Monday, December 31, 2018

Crystal Ball Gazing: (Mainly) Political Predictions for 2019

It's been a few years since my last end-of-year "Crystal Ball Gazing" blog (although in the summer of 2017, I did manage to successfully predict just how Greater Sudbury Council would, via a tie vote, end up selecting the Kingsway for the site of a new arena - see: "Crystal Ball Gazing: How Sudbury Gets a New Kingsway Event Centre - Not on Merit, but on a Technicality," Sudbury Steve May, June 27, 2017).  Despite nailing that one prediction a few hours before the vote, my track record with predictions has been far from stellar.  No matter.  This is a fun way to end the year, and with some pretty big events scheduled to happen in 2019, I'll take another kick at the can.

The Federal Election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Look for a return of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals with a new majority government in October, 2019 - but one that has been slightly reduced.  The Conservative Party will make some inroads in the west, in Ontario (the GTA and eastern Ontario) and Atlantic Canada, but it won't be enough for the Cons in the face of a collapsed NDP vote that largely shifts to the Liberals for strategic reasons.  Maxime Bernier's new party will also siphon off enough Con support to ensure Trudeau's return - although Bernier will lose his own seat in Beauce, and his party will fail to elect a single candidate.

Greens might take some solace in seeing Elizabeth May returned to the House accompanied by two new B.C.-based MP's (and having had a few other candidates show strong second-place finishes in B.C. and New Brunswick).  But 3 MP's will prove a disappointment for a Party that sees Green fortunes rising around the world, but can do little to tap into the same sentiment here in Canada, in part thanks to our antique First Past the Post electoral system.  Before the year is out, May will announce her pending departure as Party leader in 2020, although she will stay on as MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh won't fare as well.  After losing a by-election in Burnaby to Liberal candidate Karen Wang (see: "Karen Wang wins Liberal nomination in Burnaby South to take on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh," the Canadian Press, December 29, 2018), the knives come out and the NDP dump Singh as leader.  Through a hasty process that ends up sidelining New Democratic members, caucus selects Nathan Cullen as interim leader, only to see Cullen lead the Party to losses in October.  While New Democrats manage to largely hold on to seats in Ontario and B.C., they are completely ousted from Quebec and make no gains in Atlantic Canada, falling behind the Green Party in many ridings in that region (outside of Newfounland and Labrador where the Greens remain dead as doornails).

The election is a nasty affair, and while immigration, the economy and climate change seem to be the big issues, for the most part the election is fought on the basis of personalities and tribalism.  With the progressive left once again rallying behind the Liberals despite past betrayals, the Liberals again manage to elect a new government in October - but the nation is more divided at the end of 2019 than ever before.

Alberta Election

In Alberta, despite a brilliant campaign by NDP Premier Rachel Notley, the Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party emerges victorious.  Kenny himself, though, is beaten up by the election, with many of his past anti-LGBTQ musings having come to light.  The UCP - flirting with white surpremacists and Big Oil (ok, actually WAY more than flirting), is tarnished as an institution and takes power under a cloud of corruption and concerns over tolerance.  

Notley's NDP isn't completely wiped out, and she stays on as Leader.  But with a UCP majority government in place, the blitz is on to destroy a lot of the good work that Notley's government accomplished over its 4-year term.  The UCP's first order of business, though, will be to kill Alberta's climate change plan and replace it with - nothing (at least not in 2019).  Albertans are outraged in late 2019 when it becomes clear (after a new Liberal majority government comes into power federally) that the feds will be applying the now $30 per tonne federal carbon price backstop to Alberta.  There is rioting in the streets of Calgary.

Oh - and about that federal back-stop.  Canada's courts will rule in 2019 that the feds have every right to price carbon in provincial jurisdictions that are not themselves applying a price on pollution. 

PEI Election
PEI Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker

Despite Peter Bevan-Baker's Green Party leading in polls in advance of the PEI provincial election, Premier Wade MacLauchlan's Liberal Party is returned with a strong majority government - thanks in part to the collapse of the PEI Progressive Conservative Party.  Green support, while strong in certain areas, proves to be thin on the ground throughout too much of the Province - and as a result, MacLauchlan's Liberals receive a stronger mandate from Islanders.  A small Green caucus forms the Official Opposition, but Bevan-Baker resigns as leader near the end of 2019 - with ambitions to lead the federal Green Party.  Green MLA Hannah Bell, easily returned to her seat, takes over the reigns as the leader of the Official Opposition.
PEI Green Hannah Bell

U.S. Presidential Nominations

With Donald Trump mired in controversy throughout 2019, thanks in part to Robert Mueller's investigation being made public in the early spring, Republicans decide that they are going to contest Trump's nomination for 2020.  Look for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to start rumbling about taking on Trump for the nomination (although there will be other contenders).

On the Democratic side, by the end of 2019, there will be no clear single contender for the Presidential nomination, although the field of serious potential candidates might be whittled down to just a few who have what it takes.  Look for Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren to emerge as two of the more serious contenders.  Warrens is already signalling her intention to run - and if I suspect that she just might emerge victorious in 2020 if she does so (see: "Elizabeth Warren Takes Major Step Toward a 2020 Presidential Run," Bloomberg, December 31, 2018).  Democrats will continue to try to twist Oprah Winfrey's arm to have her throw her hat in the ring - with no success.

Hilary Clinton will wisely opt out of seeking the nomination, but look for a return of Bernie Sanders - although Sanders will be forced to drop out of the race by the end of 2019, due to a lack of funds.  Sanders will champion The Green New Deal, with Warren providing lukewarm support - but many non-aligned voters will be looking to the U.S. Green Party, which might be under new leadership by the end of 2019, as Dr. Jill Stein resigns to make way for a bigger, more familiar name from Hollywoodland. 

Gilets Jaune

As 2018 comes to an end, the Gilets Jaune protests that rocked European cities have already begun to wind down.  But we can expect a significant degree of destabilization of established governments in the U.K. (thanks to a disastrous Brexit and the fall of Theresa May's government - only to be replaced by an unstable Conservative minority government led by Boris Johnston), France and Italy. 

Greens are on the rise in Germany, however, and continue to capture progressive voters throughout the nation.  

But the Gilets Jaune are a splintered force in Europe by the early months of 2019 - with the right-wingers and left-wingers dividing the spoils and heading their separate ways.  Unfortunately, the same is not true in North America, where the right-wing racist Yellow Vests remain a blight on the nation throughout 2019.  However, even Conservative politicians like Saskatchewan's Premier Scott Moe and Alberta's incoming Premier, Jason Kenney - are forced to publicly distance themselves from the racists (but not until Kenney is damaged by his flirtation). 


Look for big changes in Ontario.  With Premier Doug Ford on a rampage, the Ontario government will undo a decade's worth of progress made under the former Liberal administration.  The March budget will see the Ontario civil service cut to a significant degree.  It will also lay the groundwork for significant privatization of health care in the Province.  Also on the chopping block: environmental legislation, including the Environmental Bill of Rights and the Endangered Species Act.  By the end of 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks will be cut to the bone.
Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner

While Ford and his Conservative MP's will continue to be dogged by controversies and legal problems stemming from the 2018 provincial election (and pre-election candidate nomination), there will be little that Ontario's opposition parties can do.  With the Liberals rebuilding, and an ineffective New Democratic Party that long ago lost its way (and with leader Andrea Horwarth finally stepping down to make way for someone new), look for the Green Party of Ontario's Mike Schreiner to be a go-to person for media - but that's about it.  Schreiner, trying to be too many things at the same time in the progressive political void, might find a degree of wider publicity, but he needs to be careful lest he continue to alienate his base as he did with several small mis-steps near the end of 2018 (which included his support for the PC's 'back to work' legislation aimed at upending power worker's right to strike). 

British Columbia
B.C. Premier John Horgan

Despite MP Sheila Malcolmson winning a crucial by-election in Nanaimo (see: "Nanaimo Byelection Could Change Balance of Power in British Columbia," the Tyee, December 27, 2018),  NDP Premier John Horgan's government will fall before the end of summer, as Andrew Weaver's Green Party pulls its 'supply and confidence' support over the NDP's lack of a plan to address climate impacts from the publicly-subsidized LNG sector.  With a massive defeat for electoral reform, thanks in part to a wonky referendum (see: "B.C. proportional representation proposal seemed almost tailor-made for failure," Kirk Lapointe, BIV, December 20, 2018).

But Horgan will be back as Premier with a larger minority government, as Andrew Weaver's Greens are wiped out across the Province (despite some very strong showings by candidates in a dozen ridings).  The BC Greens political fortunes will resonate later in the year with a disappointing showing for the federal Greens in a national election (although as predicted above, Green leader Elizabeth May will be joined by a couple of new federal Green MPs).

Look for the resignation of both Weaver and B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson by year's end. 

New Brunswick

New Brunswickers will once again head to the polls in 2019, as Progressive Conservative Premier Brian Gallant's shaky new government falls like a house of cards.  I'm not going to  predict what the impetus for the government's fall might be, but I suspect it will have something to do with the ambitions of People's Alliance Party, and their sense that a new election will see more of their candidates returned as MLA's.  They will be proven right - but they'll be relegated to the opposition benches as a Liberal minority government under a new leader is returned to power - supported by a 'supply and confidence' agreement with a reduced-caucus New Brunswick Green Party.  That government makes it out of 2019, but accomplishes very little in the face of falling apart at any given moment.

Newfoundland and Labrador
NL PC leader Ches Crosbie

Liberal Premier Dwight Ball is done.  Look for Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosby, son of home-province hero and former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie, to be Newfoundland and Labrador's next premier.  But the Muskrat Falls spending debacle will continue to spiral out of control - to the detriment of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Trans Mountain Pipeline

 In a hasty review of indigenous issues and orcas, the National Energy Board once again greenlights the Trans Mountain Pipeline - just in time for the Liberals to campaign vigorously on their new 'approval' of the pipeline.  But the NEB's decision will once again be challenged in the courts, and there will be no resolution of the matter in 2019.

The Continuing Erosion of Charter Rights

When anyone's Charter Rights are put at risk, everyone's Charter Rights are put at risk.  It's 2019, and we can expect - thanks to right-wing extremists in power in the U.S., Europe and provincially here in Canada - the hard-fought rights of women and the LGBTQ community to continue to be eroded (see: "Rising populism threatens LGBTQ in West and around the world," the Globe and Mail, December 29, 2018).  Look for anti-women and anti-minority initiatives in Alberta and Ontario.  Would Doug Ford really shut down Ontario's Human Rights Commission?  Just watch him - as we continue to watch his flirtations with white supremacist fascists like Faith Goldy (see: "Doug Ford and Faith Goldy — what’s wrong with this picture?" Martin Regg Cohn, the Toronto Star, September 24, 2018)  and Charles McVety (see: "Ford’s closeness with controversial evangelical pastor is problematic," Michael Coren, iPolitics, December 4, 2018) and his controversial move to roll-back the province's sex education curriculum to the last century (see: "Northern Ontario pride organizations looking to file human rights complaints over sex-ed curriculum rollback," CBC News, July 18, 2018).  In Quebec, what can only be described as a racist government in the form of Francois Legault's Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) is hell-bent on destroying the rights of religious minorities (see: "Downtown Montreal anti-racism demonstration draws 3,000," the Montreal Gazette, October 8, 2018).  Expect to hear more about the use of the 'Notwithstanding Clause' in our Constitution as the vehicle of choice for right-wing extremists in government to stomp on Charter Rights.

Greater Sudbury

Here in Greater Sudbury, expect more of the same throughout 2019 - with a few caveats - including some intra-personal conflicts on Council that broil over for reasons that have little to do with Council business.

Sudburians are excited about the appointment of an Integrity Commissioner, and take full advantage of the appointment.  Several investigations in municipal Councillor activity are launched - including online bullying by Councillors and the use of position on Council to solicit funds from local businesses.  The bullying investigation wraps up with only recommendations for a stronger social media code of conduct for all municipal employees.  Other investigations drag on and are not resolved in 2019.
Ward 2 Councillor Michael Vagnini

Internally, the City's review of the recent municipal election fiasco reveals that the City did nothing wrong, and many of the issues with the election (including with the voter's list and the need to extend the election by another day due to the collapse of the online voting platform) were beyond the City's control.  Despite this, Councillor Vagnini will continue to accuse the City of corruption and mismanagement, taking square aim at Mayor Bigger over the first part of 2019.  In the summer, Vagnini becomes the Conservative Party's nominated candidate for the Sudbury riding - a riding that he will fail to take from Liberal MP Paul Lefebvre in the October federal election (although he will have the best showing of any recent Con candidate in Sudbury).
Nickel Belt MP Marc Serre

On a related note, Nickel Belt MP Marc Serre is returned to Ottawa in the 2019 federal election with an even bigger mandate, thanks largely to his own local popularity with an assist from the national collapse of the NDP.

The Kingsway Entertainment District will be an on-going saga throughout 2019, but mostly not at the Council table.  With public opinion turning against the KED and the downtown Arts Junction, Council will largely remain tone-deaf to the signals coming from the public that these projects are unaffordable.  Those concerns, however, might be offset by a pre-election promise for federal funding for the new arena, by a Liberal government more than a little nervous about a Vagnini-run unseating Lefebvre.

But at the end of 2019, we still won't know whether the Kingsway will be the site of the new arena.  With the appeals at the Local Planning and Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) currently on hold pending the outcome of a divisional court review of matters related to the City of Toronto's Rail Deck Park and the powers and authority of the new LPAT, I anticipate that the appeals will be further held up by a new reference to divisional court specifically emanating from the Sudbury appeals.  The LPAT is presently being asked by the parties to the appeals to determine what its jurisdiction is over a number of fundamental things - including whether Party's can file responses to Reply Case Synopses - and whether the LPAT's jurisdiction for making decisions extends beyond simply reviewing a municipal land use decision on the basis of inconsistency with provincial policy, provincial plans and municipal official plans.  Motions have been filed by just about all of the parties.  Expect some or all of these matters to end up in front of divisional court - either via a losing party, or, more likely in my opinion, from the LPAT itself - as it did with questions of jurisdiction in Rail Deck - since these matters now being brought up in Sudbury will impact how the LPAT hears all future hearing events.

Related: a motion to dismiss the appeal of the Minnow Lake Restoration Group made by the landowner, Dario Zulich, will prove to be unsuccessful - so for all of those hoping to see John Lindsay and his concerns about salt loading in Ramsey Lake knocked out of the hearing process - it's not going to happen.  John and the Minnow Lake people will be there when the actual hearing gets underway in the late fall of 2019.

Beer Trends

This could be a banner year for beer in Greater Sudbury, with the anticipated opening of two new brew pubs.   Spacecraft has been rising from the abandoned Grey Hound station on Notre Dame - and while many have eagerly been awaiting for its doors to open throughout December, I think we can expect that the finishing touches will permit an opening sometime in January.

In the South End, I expect to see the much-touted microbrewery open in 2019 behind the Tap House (note that this is not a prediction, but rather a firmly worded request/demand!).  I've often wondered just why a City the size of our has only had just the one brewery - Stack  - which makes some excellent beer, by the way (which reminds me - I need to stop in today to get my Ball Drop - one for tonight, and another to age until next year).  I've been a little embarrassed to show my face at Stack since that whole Hot Box fiasco which I'd rather not get into, so I was thrilled to hear that plans were afoot for another microbrewery offering sales directly to the public (see: "City to get its first brew pub," the Sudbury Star, September 11, 2018).

As for beer itself, I'll defer to the select experts over at Beerwulf for predictions in beer for 2019 - even though I'm mildly disturbed by this whole 'low alcohol' thing.

Stanley Cup

You heard it here first: After defeating the Washington Capitals in overtime in Game 7, the Winnipeg Jets will win the Stanley Cup.

(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)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Courtesy Shmertecy! Greens are Making a Mistake in Burnaby

Let me just start this blogpost by pointing out that Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May is one of the classiest politicos that I know.  She sure as hell has more respect for our parliamentary processes than I could ever muster.  She is a parliamentarian first, and the leader of the Green Party second.  

Me?  I couldn't do her job.  I am far too much of a rabid partisan.  I would never be able to play nicely with others in the same way that May tries.  And when I see how often May has been rebuffed by her political opponents - particularly those in the New Democratic Party - I sometimes wonder why she continues to try.  Being a partisan is easy.  Being a parliamentarian - not so much.

Burnaby South

So it's with this in mind that I wanted to begin a short conversation on how I feel the Green Party of Canada - my party - is blowing it big-time with regards to the upcoming Burnaby South by-election.  As you might know, the Green Party won't be running a candidate in Burnaby South, due to something that's fallen a little out of fashion with parliamentarians called "leader's courtesy".

Elizabeth May
Or so Elizabeth May says.  And really, who am I to doubt that?  I know that the Green Party has never done all that well in Burnaby, finishing a distant fourth place in both Burnaby South and Burnaby North-Seymour in the last federal election (despite the presence of what should be 'sacred ground' for the Green Party in the form of Burnaby Mountain and the on-going protests there over the Trans Mountain Pipeline - and despite the presence of Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Mountain arrestee and"star" candidate Lynne Quarmby in Burnaby North-Seymour).  And I also get that Greens probably want to face off against an New Democratic Party headed by current leader Jagmeet Singh in the 2019 federal election - something that appears to be unlikely to happen should Singh lose the by-election in Burnaby.

I understand the math.  And I understand the politics.  And I understand 'leader's courtesy' is something that the Green Party of Canada has engaged in before - specifically in the 2008 election when the Greens did not run a candidate against Stephane Dion in Saint-Laurent (and the Liberals did not run a candidate against the Greens in May's riding of Central Nova.

Sites on Singh
Jagmeet Singh

It's unusual - but not unheard of - for a national party leader to be in a position similar to the one that Singh presently finds himself in: coronated leader by the Party, but without a seat in the House.  The original plan for Singh was that he was going to ride out his time outside of parliament as an unelected leader, in order to better get in touch with the people.  But after having disappeared from view for the better part of a year and a half, and having been eclipsed on the federal scene by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (with whom he appears to share little love), Singh's handlers finally got the message that maybe it was time for him to work his way into parliament.

With now-former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart stepping aside in Burnaby South to take a shot as Mayor of Vancouver (an election that he won), the Prime Minister must now call a by-election in that riding sometime very soon.  The three old-line parties are all organized, with the Liberals selecting their candidate, Karen Wang, just this past week (see: "Karen Wang wins Liberal nomination in Burnaby South to take on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh," the Canadian Press, December 29, 2018).  Singh and Wang will take on Conservative Party candidate Jay Shin in what is expected to be a tight 3-way race (Max Bernier's People's Party appear to have fielded a no-hope anti-LGBTQ right-wing extremist candidate - see: "It looks like this anti-SOGI activist is running in Burnaby South," Burnaby Now, December 29, 2018).

Burnaby Critical for the NDP

It is completely fair to say that the NDP's fortunes hang in the balance of this by-election - although it's not exactly clear how.  If Singh wins - and with Kennedy only taking the riding last time by a little over 500 votes, a Singh win is far from a sure thing - but if Singh wins and winds up in parliament, the NDP will continue with him as leader into the 2019 federal election.  

But if Singh loses, you can bet that the knives are going to come out - and the only question that I have is just how quickly Singh steps down as leader, or is deposed.  My bet is that he will stay on, past due - before he goes and the NDP tries to pull a last-minute Doug Ford out of their hat.

And I don't think Singh is going to do it.  Fact is, I had a high - and potentially unrealistic - hopes for Jagmeet Singh as leader of the New Democrats (see: "Jagmeet Singh's Leadership Success Points the Way Forward for Electoral Co-Operation Between Greens, NDP," Sudbury Steve May, October 3, 2017).  I thought that the NDP would rally around Singh and that they could present him as a smart and natty progressive foil to Justin Trudeau.  Look, I'm a partisan - but I've never believed for a moment that Trudeau was elected because the Liberals had better policy than the other parties.  There was something about the way that Trudeau connected with Canadians - especially young Canadians - in 2015 that propelled him to victory.  I thought Singh had some of that same stuff. I still think he does.  But when you don't get any ink, you don't leave voters with a lot to think about.  We knew Trudeau in 2015 and for decades before that in a way that we've never known Singh.  But still, I was optimistic.

No longer. It's hard to determine anything else about Singh other than he's been a disaster for the NDP.  With the New Democrats mired in the polls between 16% and 19%, with several disastrous recent by-elections under their belt, and with polling showing that they might be completely wiped out in Quebec - the stronghold that Jack built - Singh appears to have led the NDP in only one direction - right down the drain.

Playing the Game

Of course, this is a bit of a gift to Justin Trudeau's Liberals, who also understand political calculus very well.  When the NDP performs well, Canada usually ends up with a Conservative government.  When they do poorly, we get Liberals.  And it's because of this political calculus that I suspect we'll end up with another Liberal majority government.

But there is a similar calculus at play here for the Green Party.  Where the NDP doesn't do all that well, Greens can get elected.  Look at what's happened recently in New Brunswick and PEI with the collapse of the provincial NDP parties - three Greens elected in New Brunswick and the Green Party polling in top spot - above the governing Liberals - in PEI.  In the Ontario riding of Guelph, the NDP vote collapsed, and Ontario Green leader Mike Schreiner was elected - despite the NDP having the best showing in an Ontario election since Bob Rae was elected Premier.

So I get that. leader's courtesy aside - it appears to make a lot of sense for the Greens not to run a candidate against Mr. Singh in the upcoming by-election in Burnaby South, and instead keep our powder dry and our fingers crossed that Singh ekes out a victory.  In the long run, that's probably the best that the Green Party could hope for in Burnaby.  Why spend a lot of money to finish in 4th in a by-election?

So here's where I failed that course in political strategy.  And granted, I suspect that the Green Party is happy not to be taking my advice.  But I remain a partisan, a purist, and there is simply something that I can't abide by going on out in B.C. right now.

Greens Can't Sit on Our Hands

At a time of climate crisis, when our national government is purchasing pipelines and subsidizing fossil fuel enterprises like never before - at the very time that we should be weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels and laying the groundwork for a just transition - we have in Burnaby South three political parties that have all embraced massive public subsidies for a completely new fossil enterprise - one that rival the Alberta tar sands in emissions.  And if you haven't already guessed, I'm talking about Pacific LNG here.
Neslon Muntz

All three parties - the Conservatives, Liberals and yes, the "environment-friendly" (HA-HA a la Nelson Muntz) NDP - all three parties have publicly embraced LNG development - with Justin Trudeau's "climate champion" (HA-HA again) government committing to transferring public wealth to some of the richest fossil fuel companies in the world - to the tune of $5 billion (see: "LNG Canada project called a ‘tax giveaway’ as B.C. approves massive subsidies," the Narwhal, October 2, 2018).

Look - we know quite clearly now that this is the kind of political stupidity that we have to stop.  Unfortunately, Canada's three old-line political parties just haven't got the message.  Voters understand that we need to take real and serious action on climate change - but subsidizing a new fossil fuel enterprise is the exact opposite of what we ought to be doing.  But voters who will be heading to the polls in Burnaby South in early 2019 will have no candidates who are advocating a sane approach to the climate crisis.  All they'll get are three pro-LNG types - one of whom is Singh, who leads a party that should, frankly, know better.

Our Moment?

Some who are in the know a lot more than me are predicting that the Green Party will be the Party to watch in the upcoming federal election (see: "Elizabeth May predicts she won’t stand alone after the next election," the Canadian Press, December 28, 2018), I'm not nearly as optimistic that the Party is going to be able to get its act together to have much of an impact.  I understand that voters are looking for something different right now - a place to park their ballots, even if for only one election - and all things being equal, the Green Party should be a place where those votes could go.

But I can read the polls.  Greens are polling at about 7% nationally.  That's not great.  And it's Greens have been polling there for the past year. Since 2015.  Since 2011.  Since 2008.  It's been a pretty flat line in terms of polling - one that only appears to dip on election day.  Even with an NDP decline, I'm not sure that the GPC is going to be able to buck this trend.  With less than a year to go pre-election, I haven't seen any data which excites me significantly (other than the GPC's financial filings - I know that Greens like to complain about all the money asks they get via email - but you know what?  It works).  
Lynne Quarmby

In Burnaby, for a couple of weeks this winter, a strong Green candidate like Lynne Quarmby could have had a bit of a national platform to hammer the NDP (and the other parties) over the head about LNG.  The Party would spend some of that new money, sure - maybe something like the $50,000 the Party spent a few years ago for an abysmal showing in the 2014 Trinity-Spadina by-election, where we fielded an excellent candidate, but....were still the Green Party.  And Quarmby or whomever would lose - likely finishing in fourth place.  But B.C. voters would know that the Green Party of Canada is going to be serious in all B.C. ridings and provide voters with a real choice come October, 2019.

Provincial Benefit

And how could this hurt the Green Party.....of British Columbia?  Look, chances are that B.C. voters are going to be heading to the polls in 2019 now that the electoral reform referendum has come and gone.  Greens getting publicity in Burnaby over LNG - a provincial issue far more than a federal one - is something that Andrew Weaver's Green Party of B.C. can certainly use to its advantage, as it appears to be the one defining environmental issue of significant substance that separates the Greens from B.C. Premier John Horgan's New Democrats (after Weaver foolishly opted to 'play nice' with the NDP over Site C - to the shame of Greens everywhere - see: "Andrew Weaver defends Green Party's choices on Site C," CBC News, December 17, 2017).

Let's face it: Weaver's Greens are in trouble should B.C. voters head to the polls in 2019.  Fresh off of a monumental loss on the electoral reform referendum, and with B.C. public opinion starting to turn (away from Greens) on pipelines, if Horgan pulls the plug on his government, the B.C. Greens will be lucky to hold on to any of the seats they now currently hold.  Like the Green Party of Canada, the B.C. Greens have been mired in the polls (well, unlike the GPC, BC Greens have been mired at around 16% - which is nothing to sneeze at, but still does not guarantee a seat in the next legislature in a 3-party set-up like they've got out in B.C.).

Green Skin in the Game

The very worst outcome for the Greens, should the Party run a candidate in Burnaby South, would be to potentially siphon off enough votes from Singh that he doesn't get elected, and gets tossed as leader in favour of someone more dynamic, like Nathan Cullen  Thing is, even without a Green candidate, there's a very real possibility that Singh is going to blow the by-election.  And with a Green candidate in play, there's no reason at all, from where I sit, to think that New Democratic votes are going to be the ones to suffer.  We know that Green candidates pull from all parties - the Cons a little less, and the NDP and the Liberals a little more.  In Burnaby South, with the NDP throwing everything that they've got into the fray, I'd actually expect a fourth-place Green to draw a little more from the Libs and Cons than from the New Democrats.  

Ya, ok, whatever.  A Green candidate would change the electoral dynamics, but no one really knows how.  And May might take a bit of a hit for promising 'leader's courtesy' and then reneging - but at least she could say, "You know what?  I didn't want to run a candidate, but Singh is running around the country saying what a great thing LNG is - and that's just not acceptable.  Not in this time of climate crisis."  And since only a dozen or so people across the country are aware at this time that the Greens are committed to sitting Burnaby out, how big of a hit would May take anyway?

A Call for Action

It's the time for action.  The climate crisis demands it.  Sitting out the by-election in Burnaby South - just so a weak opposition leader can get elected and (hopefully) run his party into the ground in enough ridings so that one or two more Greens have an easier time to get elected - to hell with that.  Is the Green Party of Canada going to start behaving like a serious political party that actually offers something different for voters - all voters?  Or are we going to stick with our nicey-nicey "we're just doing politics differently" mantra that has served us so well over the past decade - so well that we've managed to elect a grand total of 9 Greens to federal and provincial office since I joined the Green Parties of Canada and Ontario in 2007.

Sorry, Green Party - we're making a mistake here.  Maybe not a big one.  But a big enough one.  I keep hearing insiders say that 2019 could be our year.  The pollsters are saying it.  Hell, even my relatives were asking about it over an enforced "politics free" Christmas dinner.  If so many people believe this - why don't I?

Run someone in Burnaby South - show me that we're for real - and perhaps I'll be better positioned to climb on board the bandwagon.

(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)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

From Disruption to Insurgency – Climate Change Action in 2019

In hindsight, 2018 might prove to have been a watershed year in the fight against climate change.  Certainly, 2018 saw its share of progressive steps forward, like the federal government’s announcement that its carbon price would include a rebate to families.  And as we’ve seen in many other years, steps forward were offset by steps backward, like Ontario axing Cap and Trade.

But the October release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5 degrees C really seems to have resonated with the public by instilling a sense of global urgency (see:“Global Warming of 1.5 C,” IPCC, October, 2018). The Special Report from the world’s leading climate scientists gave the international community just 12 years to make unprecedented changes to the global economy, or risk climate catastrophe (see: “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN,” The Guardian, October 8, 2018).

What we’ve seen over these last few months of 2018 is likely to be a prelude of things to come.  Voices on the right-side of the political spectrum that deny climate change have been marginalized.  This has created space for important discussions that have increasingly focused on the concept of a ‘Just Transition’ for workers in the sunset fossil fuel sector, who cannot be left behind in the move to a green economy (see: “A Just Transition: From Fossil Fuels to Environmental Justice,” DeSmog UK, undated).

Greta Thunberg
Young people are leading the way from disruption to insurgency. In Quebec, a group of youth have launched a court case to compel the federal government to get tougher on pollution targets (see: “Quebec youth apply to sue Canada to get tougher carbon pollution targets,” The National Observer, November 26, 2018).  In the United States, the Sunrise Movement is emerging as a champion for intersectional action (see: “We Are Sunrise,” The Sunrise Movement, undated).  And at the recent global climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, a 15-year old girl from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, emerged as an international superstar, by bluntly telling world leaders to grow up and get serious about the transitioning to a green economy (see: “15-year-old Greta Thunberg spoke for her generation at the COP24 climate talks in Poland,” Zoe Schlanger, Quartz, December 15, 2018).

Kavya Nalla and Sophia Mathur
Thunberg has been the inspiration for numerous local demonstrations around the world, which have seen schoolchildren take to the streets to demand action from leaders.  Here in Sudbury, 11-year old Sophia Mathur has already organized one strike that attracted the attention of an MP and MPP.  Mathur plans to continue her vigils throughout the winter of 2019 (see:“Sudbury kids skip class to raise climate change alarm,” Sudbury dot com, December 8, 2018).

The Divestment Movement will continue to redirect capital away from fossil enterprises.  A movement started by students pressuring their academic institutions to divest themselves of fossil fuel stocks, in 2019 we can expect to see public sector pension funds as the next targets. Arguments for divesting from fossil fuels are based on both financial and moral grounds – and many religious institutions have already closed their books to investing in planet-destroying enterprises (see: “At last, divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts,” Bill McKibben, The Guardian, December 16, 2018).

Mass acts of civil disobedience are also getting the message out.  In the UK, the Extinction Rebellion has targeted the BBC for not giving climate change enough media coverage (see: “BBC in London put on lockdown over climate change protest by Extinction Rebellion,” The London Evening Standard, December 21, 2018). Canada’s CBC could find itself in the midst of similar protests.

And with the Democratic Party presidential nominations getting underway south of the border in 2019, look for talk of a Green New Deal – an economic stimulus program that would shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels while addressing income inequality and providing a just transition (see: “Green New Deal,” Wikipedia). Democrats could be torn apart by this discussion, and progressives might have to look to a third party for a real Green champion.

2018 might have been the last year where it was acceptable for political leaders to beg the public to accept only what was perceived as politically possible.  In the face of our 12-year warning, action is what’s needed now. Today’s political leaders will need to change their spots and get serious about climate change. If not, they will be swept away by a growing youth-based insurgency that began rolling across the planet in last few months of 2018.

(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 "Youth rising up on climate," in print and online in the Sudbury Star, December 29, 2018.

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.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Shifting the Climate Change Conversation from the Possible to the Necessary

Credit where it’s due: Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal plan to price carbon pollution for provinces like Ontario that refused to adopt provincial pollution pricing schemes (see: “Government of Canada fighting climate change with price on pollution,” Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, October 23, 2018).  Under the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, the federal Liberals chose a form of carbon fee and dividend to price pollution – a mechanism that the Green Party of Canada has long championed (see: “Green Party’s Climate Change Plan,” Green Party of Canada, June 15, 2015).

The Liberal’s plan establishes an annually rising fee on carbon pollution, starting at $20 per tonne in 2019 and rising to $50 per tonne by 2022.  To reduce paying for pollution, businesses and industry will have an incentive to innovate.

The vast majority of fees collected will be rebated back to citizens.  With money in our pockets to offset rising costs, consumers can make individual choices that could lead to greater savings (see: “Trudeau promises rebates as Ottawa moves to levy carbon tax on provinces outside the climate plan,” CBC News, October 23, 2018). This form of market-based pollution pricing is the only form that is likely to see the price of carbon pollution rise high enough to affect consumer behaviour without causing rioting in the streets.  It’s because personal rebates will rise as the per tonne price increases.

The Ontario Liberals’ cap and trade pollution pricing plan, which apportioned collected revenues to select green initiatives, would never have been acceptable to consumers paying the $100 per tonne that some experts believe is needed if we are going to hold global warming to the 2 degrees Celsius (see: “Green Party news release: Liberal's cap and trade 'scheme' needs to go, Green candidate says,” Sudbury dot com, May 8, 2018). Ironically, Conservative Premier Doug Ford has inadvertently given Ontarians a climate win-fall by cancelling Wynne’s doomed program (see:“GOLDSTEIN: McKenna’s carbon price report is a farce,” The Toronto Sun, May 1, 2018).

But Ford and Conservatives across Canada are already manning the battle stations to fight a war of public opinion over pollution pricing (see:“Doug Ford attacks 'terrible tax' on carbon alongside Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe,” CBC News, October 29, 2018).  Their ammunition is the same as that used by the decades-old climate change denial industry: cherry-picking data and calling it evidence, making things up, and engaging in character assassination ().  It’s anti-science straight out of an Alice-in-Wonderland universe where up is down and down is up – but it may just work
The fact is, we don’t have time for Conservative’s counterfactual roadblocks here.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report gave us just 12 years to turn things around and get our act together on reducing emissions (see: “IPCC 6 Climate Change Report: We Only Have 12 Years To Fix This,” Cleantechnica, October 9, 2018).  If we don’t, we’re almost certainly going to blow through the 2 degree threshold that the best available science cautions us to avoid. Beyond 2 degrees of global warming, we seriously risk of triggering feedback loops that lead to runaway climate change, like the melting of Arctic permafrost (see:“Why is climate change’s 2 degrees Celsius of warming limit so important?” The Conversation, August 22, 2017).

There will be blood on our hands if we fail to act.  We don’t enjoy the benefit of time to sit around and discuss doing the bare minimum that’s possible, which appears to what the Liberals remain intent on doing. An appropriate scheme to price carbon pollution only gets us so far. Pushing through a new pipeline that will double tar sands emissions; developing a brand new Liquified Natural Gas industry; refusing to aspire to higher emissions reductions targets – all while subsidizing the profitable, largely multi-national fossil fuel sector to the tune of $3.67 billion a year - these aren’t things that climate champions do.

But the obstructionist Conservatives who are resorting to falsifying information about pollution pricing are behaving despicably.  It’s just another form of climate change denial.  Conservatives like Ford and federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer need to be pushed aside from the public conversations that we need to be having right now. Until they come up with coherent climate plans of their own, they have nothing to contribute.

We have to start seriously talking about what Canada needs to do to fight climate change, and not about what’s merely politically possible.  And my goodness, we need to be doing a lot more. All while the clock is ticking.

(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 "Steve May: Act on climate change or blood will be on our hands," in print and online in the Sudbury Star, November 3, 2018.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Kingsway Cases at the LPAT: An (Unrepresented) Party's Observations, Part 7: So Much for the Downtown

In Part 6 of this blogseries, I laid out what I considered to be the three big land use issues that the LPAT will need to make a determination on for the matters presently before it related to a casino, arena and parking lot development proposal in the City of Greater Sudbury.  I also took a close look at the City's case as it relates to one of these matters - conformity with the official plan policies as they relate to development in the General Industrial Area - which is the designation of the lands on which the casino, arena and parking lot are intended to locate.

I suggested that out of the 3 big issues, the City had the surest footing on that issue, as the City had actually undertaken some level of analysis to address the three main points of contention, which were:

1) whether 'throughout the municipality' should be equated with 'within every land use designation' (the City seems to suggest that there is an equation, while the appellants think it's an absurdity)
2) whether there will be 'adequate' parking on site - the City seems to think there will be, but the need for an additional surface parking facility off-site to meet peak Friday demand as per the City's own Traffic Impact Study suggests otherwise to the appellants;
3) whether an appropriate analysis of integration and compatibility with surrounding uses was undertaken, specifically with regards to proposed industrial uses (the City seems to suggest that no such analysis is needed due to the lack of policy in the official plan which would lead them to undertake such an analysis, while the appellants seem to maintain that it looking at potential impacts on planned uses ought to have been undertaken).

In this blogpost, I'm going to take a look at Big Issue #1 - That the application for rezoning and decision of Council to permit an arena on the subject lands did not fully explore the policy environment as it existed at the time of Council’s decision.  Broadly speaking, #1 here is the appellant’s assertion that matters related to the downtown and economic development should have been explored by the City prior to a decision, whereas the City contends that there was no requirement for that kind of exploration.

This might be the most difficult of the three issues to wrap one's head around.  Although I will try to explain the complexities here as we encounter them, suffice it to say for now that one of the biggest mental hurdles to overcome with regards to the arena has to do with whether the application for rezoning should be considered the 'trigger' event for a complete policy analysis of the appropriateness of the location on the Kingsway (appellants say Yes, City says No), or whether the decision about location was actually already made (by Council on June 27, 2017) and therefore the application to amend the zoning by-law should not trigger a comprehensive analysis of policy related to location - because the location had already been determined (City says Of Course! Appellants say No Way!).

Nothing to do with the Downtown

The appellants maintain that prior to approving the zoning by-law for the arena, the City ought to have first looked to policy direction found elsewhere: in the City’s official plan; in the Provincial Policy Statement; and in the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan and the City’s Economic Development Plan, as per the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.  Further, the appellants believe that the City should have looked at the urbanMetrics study related to the arena and the casino, as well.  A review of those policies and that study would have led the City to determine that an arena on the Kingsway was not in keeping with the PPS, the official plan, or the Northern Growth Plan.

The City maintains that it did not need to look at most of those policies because the decision regarding the location of the arena had already been made on June 27, 2017.  As the decision about location was already made by Council, the only OP matters under review related to the zoning by-law were found largely in Policy 2 of Section 4.4 of the Official Plan.  Because the location for the use was already determined, there was no need to look at how the zoning decision would impact the downtown, because zoning an arena on the Kingsway has nothing to do with the downtown.

from the City's Response to Petch Case Synopsis

It’s fair to say that there is a fundamental disagreement between the City and the appellants on this point.  

The City acknowledges that a new arena anywhere in the City would lead to the existing Sudbury Community Arena, located in the downtown, to be closed.  The City is presently planning on tearing that arena down so that a new public facility can be constructed in its place – one consisting of a convention centre, art gallery and public library known as “The Junction” – named after a nearby underground watercourse that the City buried back in the 1960s.

from the City of Greater Sudbury's Staff Report to Council re: Arena Rezoning
The City maintains, though, that the application for a zoning amendment to permit an arena on the Kingsway really has nothing to do with the downtown.  This was a really difficult one for me to wrap my head around, but I’ve tried to see this a little more clearly from the City’s perspective.  I still don’t agree, obviously.  I'm troubled, too, because the staff clearly provided some level of analysis regarding downtown impacts to Council with regards to the nature of this project - they determined that moving the arena out of the downtown would be good for the downtown (see green underline) - but also maintain that the application to rezone the Kingsway is not about the downtown.

Confused? Let me try to rationalize it for you.

Location Previously Determined

Say that Walmart decides it’s going to close down a store in a City’s downtown, and open up a new store in a field on the urban fringe.  That City’s official plan – like Greater Sudbury’s official plan - has a lot of things to say about strengthening the downtown, and wanting to see more commercial and employment development take place in the core.  In fact, the Plan identifies the presence of a Walmart as part of a strategy to attract new residential development to the downtown (sorry - to be clear, I'm creating a hypothetical situation here!)

But Walmart has already made its mind up.  It’s Board of Directors is going to close down the downtown store and open up another store on lands designated for commercial development on the urban fringe.  Walmart submits an application to rezone the fringe lands.  Does the City conduct an assessment of the impact of Walmart’s decision to close the downtown store? What would be the point of doing so – the decision was already made, and the application in front of the City has nothing to do with the downtown.

Whither the Downtown?

If you’re following along, you may be wondering whether I, as an appellant, am starting to feel a little uncomfortable at this point.  Clearly my Walmart analogy isn’t all that different from the circumstances of the matters at the LPAT.  It’s only the nature of the “Board of Directors” that’s substantively different.  In this case, it was Council that decided to close down the Sudbury Community Arena and build a new facility on the urban fringe – despite a strong policy direction in the official plan to preference the downtown.

And indeed a downtown location for a new arena was preferenced by the City’s consultants, PWC, when they presented their report to Council about proposed arena locations.  Despite the strong official plan policy direction, and despite PWC’s recommendation, Council nevertheless opted to go with the Kingsway.  And those lands were, according to the City, already designated for an arena, due to the whole ‘institutional uses throughout the municipality’ discussion we had in Part 6 of this blogseries.

With this in mind, how can the appellants maintain that the City should have assessed the zoning application in the context of policies that point to the downtown?

Well, there are a few reasons – and ultimately the LPAT is going to have to answer this question.  But let’s look at what comes in to play here.

The Policy Environment - Which Plans Matter?

First, the age of the City’s official plan is a problem for the City on this one.  The Plan was approved in 2006 – which means it can’t be considered “consistent” with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2014.  So decision-makers need to look at both the Official Plan and the PPS.

Further, the same is true for the Growth Plan – to demonstrate conformity with the Growth Plan, decision-makers have to look at it, too.  But – you’ll have to trust me on this one, ok? – there’s not a lot of anything in the Growth Plan that really matters here, save for a single reference found in the preamble to Section 4.1, which reads: “…achieving a healthy, prosperous future for the North.  This begins at the local level with establishing a clear vision for each community’s future, and mapping out a path to achieve this vision.  Official Plans, community economic plans and the participation in community planning efforts are effective tools and approaches to ensure citizens’ and businesses’ view are reflected in their communities’ future economic and long-term sustainability.”

The appellants believe that the Growth Plan provides a way “in” for the City to consider other types of plans when making decisions that impact building strong communities and economic development.  Specifically, the appellants believe that the City’s Economic Development Plan and the Downtown Sudbury Master Plan ought to have been considered by the City due to this reference in the Growth Plan.

The City maintains that neither Plan needed to have been considered, because neither plan has been incorporated into the official plan.  Further, I would expect that the City would suggest that even if the Northern Growth Plan required the consideration of Downtown Master Plan and the Economic Development Plan as guidance documents on matters related to building strong communities and economic development, the application for rezoning to permit an arena had nothing to do with either building strong communities or economic development – because the decision to locate the arena on the Kingsway had already been made, and the only tests found in the official plan in a) through f) of Policy 2 of Section 4.4 did not require this kind of analysis.

So whether that section of the Preamble of the Growth Plan means that approval authorities have to consider their non-Planning Act plans is kind of a moot point from the City’s perspective, because the decision to go with the Kingsway was already made.

The Provincial Policy Statement

And the same, then, would be true of those strong policy directions found in the PPS that speak to building strong communities, and planning for public service facilities.  The appellants are really hanging their hats on the notion that of course the City can’t not look at those policies in the context of the rezoning application.  And here’s where the City’s case seems to get a little muddled, because rather than holding the line on “they don’t apply because the decision was already made”, the City’s response does try to address some of those PPS policy specifics.  Even the Staff Report prepared prior to Council’s decision assessed the application in terms of some of those policies, including Section 1.1.3 about settlement areas being the focus of growth (the subject lands are within a settlement area), and 1.1.1 g) – ensuring that public service facilities are or will be available to meet current projected needs.

On the other hand, a policy like 1.6.3 that requires consideration of using existing public service facilities before developing a new public service facility wouldn’t need to be included in an assessment of the zoning application, because Council had already decided to create a new public service facility, rather than adaptively re-use the existing facility (and you can see now why Petch has said that Council’s decision on the land use applications was ‘fettered’ by previous decisions of Council).

Checkbox Planning vs. Upholding the Public Interest

In taking a very narrow definition of its role in assessing land use planning applications, the City might ultimately be able to satisfy the LPAT that it has done the bare minimum necessary to meet the LPAT’s test of consistency with the PPS and conformity with the official plan and growth plan.  But what is clear is that this narrow definition considerably fails the public interest when it comes to the appropriate location for public service facilities – in this case, a new community arena.  

But changes to the way that the LPAT will evaluate matters now, rather than how they would have been evaluated at the OMB, could very well work to the City’s advantage here.  At the OMB, the City would have had to have demonstrated consistency with the PPS, conformity with the official plan and growth plan – and it would have had to demonstrate that the decision represented ‘good planning’.  At the LPAT, ‘good planning’ is no longer a test – and as a result, Council having met the technical minimums while ignoring other actual issues might just be enough for the City to eke out a victory here.

But I don’t think that's going to happen.  Because those ‘other issues’ as identified in the urbanMetrics Repor are incredibly substantive – and the City can at no time demonstrate that it ever considered them – whether the decision to locate the arena on the Kingsway was made on June 27, 2017 or not. 

The Responsibilities of Municipal Decision-Makers Re: "Planning Matters"

The appellants will also argue that the a municipal corporation is not a Walmart.  The wording found in Sections 2 and 3 of the Planning Act lays this out quite clearly.  Section 2 requires decision makers, when carrying out responsibilities under the Planning Act, to have regard to a list of provincial interest.  

Section 3(5) similarly requires decisions made by decision-makers  be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement – but note that Section 3(5) does not identify limitations on when decision-makers shall be consistent in the same way that Section 2 does (there is no ‘when carrying out duties under the Act” wording in Section 3(5)).  Therefore, in theory, all decisions of Council are required to be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.  In practice, that’s clearly not always the case – but there is little opportunity for the public to do much about it, generally speaking.

3(5)(a) indicates: “A decision of the council of a municipality, a local board, a planning board, a minister of the Crown and a ministry, board, commission or agency of the government, including the Tribunal, in respect of the exercise of any authority that affects a planning matter shall be consistent with the policy statements issued under subsection (1) that are in effect on the date of the decision.” 

In this case, however, if the City is going to maintain that they didn’t need to look at all of the policies in the PPS that might have otherwise guided the City on selecting the best location for the arena because the decision regarding the location of the arena on the Kingsway had already been made by Council.  But the City is still going to have to demonstrate how that June 27, 2017 decision was consistent with the PPS, in my opinion - even though it is not the decision that is under appeal at the LPAT (there was no opportunity for the public to be involved in that decision-making process at all, and certainly no opportunity to appeal it).  The fact that Council’s first decision was not on a land use application made under the Act does not absolve it from having to be consistent with the PPS.  The Planning Act says nothing about the timing of decisions – only that all decisions that affect a planning matter shall be consistent.

And that includes the decision Council made on June 27, 2017.  Council made this decision knowing that it would affect a planning matter.  Council was fully aware that the Kingsway site would need to be rezoned in order to accommodate an arena (see red underline from this excerpt from the PWC report to Council made on June 27, 2017)

Rezoning Needed - as per the PWC Report to Council - June 2017

As part of the PWC process, planning staff were asked for their input on the locations, and appear to have provided input at least in terms of the official plan (there is no reference to the Provincial Policy Statement in the PWC report – perhaps staff analyzed the PPS too – but if they did, there’s no record of having done so in the PWC report).  

from the PWC Report - June 2017
The report submitted to Council for consideration on June 27, 2017 clearly indicated that the lands on the Kingsway would need to be rezoned prior to an arena use being established.  That there was no public process under the Planning Act leading up to this decision of Council which clearly affected a planning matter, or the lack of an opportunity to appeal to the OMB/LPAT doesn’t change the legislated obligation of Council to make decisions consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.  

And yet, there was no analysis regarding the PPS in front of Council at the time it made a decision on the location of a public service facility.  Council was told only that a rezoning would be needed - from which official plan conformity could be logically extrapolated.  But the age of the City's official plan (2006) means that it itself cannot be considered consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (2014).  Hence the need for the analysis.  

But that didn't happen.

City Trying to get Around the Need for Comprehensive Consideration of the PPS 

And that’s where this whole “decision already made” things breaks down.  Sorry – a municipal council is not Walmart.  Walmart can get around Section 3 of the Planning Act when it makes land use decisions (because Section 3 doesn't apply to Walmart) – but a municipal council can’t (because Section 3 does apply when Council is considering a planning matter).

And isn’t that a good thing?  As someone who supports consideration of strong city-building policies whenever decisions of Council are being made, I think it is.  And with regards to this particular matter, that’s exactly the stunt the City is trying to pull: getting around having to do a comprehensive policy assessment of the proposed use in terms of the Provincial Policy Statement and the official plan by having Council make a land use decision before applications were filed.  

And that’s just not right.  

But the City might still get away with it, due to some pretty fundamental flaws in our new provincial land use process, thanks to the elimination of the OMB.

The Decision that the LPAT has to Consider

There is a problem for the appellants here.  Although the City clearly won’t be able to demonstrate that it considered a full range of PPS policies when Council on June 27, 2017 made the decision to select the Kingsway over the downtown for a new arena, that’s not the decision that was appealed by the appellants.  The LPAT is limited in looking only at the decisions that were made by Council on April 10, 2018 (and arguably the further decisions made by Council on April 24, 2018).

You can see where this goes, though.  Clearly there was never an opportunity for the public to be involved in any decision related to the where a new arena should go.  That decision ought to have been guided by the PPS and the City's official plan - but it wasn't.  Not only was the public not involved in the decision-making process related to a municipal land use matter, the City also appears to have failed in undertaking a complete policy assessment related to the decision prior to it having been made on June 27, 2017.  Petch might try to argue that the City can’t get around its requirements to look at all of the PPS just because it decided to use a different non-Planning Act process to determine where an arena should go, but he’s going to be confronted by the fact that the scope of the LPAT’s jurisdiction might not allow him to make that argument.

As for me, I’ll continue to maintain that since the only time for (possible) public involvement into the location of the arena was at the time of the City’s review of the zoning by-law.   In my opinion, the City's position that it needn’t have assessed the location as it had already made the decision on the location is a complete absurdity, and the full policy weight of the PPS and the City’s own official plan ought to have been assessed by the City at that time – the only time – the City could have assessed it as per the Planning Act: in the lead-up to the April 10, 2018 decisions.

Arena in the Downtown

And finally, on this matter, I’ll say one last thing.  The City of Greater Sudbury’s official plan includes some very strong policies for the redevelopment of the downtown – and specifically identifies the presence of a downtown arena as an example of an amenity that will attract more residential development in the core.  The Plan is chock full of reasons why a strong downtown makes sense, and why Council should be doing what it can to strengthen the core.  And that’s just the City’s official plan.  The Provincial Policy Statement, too, has a lot to say about strong downtowns and how public service facilities ought to be planned for and developed, and where they should be located.  And then there is the Downtown Master Plan, which contains direction regarding an event centre facility.  And finally, the City's Economic Development Plan includes clear and strong direction regarding a downtown arena.  With all of this in mind, Council’s decision on June 27, 2017 stands in stark contrast to the strong policy direction articulated in the Provincial Policy Statement and the official plan, and the direction provided to the City via the Downtown Master Plan and the Economic Development Plan (both of which were developed with a significant level of public consultation, and the latter of which had a champion on Council in the form of Mayor Brian Bigger - who ultimately supported the Kingsway location for the arena).

Further, for the City to disregard the identified impacts that moving the arena out of the downtown will have on the downtown, as per the urbanMetrics Report, by suggesting that the decision on the zoning application has nothing to do with the downtown because the location was already determined by Council through another process – well, that really flies in the face of what municipal planning is all about, in my opinion.  Planning isn’t about making applications work from a technical standpoint.  It’s about having vision and accomplishing outcomes, and looking forward to nudging a community towards a more sustainable built form – in the fiscal and economic interests of the municipal corporation and its taxpayers.

What's Coming Up:

In my final post related to the Big Issues that the LPAT will be asked to rule on, I'll take a look at the cases arguing in favour of the need for a Comprehensive Review (appellants) and against the need for a Comprehensive Review (City).  I hope to publish that blogpost prior to the upcoming Case Management Conference scheduled for November 6, 2018 - but it seems that my free time is being eaten up by what is becoming a very serious game the City is playing with me related to these appeals.  

I'd rather not go into the details given the personal nature of this 'game', but suffice it to say that I feel that the City is continuing its ongoing campaign of intimidation and public humilation that it appears to have been engaged in with many citizens in our community who have spoken out against these development proposals.  I may write more about this - although I would rather not.  I am, however, learning a lesson that when you get involved with things at this level, even if you think that you are participating in a legislatively prescribed public process, if you're fighting City Hall they fight to hurt and win.

If in my next post about this you note the removal of the word (Unrepresented) in brackets, suffice to say that the matter of which I write about here has not been resolved.

(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)