In the run-up to the election Ecology Ottawa asked all candidates a series of questions on important environmental issues.
Here’s how Stephen Blais answered.
Many Ottawa streets are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians and too many neighbourhoods lack affordable and convenient public transportation options. Badly designed streets discourage active and healthy lifestyles and limit transportation choices. In 2013, City Council adopted a Complete Streets policy that will put more emphasis on designing streets for all ages, abilities and users (pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, as well as cars).
Q: If elected, will you commit to prioritizing pedestrian, cycling and affordable public transit infrastructure over automobile infrastructure in meeting the future growth in travel demand in the urban area?
A: It is important to consider a mix of all forms of transportation infrastructure when approving new growth projects. This is why in Cumberland we are building multiuse pathways and bike lanes along major roads such as Trim Rd. and Brian Coburn Blvd. and encouraging pedestrian connectivity in the design of new subdivisions. All new roads in Cumberland have been built with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in mind.
Q: If elected, will you work to ensure that all new roads and road renewal projects integrate Complete Streets principles?
A: I have also begun the process of building the longest cycling, walking, jogging, rollerblading, etc. corridor in Cumberland Ward. Once complete, this completely segregated corridor will link one side of Orléans to the next, while providing a safe, environmentally friendly and complete option for all users regardless if you are commuting or simply enjoying the fresh air.
Q: The City’s new transportation master plan increases funding for cycling infrastructure but delays many investments for over 15 years. If elected, will you work to increase the overall level of investment and accelerate the pace of implementation?
A: My record of accelerating important infrastructure projects such as LRT to Orléans and recreational opportunities is clear and irrefutable. Any opportunity I get to accelerate important projects for the residents of Orléans and Cumberland I will take without reservation.
About 75 percent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from activities that occur in cities, and municipalities have direct or indirect control over about half of these emissions. In 2014 the City of Ottawa adopted a new Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan.
Q: Do you agree that human-induced climate change is an urgent issue and all levels of government have a role to play in helping to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions?
A: As a life-long champion of LRT, which now has Stage 2 coming to Orléans, investing in public transit to reduce vehicle emissions has been a priority of mine.I have also called on upper levels of government to help us build HOV lanes with incentives to reduce the number of single-car drivers.I have also been quite supportive of the City’s growing fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles, including the purchase of its first electric plug-in car, a 2012 Chevrolet Volt.
Q: If elected, will you push for the full implementation of the City of Ottawa’s Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, including items identified in the plan for the 2015 budget?
A: I am fully committed to promoting and investing in public transit to reduce the number of vehicles on our streets. Furthermore, a comprehensive economic development plan for Orléans and Cumberland that attracts more high paying, high quality jobs to the area will further help reduce the number people commuting into the City.This is why I championed the Orléans Community Improvement Plan to help attract businesses to Orléans.
Q: The Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan establishes the modest goal of reducing Ottawa’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent per capita by 2024, but leaves open a lot of space for new initiatives to emerge in the coming years. If elected, will you push for actions aimed at surpassing the current goal?
A: As someone who suffers from asthma, I am all too familiar with the need to continue improving our air quality. From planting trees to reducing congestion, I am committed to looking at all options that will help improve Ottawa’s air quality.
Clean Water and Healthy Watersheds:
Every time it rains, a cocktail of contaminants (including bacteria, chemicals, fuels and heavy metals) washes off our streets and runs straight into our rivers and streams via the underground storm-sewer system. Ecology Ottawa wants the City of Ottawa to follow-through on its commitment to develop a Water Environment Strategy that improves stormwater management, invests in green infrastructure, reduces flooding, protects our streams, and makes it safer to swim and fish in our rivers.
Q: The City of Ottawa is developing a Water Environment Strategy that will provide a framework for action to promote clean drinking water, reduce the toxins going into our rivers, and protect communities and streams from flooding associated with severe weather. If elected, will you support the development of a strong strategy and prioritize the investments necessary to realize the strategy’s goals?
A: Like so many of you, I was appalled when I learned of raw sewage flooding into the Ottawa River. As such, we’ve acted to significantly to reduce these occurrences and to develop a long-term plan to eliminate it all together. As a frequent visitor to Petrie Island with my son, this initiative is one that deserves all levels of government’s utmost attention. I am proud to have supported every vote on this issue. I am pleased with the Provincial commitment to fund the Ottawa River Action Plan and hope that the Federal government will match this commitment very soon. A clean Ottawa River is a legacy I want to pass onto my son and future generations of Ottawa residents.
Q: The April 2014 Ontario Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) instructs planning authorities to promote green infrastructure measures (such as parklands, stormwater systems, wetlands, street trees, urban forests, natural channels, permeable surfaces, and green roofs) in order to reduce costs, protect ecosystems and adapt to extreme weather events. If elected, will you prioritize green infrastructure in addressing the City of Ottawa’s water management needs?
A: As you likely know, as a city councillor, the planting of tens of thousands of trees to enhance our parks and roadways has been a priority of mine. We’ve planted tens of thousands of trees in Cumberland in the last four years. 1. http://www.stephenblais.ca/en/news/item/blais-announces-tree-planting-for-earth-day 2. http://www.stephenblais.ca/en/news/item/hundreds-of-new-trees-to-be-planted-in-orleans We’ve also protected natural areas in the east end to help beautify our surroundings, while at the same time, benefiting our natural environment. More notably, I have also been instrumental in protecting natural areas such as Lalande Conservation Park. http://www.stephenblais.ca/en/news/item/blais-unveils-lalande-conservation-park. Furthermore, as a member of the South Nation Conservation Authority board I have championed the conservation of important natural features and have fought for the necessary funding to protect critical environmental features in Ottawa and throughout the region.
Q: The production of clean water for public consumption has been falling over the past decade in Ottawa (ie., we are using less water). Between 2004 and 2013, the amount of clean water produced and used inside Ottawa fell from over 125,000 million litres to about 100,000 million litres (not including private wells). If elected will you commit to continuing this trend by prioritizing water conservation measures that reduce usage by 3 percent per year?
A: I am and will remain a strong advocate of building LEED certified facilities to save energy and water. And where it has been appropriate to conserve water usage, I have been a strong proponent. Opportunities such as the collection and use of brown water in new facilities and buildings are examples that we should take more often.
Healthy Urban Trees:
Q: The Emerald Ash Borer infestation is killing millions of trees across Ottawa, including about 25 percent of the trees in the urban area. In response, organizations and individuals, including the City of Ottawa, are coming together to set the collective goal of planting a million trees in our nation’s capital as part of our contribution to Canada’s 150 birthday celebration in 2017. If elected, will you support and prioritize investments towards this goal?
A: YES – I have always been a strong proponent of planting trees. Like I said earlier in the survey, I have personally led many initiatives in this regard.
Q: The City of Ottawa has announced its intention to develop a new Forest Management Strategy. If elected, will you support the development of a strong strategy and the investments necessary to realize the strategy’s goals?
A: I am theoretically in support of a strong Forest Management Strategy; however, I would like to see the strategy before committing to it. It may go too far, or not far enough.
Proposed Oil Pipeline Threatens Ottawa Water and Communities:
TransCanada wants to move more than a million barrels a day of tar sands oil through the City of Ottawa and across the World Heritage Rideau River on its way to export terminals in eastern Canada. The proposed “Energy East” pipeline puts communities and waterways in danger all along the pipeline route.
Q: Do you think the City of Ottawa should conduct a thorough and independent assessment of the risks and costs that the proposed Energy East pipeline poses to the health of Ottawa’s communities and water?
A: The pipeline will undergo a thorough Environmental Assessment process. As an important stakeholder, the City of Ottawa should participate in that process and provide comments and feedback to the appropriate authorities on the terms of reference, as well as the draft and final EA’s to ensure area concerns are taken into account.
Q: Would you oppose the Energy East Pipeline if it was demonstrated that it threatened the health of Ottawa’s water, climate and communities?
A: I learned long ago never to prejudge the outcome of Environmental Assessments.
Q: Should the City of Ottawa intervene in the National Energy Board review of the proposed Energy East pipeline in order to ensure that the interests of the people of Ottawa are well represented?
A: As I stated earlier, the City should participate in the process as an important stakeholder just as we do for other projects that fall under either provincial or federal environmental jurisdictions.