Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Misinformation About the KED Coming From City Hall

The attached screencap was shared with me recently, along with some questions about whether Councillor Kirwan is being honest with people in his Valley East group about what's actually going on with the so-called "Kingsway Entertainment District".
Without question, there are several significant untruths in this post from December 10, 2018 that need to be corrected. I have underlined in red the specific areas that I'll address here.

First, with regards to the LPAT process being "on schedule" - nothing could be further from the truth. At the Case Management Conference in early November at which both Councillor Kirwan and I attended, the Tribunal members were clear - the whole process was being put on hold pending resolution of a matter referred to Divisional Court related to the LPAT's powers and authorities in a case known as "Rail Deck Park". Until those matters are resolved, the clock that ticks away for the LPAT to make a decision is paused. The process is not "on schedule" - stuff's still going on, but there can't be a resolution until Rail Deck is resolved, and that's completely out of anyone's hands here in Sudbury.
Here's a screenshot of a part of the LPAT's "Notice of Postponement" that pauses the process.

Second, I have seen no requirement that the hotel that is intended to be located on site will be the "largest in the City" - it is completely out of the realm of reality to insist that this will come to pass - especially since there is no group that has stepped forward to build a hotel at this time. The Councillor's statement here, which he passes off as fact, is made without evidence and is at best conjecture, and at worst something quite different.
Third, there absolutely is no "120 acre commercial subdivision". It does not exist. It is a figment of the Councillor's imagination. There is no question that the 'subdivision' (which still is not approved by the City) is a plan of subdivision for industrial uses. It is designated General Industrial in the City's official plan. It is zoned with a number of industrial zoning categories - some of which permit commercial uses, but not as primary uses. There is no application in front of the City to change the designation of the lands from General Industrial to anything else (except for the lands subject to the LPAT appeals for a casino, arena and parking lot).
Don't believe me?  The following is from the City's submission to the LPAT.  
Still think this is about an "Entertainment District"? Because that's not the case that the City is advancing in order to see the casino, arena and parking lot approved.
I speculate that the Councillor made this statement about the subdivision being for "commercial" uses because of the fourth matter here where he writes about commercial taxation. Again, there is no plan for any further commercial uses in the subdivision beyond a casino and the parking lot (which could be considered a commercial use as it will require people to pay to park there, as per the zoning by-law amendment filed by the applicant Zulich and approved by the City).
In June, 2018, the City approved the 5-year update to its official plan. If there was any actual vision for a "Kingsway Entertainment District" beyond an arena, casino and parking lot, there would have been changes to the General Industrial designation to facilitate new uses like a motorsports park, additional ice pad, etc. But there were no changes made. The plan continues to be to develop industrial uses in the industrial subdivision. Yes, it is true that at some point, that could change via a new amendment to the Plan - but that runs the risk of further appeal, and further time to resolve matters. The City is certainly not "prepared to grow" entertainment or commercial uses on the balance of the subject lands.
Why is Councillor Kirwan promoting this false narrative? It is so incredibly frustrating, but the fact of the matter is that a number of our City's elected officials have gone out of their way to be untruthful about this project, and to hide information from the public, and to try to shut the public out of the decision-making process. And when they are called out, they have invariably blamed others and claimed that there is an active misinformation campaign being waged by KED opponents.
I agree that there is an active misinformation campaign being waged - but it's coming from City Hall.

(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)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Conservatives' Climate Plan Takes Ontario Back to the Past

At this critical moment in history, when we’re being warned by the best and the brightest that we have just 12 years to get our act together if we’re going to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C, Ontario’s new Conservative government released its climate change plan.  It’s a plan that can only be described as a sick joke that sets Ontario back decades.

The plan appears to be little more than what could have been cobbled together over a weekend by disinterested highschool students.  The “Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan” isn’t even exclusively about climate change – greenhouse gas reduction initiatives are buried in the middle of other proposals dealing with clean air and helpful hints that homeowners can use to guard against basement flooding (see: Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan,” Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, November 2018).

The Conservatives insist that the policies and programs described in the Plan will lead Ontario to achieving an even less ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target than the one offered up by the Wynne Liberals.  But without identifying any way of measuring success, or even just indicating how much certain actions will contribute to reducing emissions, it’s impossible to determine how the Conservatives arrived at that conclusion.

The Plan’s marquee initiative is the $100 million-a-year Carbon Trust Fund.  It’s similar to the previous Liberal government’s Green Bank initiative.  The only big differences between the Liberal and Conservative plans involve who’ll be paying.  The former Liberal government was intending on using funds collected from industrial polluters via cap and trade, while the current government will fund the initiative largely from the public purse.  And funds that would have been available to homeowners for energy efficiency upgrades will now be restricted to the private sector.  It’s a real lose / lose for the people.

Of course, for the Wynne Liberals, the Green Bank was intended to be one of many tools used as part of a larger, comprehensive plan that included measurable outcomes and pricing carbon pollution (see: “Climate Change Action Plan, 2016,” the Government of Ontario (archived)).  For the Conservatives, the vaguely-outlined Carbon Trust is one of only two prominent tools that will be used to reduce emissions.  And the other tool – regulating industrial pollution via emissions performance standards – has been decried as the most economically inefficient way to reduce emissions. 

Of course, mandating hard caps on industrial pollution can lead to lower emissions.  But the Conservatives’ plan is riddled with “flexibility mechanisms” that translates into  exemptions for specific businesses or entire industrial sectors. Companies will also be offered the option to purchase dubious carbon offsets or to simply pay penalties.  What we’ll end up with isn’t a hard cap at all, but rather a floppy one that could actually lead to a higher level of greenhouse gas emissions.
Making polluters pay by putting a price on carbon pollution is the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions.  But that just wasn’t in the cards for a Conservative government that seems to have a penchant for wasting taxpayer money on nonsense – like spending $30 million to fight the federal government’s carbon pricing initiative.

Worse than all of this, the Plan actually includes measures that will raise emissions, by calling for lower prices on gasoline and natural gas.  It’s Economics 101: lower costs leads to more consumption.  But that’s the plan for both gasoline and natural gas.  And that’s no plan at all for lowering emissions.

Inexplicably, the plan also calls for upping the ethanol content of gasoline to 15%.  When all inputs are considered, ethanol is an emissions wash at best.  But the threat to food security posed by increasing ethanol production means that we should be phasing it out of the gasoline mix altogether (see: Corn Ethanol Will Not Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” Scientific American, April 20 2009; and, “The Case Against More Ethanol: It’s Simply Bad for Environment,” C. Ford Runge, YaleEnvironment360, May 25, 2016).

Those helpful hints to prevent basement flooding might actually be the most useful part of the Conservatives’ plan.

(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 as "Sudbury column: Tory climate plan takes Ontario back to the past," in print and online in the Sudbury Star, December 1, 2018.