative ways of feeding a hungry world.

Right now, purchasing locally produced food in Northern Ontario can be a chore.  Most of the food products available at grocery store chains are produced outside of the province.  However, things have started to change with the development of local food hubs, like Eat Local Sudbury.  Farmer’s markets seem to be popping up in communities throughout the north, including a new market in Val Caron which will open its doors this August.  And of course many of us are getting in touch with our own inner-farmer by participating in community and backyard gardening projects.

Some smaller scale farmers are distributing their locally-grown produce directly to the public through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives.  Individuals or families can purchase a CSA share in a crop to help finance the farm operation. In return, throughout the growing year, fresh fruit and in-season vegetables straight from farm fields are provided to the share holder.

While discussions around food security have become mainstream, Canada, which lacks a national food strategy, continues to lag behind other developed nations.  Our food systems are increasingly being threatened by climate change-related impacts in the form of more frequent and disastrous severe weather events, and disease and pest migration.   Longer growing seasons in a warmer world may create some opportunities for Canadian agriculture, but costs may outweigh the benefits for industrial-scale agriculture that relies on fossil fueled thousand mile supply chains. 

The need to curtail carbon pollution as part of a global effort to combat climate change will have an impact on the price of food as a result of higher transportation costs.  The further food travels before reaching your plate, the more climate changing greenhouse gases are emitted.  By building the costs of pollution into the price of goods, locally produced and distributed food should experience a growing advantage over foreign competition.

Despite the benefits that producing more food locally have on the environment and local economies, the health of our local food systems is threatened by governmental policies which favour large industrial-scale farm operations. Marketplace interventions like chicken quotas shut out small scale local egg producers.  The absence of pollution pricing creates a transportation subsidy that artificially lowers the price of imported food. These subsidies may be enshrined in international trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of “climate change”, and which may bind the hands of future governments wishing to take more significant action to address climate change.

As we move ahead into the 21st Century, it seems clear that the necessary actions we take reduce our fossil fuel emissions will have impacts on the way food reaches our plates.  The longer that we delay implementing a national food strategy which includes carbon pollution pricing, the more we delay creating the truly robust and resilient local food systems that we will need to help fuel our economy – and ourselves.

 (opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Originally published in the Sudbury Star as "Column: Future of local food as world warms," in print and online - Saturday, August 1, 2015.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kelowna - Lake Country Greens Defy Grassroots Green Party Members

I don’t often praise my own Party enough for all of the good things that the people in my parth have been doing.  Usually, when I write a post about the Green Party of Canada, it’s because I’m complaining about something, rather than expressing my thanks to the many volunteers and grassroots members who work hard to build and promote the party.  The proof is in the pudding: Fundraising levels are up to a point where they’ve never been before.  Across Canada, quality candidates are being nominated – and nomination contests are energizing local electoral district associations.  Volunteers are being inspired, and new supporters are joining us like never before.  There’s a real feeling of change in the air, and a lot of that momentum has to do with the people working behind the scenes – most of whom are grassroots volunteers.

Green Party of Canada - United in Hard Work

Kudos of course to our elected MP’s, Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, along with their professional campaign staff who will be doing what we can to ensure that that both Elizabeth and Bruce are sent back to Ottawa – along with a cadre of other Green MPs from across the nation.  The Green Party has developed great policies which really set us apart, and the campaign has been diligently rolling out platform planks now for the past month.  We are starting to be noticed, despite the setbacks we’ve had to endure once again regarding the leader’s debates.

I’m just thrilled that all of this is happening.  Here in Sudbury, I’m looking forward to taking some time to help out with the campaigns of Laruentian University professor of economics, Dr. David Robinson, which the Sudbury riding nominated a few months ago, and with organic farmer Stuart McCall who is seeking the nomination against “None of the Above” in the Nickel Belt riding (I’m fairly confident that Stuart will make a better candidate than NOTA).  In both ridings, local electoral districts discussed whether we should nominate candidates at all – as is the prerogative of local riding associations (EDA’s can talk about anything that they’d like to discuss) – and in both cases, local Greens agreed that we’d be foolish not to offer our voters an opportunity to vote for a candidate of their choice, rather than having to vote for the least worst other candidate.  After all, we’ve been working hard between elections to build the Party here – and to have our Party taken seriously by voters and other political actors.

Green Party - the Party of Co-operation

I’m proud of our leader Elizabeth May for writing to MPs in the Liberal and New Democratic parties back in 2012 in an attempt to start building electoral bridges between the opposition parties (see: “Elizabeth May and political co-operation”, Maclean’s Magazine, January 18, 2013).  May acted on the direction of grassroots Greens who, at our Annual General Meeting in Sidney, B.C. that year, passed a resolution calling on our Party’s leadership to pursue opportunities to co-operate with the other parties.

Ultimately, May was rebuffed by the Liberals and the NDP (although the question of working with then-Independent MP Bruce Hyer was resolved when Hyer joined the Green Party as our second MP, citing Green’s desire to work with other parliamentarians as one of several reasons for becoming a Green himself).

In the spirit of co-operation in an extremely unique circumstance, Greens sat out the Labrador by-election in 2013 – and urged the NDP to do the same (see: “Labrador: Greens Will Not Field aCandidate, Challenge NDP Also to Desist,” Green Party press release, March 23, 2013).  That by-election was triggered by the resignation of Conservative MP Peter Penashue in advance of the conclusion of an Elections Canada investigation regarding his expenses.  Penashue, who eventually lost Labrador to Liberal Yvonne Jones, had admitted to accepting 28 illegal campaign donations in 2011, was still authorized by the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to contest Labrador (see: “Former Tory cabinet minister Penashuebegan re-election bid three days before he resigned over illegal campaigndonations,” the National Post, March 19, 2013).

With the 2015 General Election around the corner, the Green Party of Canada has come under fire from many directions, but especially from elements of the progressive Canadian left and the New Democratic Party for having the audacity to contest the elections in districts where New Democrats are running.  Of course, since the NDP has a party requirement that they field candidates in all national ridings, that means that essentially the Green Party has come under fire for simply existing.

The Green Party - Doing Politics Differently

Many New Democrats, of course, believe that their Party has the best policies, and conceive of any reason that Greens are contesting the election – so they resort to inventing reasons, such as the ever-popular “The Greens are really neo-liberals and are more to the right than the Liberals and Conservatives”.  Of course NDP partisans our out to tar the Green Party now that the Green Party has been getting noticed in a way that it never has.  Interestingly, those same NDP partisans who bemoan the existence of the Green Party and its audacity to contest elections – those same partisans don’t seem to ever call on Liberal candidates to step down even though a riding without a Liberal running would likely benefit the NDP much more than an absentee Green.  It’s almost as if the NDP, despite being hyper-partisan, harbours an elitist attitude of entitlement when it comes to being “in the club” of large, old-line parties.

Choosing not to run candidates in certain circumstances has been a bit of a hallmark of the Green Party – and in my opinion, it shows quite clearly how the Green Party is walking the talk of “doing politics differently” (for more on of my analysis on this topic, see: “GreensDoing Politics Differently: A Smart Play by Elizabeth May in Etobicoke Centre,” Sudbury Steve May, July 19, 2012).  Although many so-called progressives on the left roundly criticized May and the Greens for having a Leader’s non-compete pact with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in the 2008 general election in their respective ridings, May and Dion were engaged in an activity which has happened numerous times throughout Canadian history, especially in circumstance where an unelected Party leader was vying for entry into Parliament.

In 2008, Greens also did not oppose Independent Bill Casey’s bid for re-election in Nova Scotia’s Cumberland - Colchester riding.  Casey was ousted from the Conservative Party after having voted against the 2007 federal budget out of concern that Stephen Harper’s government has betrayed the Atlantic Accord (see: “Green party Leader praises Bill Casey’s courage,” Green Party of Canada press release, June 6, 2007). 

In 2015, it may very well be that the Green Party doesn’t field candidates in certain ridings where elected MP’s, like former-Conservative now-Independent Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton - St. Albert) have been allies.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if the riding of Dauphin – Swan River - Marquette is not contested by the Green Party, as former MP Inky Mark has announced that the will be throwing his hat in the ring to run as an Independent when the writ is dropped (see: “Inky Mary Running in 2015 Federal Election,” CKDM 730, November 13, 2014).  Mark has in the past shown a lot of solidarity with local Greens in that riding and throughout Manitoba.  

No-Compete vs. Actively Campaigning

It’s never an easy decision for local Greens to make when it comes to contesting elections at the riding level.  If Greens don’t run, the outcome could be the disenfranchisement of local supporters.  It can also lead to calls of “co-operation” as we’ve all seen with the May-Dion non-compete agreement (apparently, “co-operation” has become a dirty word in electoral politics in Canada). 

It’s one thing, however, for a local riding association to opt to sit out an election – it’s another thing completely for a riding association or a candidate to actively campaign for another candidate or political party.  This may seem like a subtlety – it isn’t.  Sitting out an election, as Greens did in Labrador and in Cumberland - Colchester meant that the Party devoted none of its resources into electing a member from another party, or an independent legislator.  In some respects, those situations could be described as “letting the chips fall where they may”, albeit I think it’s hard to go so far as to suggest that the Party didn’t have a preferred candidate in mind, even if there was no official support lent to that candidate.  That may seem nit-picky, but it isn't.  What we think in our minds and feel in our hearts are one thing - but when we convert those feelings and thoughts into actions, we need to take responsibility for those actions.

Crossing the Line in Kelowna - Lake Country

Recent events involving the Green Party and its newly nominated candidate Gary Adams in the Kelowna – Lake Country riding, however, are quite different than simply standing down.  In Kelowna – Lake Country, it appears that nominated candidate has a formal agreement with the Liberal’s nominated candidate, Stephen Fuhr, that would see Adams step down as candidate, and Greens supporting Fuhr in return for some vague commitments on climate change and electoral reform (see: “Gary Adams, Green Party Candidate, Will Quit toCampaign for Liberal Candidate,” the Huffington Post, July 19, 2015) .  The real reason behind the agreement likely has a lot more to do with defeating a Conservative MP than it does with climate change or electoral reform.

This situation in Kelowna – Lake Country is truly problematic.  Although on the surface, it might appear that Greens in the riding have found a unique way around a number of issues standing in the way of true local co-operation, such as the prohibition to hold joint nomination contests with another political party, or to nominate a candidate belonging to another political party.  Both of these issues are created by the fact that the Green Party of Canada’s Constitution does not contemplate them happening.  In fact, the Green Party’s Constitution, like that of other Canadian political parties, emphasises the Party’s desire and direction to nominate and elect Greens to parliament.  Without the Constitutional options available for nominating a non-Green or holding a joint nomination, the Kelowna – Lake Country Green Party EDA appears to have come up with an interesting way to circumvent the stated direction and desire of the Green Party’s Constitution, by nominating a candidate to fill the required slot, but then having the candidate step down and endorse another candidate, and actively campaign on behalf of the other candidate.

No Getting Around the Will of Grassroots Members

Of course, when you go about trying to circumvent rules and regulations, like the Green Party’s Constitution and By-laws, in order to do something not in keeping with the spirit of those rules and by-laws – which, I need to emphasize are rules and by-laws adopted by grassroots party members like me – you can run into trouble.

And as far as I’m concerned, what’s happening in Kelowna – Lake Country is nothing but trouble for the Green Party of Canada.  Standing down is one thing – but using the name and resources of the Green Party of Canada to actively campaign for a member of another party is quite another.  Yes, we Greens pride ourselves on doing politics differently – but we have not authorized a unit of the Party, in this case an Electoral District Association – to go so far as to ignore the Party’s Constitution and engage in campaigning for non-Greens.

No serious political party would contemplate doing anything like what is happening in Kelowna – Lake Country – at least not without some sort of formal agreement being in place at the Party level – and even then, only after requisite changes were made to the Constitution and By-laws of the Party.  When grassroots party members authorized the Party to approach the Liberals and NDP with the end goal of co-operation, the resolution directed the Party’s Federal Council to take the initiative.  Grassroots members who supported that approach in Sidney in 2012 could have taken another approach – to leave it up to individual electoral district associations, for example – but in our wisdom, the initiative fell to our Federal Council – the body charged with making decisions for the Party between elections.  To me, it seems like this was the appropriate body to have work on the initiative, which ultimately failed.

The Constitution is Paramount

The Constitution of the GreenParty of Canada – indeed, the Constitution of any Canadian political party, is an expression of the will of the Party’s membership. For the Green Party, our Constitution and regulatory by-laws can only be amended through a vote of the membership at a General Meeting.  Our Federal Council does not have the authority on its own to amend the Constitution (although Fed Council can propose amendments to the membership at a General Meeting).  In fact, our Federal Council is charged with upholding our Constitution as an expression of the grassroots members who have, over time, voted as per the Party’s rules to enact, alter, rescind and add to the Constitution and attendant by-laws.

What the Constitution isn’t is something to be taken lightly and ignored for the sake of political expediency. 

With that in mind, it is completely clear to that the decision of the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA and nominated candidate Gary Adam’s to campaign for Liberal Stephen Fuhr is one which is was made and will be undertaken outside of the Party’s constitutional framework.  Further, not only has the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA, along with Adams and his supporters, authorized an action in contradiction to the Party’s Constitution, it has done so in a way which flies in the face of the very grassroots volunteers who have built the Green Party of Canada.  When you ignore the Constitution in the way that it is being ignored in Kelowna, it’s like giving grassroots greens a giant raspberry, as if to say “Who cares what you think? We’ll do what we want.”

Why the Kelowna- Lake Country Situation is Unconstitutional

Let’s explore for a moment some of the provisions of the Constitution of the Green Party of Canada and attendant by-laws to which the Kelowna – Lake Country decision to campaign for the Liberal Party is in conflict with. 
  • Section 3.1, Basis of Unity: “To enhance the effectiveness of the Global Green Movement in creating a Green Society by providing an evolving political structure that embraces and supports Green Values and offers itself as a voice for the broader Green Movement.” 
A nominated candidate who campaigns for a candidate of another political party is not promoting the Global Green Movement or helping create a Green Society in circumstances where the campaigning is for a candidate which does not support Green Values.  Although Stephen Fuhr has committed to some minor consultation with Greens, the values of the Liberal Party of Canada are not in keeping with those of the Green Party of Canada.  Clearly on an issue by issue basis, there may be some overlap, but there will also be considerable conflict.
  • Section 4.1.1, Purpose: “Fielding and electing candidates in federal elections.”   
A candidate which campaigns for another candidate is not meeting this purpose of the Party.  One might argue that this Section makes no reference to a candidate having to be a Green member – but given the balance of the Constitution and By-laws, I believe a strong case can be made that it’s implied that the candidates to whom are fielded by the Party are anticipated to be Greens – and not, as in this case, a member of the Liberal Party.
  • Section 4.1.4, “Advancing the Party's Platform, Positions, Policy, Values and Basis of Unity outside of electoral periods.” 
A candidate who campaigns for another candidate is not helping to assist, and is instead hindering the advancement of the Party's platform, positions, policies, values and basis of unity, both pre- and post-writ.  Given the fall-out already prevalent on social media regarding the incident in Kelowna – Lake Country, it’s quite evident that this unilateral action of the nominated candidate and his supporters is not in keeping with the historic decisions of the national party’s grassroots and is hurting the Party.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section 1.1.2, “Every Member shall uphold this Constitution and Bylaws.” 
By campaigning against the Party's values, basis of unity, etc., Gary Adams and his supporters are not upholding the Party's Constitution and Bylaws.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section 1.1.4, “A person cannot be a Member of the Party if the person belongs to an organization whose actions are detrimental to the Party, as determined by Federal Council.” 
Although it is not clear that Adams or his supporter belong to an official organization which is working at cross-purposes to the party, it is clear that their actions and close association with the Liberal Party of Canada and it’s candidate in Kelowna – Lake Country are working against the interests of the party.  While I acknowledge that those in Kelowna may not be technically in violation of this by-law section, I believe the situation in Kelowna is in violation of the spirit of this section.  And it may be that having entered into a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Stephen Fuhr that the violation is, in fact, more than just a spiritual one, if the MOU itself is viewed as akin to an “organization”.  Certainly it’s an agreement outlining expectations – and that sounds pretty “organized” to me.
  • By-law 1, Membership, Section 1.3.1.5, Resignation and Removal of Member, which reads:  "A person shall cease to be a Member of the Party...On stating that they are working to form a new Federal political party, or if they are working for another existing Federal political party (emphasis added). 
For me, this really is the clincher. It’s an expression of the Green Party’s grassroots that we grassroots members will not tolerate a member working to further the interests of another political party.  Grassroots Greens have said that we are a tolerant group – that we even want our Federal Council to explore ways of co-operating with the other opposition parties pre-writ.  We even accept the idea that in some cases, the Party will not run candidates in certain ridings in general elections and in by-elections.  But even we grassroots Greens have our limits – and our limits, as expressed by the national Party membership, are located where a Green member is actively working with another or a new federal political party. 

I agree with those who may suggest that there is some vagueness to this provision (what, exactly, constitutes “work”?  Is a tweet of support to a member of another political party?  Does work require a payment?).  I would suggest, however, that most level-headed Greens would look at a situation where a nominated candidate and/or an EDA actively campaigns for another candidate to win – that the campaigning in favour of the other candidate would be viewed as “work”, despite the lack of pay.  We who volunteer on political campaigns know just how much “work” goes into any campaign – and most of us never receive any money from anybody for the pleasure of working the campaign – nor do we seek it out.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that those members of the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA or Gary Adams or his supporters are receiving a payment for their actions and activities.  But I am suggesting that their actions and activities – campaigning for a Liberal candidate, constitute “working for another existing Federal political party” and as such they have ceased to be members of the Green Party of Canada.

Why Gary Adams Should No Longer Be Considered a Nominated Candidate or Member of the Green Party of Canada

To be clear, in Section 1.3.2 of By-law 1, the authority to expel members of the Party has been granted to Federal Council, and there’s a process which must be undertaken should Federal Council decide expulsion is necessary.  Those same provisions, however, don’t apply to the circumstances outlined in Section 1.3.1 of the By-law, which include the death or resignation of a member, or the member not being in “good standing” for a period of 12 months, or on stating that they are working for another Federal political party as Adams has done.

Based on the Green Party’s Constitution and By-laws, as voted on by grassroots members of the Party from across Canada, not only should Gary Adams be considered not to be a member of the Party by virtue of the actions he undertook to publicly work for the Liberal Party of Canada, but Adams’ nomination in Kelowna – Lake Country should be considered null and void because, having stated his position to work with the Liberals to Green members at the nomination meeting and beforehand, Adams could not have been considered a “member” of the Party at the time of his nomination, as per By-law 1.3.1.5.

Now that may seem extreme to some – and perhaps it is – but nevertheless, our Federal Council does not have discretion to determine the membership of individuals who cease to be members in accordance with Section 1.3.1 – Fed Council can’t determine that a member not in good standing for more than 12 months is still a member, or that a member who resigned previously is still a member, or that a member working for another political party is still a member.  The Constitution and its by-laws treat all of these circumstances the same way.  Where a ruling by Federal Council might be needed is not in the determination of membership, but rather in the determination of what constitutes “death”, “resignation” or “working for another political party”.

If the Green Party of Canada’s Federal Council ultimately decides that actively campaigning for another party’s candidate is “working for another political party”, then Gary Adams and his supporters will cease to be members, retroactively to the time when they publicly made statements to the effect that they would work to elect a Liberal in Kelowna – Lake Country.  And that was before the nomination meeting.

The Limit of Local EDA's Authority As Per the National Party's Grassroots

For those who may look to By-law 5 under the Green Party’s Constitution as offering a potential way for those supporters of Adams in Kelowna to view their anti-grassroots initiative as in keeping with the Constitution and by-laws of the Party, I would suggest that Section 5.1, which reads, “Where there is an EDA, the electoral district shall select the candidate in accordance with the association’s Bylaws” can’t be relied on because Adams was not a member of the Green Party of Canada at the time of his nomination, for the reasons given above related to By-law 1.3.1.5.  Further, Adams is not now the nominated candidate for the Party for those same reasons.

And that means that the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA needs to start looking for a  candidate quickly – or that our Federal Council will need to appoint one to run in the Kelowna – Lakeland riding.  The grassroots members of the national party will expect these outcomes, in keeping with the Party’s Constitution and By-laws – and in keeping with their own commitments to build the Party.

Federal Council Must Act in Kelowna - Lake Country

In keeping with all of the good thing that volunteers, paid staff, Green MPs and other grassroots members are doing to advance the interests of the Green Party of Canada, in keeping with our shared Green values, our Federal Council must ensure that a Green Party member is in place as a candidate in Kelowna – Lake Country prior to the final day to register candidates.  Gary Adams should no longer be considered a member of the Party due to his own actions – and if Federal Council determines that other Greens are actively working to elect Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr in Kelowna – Lake Country, those Greens should be advised that they, too, have ceased to be members of the Party. 

We the grassroots are watching.  So far this matter has been allowed to fester for most of July, and came to a head at the July 18th nomination meeting.  As a result, our Party’s reputation has taken a serious hit thanks to the unconstitutional act of a few members who believe that they know better that the Party’s grassroots.  It is with this in mind that I urge our Federal Council to either work with the Kelowna – Lake Country EDA (if it’s still a viable unit of the party) to find a new candidate, or that Federal Council appoints a new candidate.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada) 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Taking a Closer Look at Maley Drive, Part 2: Project Suburbia

In Part 1 of this blogseries, I indicated that I would follow-up with a second part of the series – one focusing on the Maley Drive Extension and the expectations that building this new road will lead to growth.  Since writing Part 1, it’s become clear to me that the myth that growth brings about prosperity is alive and well in our City – and is being used by some as a definitive argument to embrace Maley.  In some cases, those critics, like me, are being dismissed as “defeatists” or "anti-development" because we champion sustainability over last century’s growth-focused development paradigm.  

Clearly, there is a need for a more significant level of education about costs and benefits, and about the future in general.  With scarce financial resources at our disposal, it is now more important than ever that we invest in infrastructure which will meet the needs of the community.  With that in mind, I’ve decided to extend this blogseries through the inclusion of a Part 2 different from the one that I had originally contemplated.  In this “new Part 2”, I’ll discuss why the project of suburban development is ultimately one which must be halted, without fanfare, because it is not sustainable.  In Part 3, I’ll return to my original plan and identify why Maley Drive will not facilitate growth in the way that so many are claiming it will.

A Conversion on the Road to the Future

There may not have been a single “Road to Damascus” moment for former City of Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion.  McCallion had one of the lengthiest – and arguably the most brilliant – of careers of any head of Council in Ontario.  When “Hurricane Hazel” took over as Mayor of Mississauga in 1978, the newly amalgamated (1971) City’s population stood at just over 280,000.  By the time McCallion retired in 2014, Mississauga had bloomed to over 710,000 people – making it Canada’s 6th largest City.

Most of the growth in Mississauga which happened under McCallion’s watch could be described as “suburban” in nature, although in her later terms of office, McCallion and the City underwent a slow conversion to new urbanism sparked by the creation of a new City Centre at Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario (where Mississauga’s “celebrated” City Hall today sits surrounded by soaring condominium towers).  For a long time, Mississauga residents enjoyed one of the perks of runaway development – 0% tax increases – as the City’s budget was sustained through the collection of development charges.

Of course, the 0% tax increase party has been over in Mississauga for a while now, and suburban development has been exposed for the unsustainable Ponzi Scheme that it is.  McCallion might have been one of the first in Mississauga to seriously ask the question, “just what have we done?” and then attempted to atone for her ways by embracing new urbanist principles.  But even Mississauga’s most popular leader couldn’t change the minds of residents married to the idea of sprawl development – at least not until taxes were forced to rise (see: “Mississauga on the eve of Hazel McCallion’s departure:Hume," the Toronto Star, February 21, 2014).  It may have taken some time, but “the capital of suburbia” is in the process of intensifying and retrofitting itself, through the use of smart growth and new urbanist principles.  The goal is sustainability for built form, transportation, and the municipal budget.

The End of the Oil Age

Writing about Mississauga’s experience with suburban development may seem like a strange place to start a blogpost about Maley Drive, a proposed new road in Sudbury’s north end.  Mississauga is, after, quite unlike Greater Sudbury in many respects – although if one looks back at the Mississauga of the late 1960s, one might be able to discern similarities between that Mississauga and today’s Greater Sudbury (although the differences remain, including one of the biggest: 1960’s Toronto Township, which became Mississauga in 1971, was primed for growth, due to its proximity to the City of Toronto.  Today’s Greater Sudbury isn’t growing to any significant degree at all, and sits in the centre of region which has experienced a decline in population for several decades, and which is forecast to continue to decline).  However, both Mississauga and Greater Sudbury are struggling with one issue in common: how to retrofit a largely suburban development form with the infrastructure needed to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

The challenges of the 21st Century are quite unlike those of the 20th Century.  It all starts with the end of the Oil Age – or at least, the end of the era of cheap oil – an era whose door was firmly closed at the conclusion of the 1990s.  Although oil remains an abundant resource, digging it out of the ground, processing it and transporting it have made the commodity very expensive.  Despite the expense, a global glut of oil due to over-production in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is keeping prices down, and a long-predicted economic slow-down might lead to even lower prices.  That’s cold comfort for Canadian motorists, who continue to pay significantly higher prices today than at almost any time in the past (except for 2007-2008).

The glut isn’t sustainable, however, as production will likely slow as the economic downturn continues.  Production should begin to even itself out as demand decreases due to economic inactivity and cheaper renewable energy.  This evening out will likely means job layoffs in the fossil energy sector.  Predictably, lower prices will give way to higher prices when demand starts to increase again, and production needs to be wound back up.  It’s all a part of the familiar cycle that we’ve lived through now for decades – but the long term trend for prices has only gone one way – up.
But there’s a monkey wrench that will eventually be thrown into the mix which will disrupt this cycle.  When the world begins to get serious about climate change, one of the outcomes will be that existing fossil resources will need to be left in the ground, safely sequestering a carbon resource which we dare not burn.  This won’t happen all at once – indeed, the notion of not exploiting known resources seems strange to a large number of people today – some can hardly fathom it.  However, there really is no escaping the fact that the world can’t get serious about mitigating against the impacts of climate change and burning all of our known fossil resources.

It’s already happening with coal – the world’s first “stranded asset”.  Heavy oil like that found in the tar sands will be the next.  The more carbon-rich a resource, the more likely that it will be at the head of the stranded asset class.  We’ll continue to develop and exploit deposits of less carbon-intensive fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, right up until we don’t need to any more.  The first part of the 21st Century will see a significant shift away from fossil resources and towards renewables – a process which likely won’t be completed until the end of the Century.

But there really is no denying that it will happen.  It must happen. 

The Electrification of the Future

In a world where fossil energy is no longer inexpensive – or no longer a vialble energy source at all – is Mississauga’s and Greater Sudbury’s predominant form of low-density development (“suburbia”) sustainable?  There is some suggestion that with the right technological development, we could theoretically sustain this sprawling development pattern.  Electric vehicles could simply replace oil-burning cars and trucks, while the equivalent of electric gas stations might start popping up along well-travelled corridors.  Better batteries (which are almost certainly going to be a reality) will give drivers the ability to continue travelling long distances as ever before.

Or is this just a dream? 

Electrification is bound to be the civilizational project of this century.  We’ll finally have completed the endeavour begun in the 1800s – and interrupted by cheap, often publicly subsidized, oil (see: “Time to Complete the Electrical Revolution,” Dr. David Robinson, Economics for Northern Ontario, June 14, 2015).  As we make the shift away from fossil energy, electricity will be the go-to fuel source to meet an ever-growing number of our energy needs, including for transportation of ourselves and the goods we purchase, and for heating our homes.  The development of an distributed smart grid will help lower costs and reduce waste.  However, there will be a significant cost to electrification – and it’s certainly not clear that we’ll be paying less for electricity over the next several decades.

With higher costs to move personal vehicles around on highways, will personal vehicle ownership continue to make sense for most middle class Canadians?  Already, Canadians are choosing to drive less.  Car ownership rates are down considerably amongst millennials (see: “The many reasonsmillennials are shunning cars,” the Washington Post, October 14, 2014) and seniors are finding that car ownership, coupled with rising insurance rates, may not be appropriate for fixed-income budgeting.

Reassessing the 'Suburban Dream'

Higher energy costs, and a greater focus on conservation, will ensure that the future of suburbia isn’t what it used to be (see: “America’sSuburban Dream is Over. You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next,” Andrei Burke, Ultraculture, April 30, 2014).  With this in mind, sustainable development forms become even more important, as the shift towards more livable communities (read: transit accessible, walkable, mixed-use, bike-friendly) is already underway.  There is no stopping this trend.

With this knowledge in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why a major municipal leader like Mississauga’s Mayor Hazel McCallion acknowledged the need for retrofits in her City.  To be better poised to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, and to seize the opportunities, McCallion recognized that Mississauga had to transform itself into something more than a low-density bedroom community.  Continuing to do things the same way that they had always been done would have led to financial ruin for Mississauga, while getting out in front of the livability trend would better position her City to be able to prosper.

The recipe is the same for Greater Sudbury, although the ingredients are going to be a little different.  Unlike Mississauga, Greater Sudbury has largely continued to put off its day of reckoning with suburban sprawl.  There have been some positive signs, however, including new higher-density development on lots in fully-serviced areas of the City.  But new condo developments have run into trouble (see: “Sudbury homebuyers still ‘experimenting’ with condominiums,” CBC News, July 15, 2015), and the majority of the Ctiy’s new population has found itself living outside of the former City of Sudbury – in most cases in suburban style subdivisions, rather than in more urban forms in the cores of outlying communities.

There are many in Greater Sudbury who embrace this 20th Century style of development.  I understand why – it’s easy to continue to believe that the future will look like the past – or at least the part of the past that we are familiar with.  I grew up in the “splendid suburbia” of Brampton – Bramalea, to be precise.  Growing up, I never thought very much about just how new and “innovative” planned suburban communities were – to me, they were just natural.  And when I encountered different forms of development, such as on those occasions when my dad would take me to Carleton and Yonge to see a hockey game at Maple Leaf gardens – I would lament the fact that people had to live in the filth and grime of Toronto because their circumstances didn’t allow them to own a suburban home like ours.  It was only later in life that I came to realize just how bizarre suburban living actually is in the context of historical human settlement patterns.  Bizarre, yes – but still very popular.

The Myth of Who Pays For What

The popularity of suburbia has, however, been oversold.  Literally.  I am of the opinion that suburban development would not be so popular if suburban occupants were paying the real costs of living of their own lifestyle choices.   Many of these costs are hidden – and because they are hidden, it’s not the suburban resident who picks up the tab – the costs are subsidized by all taxpayers.  These hidden costs are numerous and insidious (see: “Suburban Sprawl: Exposing HiddenCosts, Identifying Innovations,” Sustainable Prosperity, October 2013).

However, despite the very real evidence that taxpayers are subsidizing suburban homeowners, the myth that suburban residents pay more than their fair share to society (in the form of high property taxes) remains largely unchallenged – and as a result, prevalent.  Here in Greater Sudbury, hardly a day goes by where someone isn’t posting on social media about how their taxes are paying for downtown development, and how much better off places like the Valley and Chelmsford would be if suburban taxpayers there erected a firewall.  People who live in the Valley are good people – they are my neighbours.  But they are also very wrong when it comes to the notion that they are financially supporting the inner city – the opposite is clearly true, thanks to hidden costs which are picked up by municipal property tax payers.

Christopher Hume, in his piece about Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, linked to above, provided a revealing statistic which he saw first in a book authored by former Toronto Mayor John Sewell.  This statistic should have some resonance with Greater Sudburians, as we tend to have a pretty substantial “roads focus”.  Hume writes, “In his wonderfully informative book, “Shape of the Suburbs”, former Toronto Mayor John Sewell points out a revealing statistic: there are five feet of road for every city dweller; 18 feet for every suburbanite. That pretty much sums up the situation.”

Rethinking the Future

We know that the City of Greater Sudbury is already facing a massive infrastructure deficit.  Simply put, we’ve not been investing in maintaining our sprawling sewer, water and transportation infrastructure.  Had Greater Sudbury experienced a Mississauga Moment back in the 1950s, before we committed ourselves to building our Northern version of “splendid suburbia”, it’s doubtful that we would have chosen to undertake the project in the first place – and instead would have required a significantly more dense form of development – one which is easier and less expensive to service, and one which is more livable.  Of course, in Greater Sudbury's defence, most cities in North America opted to go the car-dependent route.  Hindsight is 20/20.  But today, given all that we know, there is no longer any good reason to shun the foresight that we have about the form of development that we need to embrace in the 21st Century.

Of course, there are a lot of bad reasons to continue doing things the way that they’ve always been done.  First, suburbia is popular.  Second, the idea that “growth” will pay for itself is prevalent.  Third, there are many influential supporters of the status quo out there which have a vested interest in continuing to do things as they’ve always been done.  Fourth, there are just some people who don’t believe in the future – or at least the version of the future that they themselves are likely to experience – and who will do whatever they can to stave off that future’s arrival.  Unfortunately for us, many of those people are the leaders of our communities, our provinces and our nations.  Our elected officials, our leaders of business and industry, even our educators and public servants – too many continue to fight for the future of the past, rather than the future that we are actually likely to get.

Maley Drive and the Decline of the Growth-Centred Paradigm

And this brings us back to Maley Drive.  There are some very loud voices in our City who are championing the creation of the Maley Drive extension, in part because they believe that building this new road will facilitate growth in our City.  Growth, they believe, is the panacea to all of the City’s problems, despite the fact that the City has grown over the past 100 years and, well, here we are. 

In Part 3 of my blogseries, I’ll explore the sort of future that we are likely to have in Greater Sudbury, and why Maley Drive will actually prove to be an impediment to that future.  I’ll discuss sustainability vs. growth, and show how the project of enlarging the “splendid suburbia” on the low density fringes of our City just isn’t in the cards for a number of reasons. 

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)