In the run-up to the election Ecology Ottawa asked all candidates a series of questions on important environmental issues.
Here’s how Tobi Nussbaum 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: YES – Ottawa should design its transportation infrastructure to encourage public transit, walking and cycling. I have been an advocate for complete streets and have written about the need for Beechwood Avenue to become one (see here: http://www.votetobi.ca/content-engine/2014/1/28/ottawa-citizen-op-ed-the-beechwood-avenue-renaissance). Street design also has positive benefits for neighbourhoods, contributing to a liveable and sustainable city and better main streets (I’ve also written about that: http://www.votetobi.ca/content-engine/2014/7/ottawa-citizen-op-ed-time-to-reduce-ottawas-speed-limits-by-tobi-nussbaum). Neighbourhoods such as Hintonburg and Little Italy have been transformed through sidewalk-widening, street repair and other improvements to the pedestrian experience.
Q: If elected, will you work to ensure that all new roads and road renewal projects integrate Complete Streets principles?
A: YES – However, not all streets are candidates for complete streets so it is important to distinguish those streets that act as connectors from complete streets themselves. For example, I advocated at city hall for St. Patrick Street to include bike lanes between King Edward and Cobourg. Although that stretch is not a candidate for a complete street, it is a critical connector between Beechwood and the Market. Complete streets play an important role in reducing congestion: cities that successfully cope with traffic have strong public transit systems and streets designed for people to walk and cycle
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: YES – While keeping tax increases at or below the rate of inflation, I would explore ways to increase and accelerate investments in walking and cycling. It is important to emphasize the economic benefits of active transportation. While the City estimates the cost of driving to be 71 cents a kilometre (a combination of infrastructure costs, user costs and social costs such as pollution and congestion), transit comes in at 60 cents a kilometre, walking 20 cents and cycling a mere 16 cents a kilometre.
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?
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: YES – And more. Having failed to meet its previous objectives (to reduce GHGs over 8 years by 20 percent by 2012 from 1990 levels) it is indefensible for the City to now decrease its level of ambition (to reduce GHGs over 10 years by 12 percent by 2024 from 2012 levels assuming certain population growth projections). But this is in fact what it has done. Moreover, the city’s plan shifts the burden of reduction entirely to the community level, and establishes no emissions target for city operations – the sector the city controls most directly.
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: YES – The plan is very light on how the city will meet the commitments. The five basic buckets set up for mitigation give no real sense of priority, costs or expected reductions. We need greater specificity and ambition. So-called PACE initiatives – property-assessed clean energy – should be piloted in Ottawa and eventually include commercial and industrial sectors as well (I wrote about them here: http://www.votetobi.ca/content-engine/2014/1/28/op-ed-one-lesson-ottawa-can-take-from-toronto). In 2004, the City of Ottawa made a commitment “to…be the cleanest and smartest city in Canada in…the management of our energy use habits.” More needs to be done to achieve that objective.
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: YES – Ottawa is home to plentiful water resources which we should not squander through lack of attention or mismanagement. Instead, we should aim to have the cleanest waterways in Canada – befitting the nation’s capital and the importance of water to Canada’s history and identity. To succeed, Ottawa will need to work together with other cities and towns in Ontario and Quebec which also border our great rivers, conservation authorities and the provincial governments. The establishment of watershed (not just local) action plans would be an important vehicle to do so.
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: YES – The City must promote and in certain instances, itself install, green infrastructure. For example, tree planting should be mandated and costed in road construction projects. The benefits are many: increased urban forest, slower vehicular speed, aesthetic improvement, more permeable surface areas and pedestrian comfort. Another tool to be tried are incentives such as for green roof construction and the use of permeable pavement and rain gardens. Real savings in the construction and operation of infrastructure can be realized by taking advantage of the city’s natural capital and systems.
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: YES – The City should continue to encourage residents and businesses to further reduce their use of water. Incentives such as neighbourhood water reduction challenges should be considered. Water meters should be placed where residents can monitor their usage, and apps that track consumption could be piloted. On top of the ecological advantages, water conservation has clear economic benefits to residents, via lower bills, and to the city, through lower costs of water treatment and delivery.
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 – Rebuilding our natural green canopy in a city known for its green spaces would be a great way for Ottawa to mark Canada’s 150th celebration. Trees play a truly valuable role by absorbing carbon dioxide, shading people and buildings during warm summer months, contributing to a more attractive city and softening the urban build environment. Not least, trees add immeasurably to a natural environment that so many of us enjoy in our daily lives here in Ottawa.
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: YES – I will support the development of a strong strategy, and if it is wisely crafted, the required investments. In particular, the city needs to ensure that the urban boundary is used effectively to protect existing forests. We are extremely fortunate to have such an extensive forest cover within the city limits but have the responsibility to ensure it is not lost as the city grows.
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: YES – If the current Ontario Energy Board process to consult with the Ontario public and prepare for its role as an intervener at the National Energy Board hearings does not adequately cover Ottawa’s concerns and interests, the City should supplement that process to ensure its specific issues are examined and evaluated.
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: YES – A failure to address risks to communities, climate and the safety and security of our water would result in my opposition to the pipeline.
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: YES – In light of the fact that the City of Ottawa would be the largest metropolitan area through which the existing pipeline conversion would take place, City Hall needs to participate as an intervener in the review.