Canadian Urbanism releases 10 points for sustainable cities

Cities in Canada get a rough ride. They get less than their other OECD-brethren and are expected to do more. Toronto even pays for welfare cases, courtesy of Mike Harris and his “Common Sense” revolution. Given we have an election campaign running, the Council for Canadian Urbanism (Conseil d’ Urbanisme Canadien en francais) released their 10 point “call-to-action” today:

1) A progressive and influential National Urban Policy, that recognizes the critical role of the success of cities in Canada’s future.

2) A National Housing Policy that addresses the acute and growing need for affordable housing.

3) A National Transportation Policy that particularly addresses the need to expand active, cost-effective and sustainable forms of transportation, such as transit, rail, walking, and biking.

4) Effective Federal programs that will make us a world leader in combating climate change. There is a need to align the above three national policies in achieving this goal.

5) A national dialogue involving the Federal Government, Provinces and Cities on the development of new sustainable, long-term funding and legislative tools for urban resiliency.

6) Future Federal funding and stimulus programs focused on spending that supports urban resiliency and “smart growth” (i.e. complete and compact communities, expanded transit and rail, renewing aging urban infrastructure, enhancing cultural and civic amenities, etc), rather than on “shovel-ready projects”. A corresponding de-prioritization of, or halt to, stimulus funding that promotes auto-dependency and urban sprawl.

7) Tax reforms that support full-cost accounting of housing choices (which would reveal the well-researched and well-understood economic advantages of compact, walkable communities and sustainable transportation modes that require less infrastructure and lower public expense).

8 ) Federal tax incentives to promote the construction of purpose-built rental housing.

9) Reinstatement of the long-form census to enable reliable planning to better understand, and meet, future needs.

10) Electoral district reform that addresses democratic and fair representation of the population in urban areas, and recognizes the increasing urbanization of Canada.

(h/t to Price Tags)

Random links o’ the morning

A visit to the new Oak Bay Bistro

After Monday’s council session I got the chance to visit the new Oak Bay Bistro and try out the food, and I came away favourably impressed. As the Times Colonist reports, they have taken over part of the old Blethering Place, on the corner of Monterey and Oak Bay Avenue.

We were seated promptly, although there seemed to be a great deal of staff on for such a small space. I suspect they are running larger shifts than normal so that they have some leeway if a huge crowd comes in. On the way in I did notice one jarring detail: the door. It is a very modern design and it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the faux-Tudor building. They could have done something a bit more in keeping and still let plenty of light in.

To drink, I ordered a Driftwood Fat Tug India Pale Ale, something you can’t get in most liquor stores, and it came, although it did take a bit of time. Glass was chilled and beer was at a good temperature, which is nice. Brand-new equipment certainly makes a difference, although it was clear the bar tender actually knew how to draw a pint, as the head was perfect. For dinner I ordered one of their small plates, an albacore tuna seared in a bed of greens. It was tasty and it food came out quickly. The dish was also cold, but that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. This would make a good appetizer for someone more hungry than I was the other night.

Anyway, it was not a bad place to go. The food was good but not spectacular and the service likewise. Prices, $6 for the pint and $8 for the small dish, were in line with what you would pay at any other place. Overall, a good addition to the community. But don’t just trust me. Check out their Urban Spoon review page, their Facebook page, or their Vibrant Victoria thread.

CRD seeking EcoStar nominees

The CRD is seeking people or projects as nominees for their annual EcoStar awards, which this year was expanded to seven categories: Community Environmental Leader,Youth Leader, Water Stewardship, Waste Reduction, Climate Action, Land Stewardship, and Integrated Watershed Management. 2010 winners included municipal governments like the District of Central Saanich, individuals such as Caleigh Inman or Debra Morse, and businesses like the Truffles Group.

The deadline is April 7th, and you can check out more at

Help plan the future of UVic

Come help plan the future of UVic over the next two weeks at two different weeks. First up, on March 17th, is BC Transit’s open house on a new campus plan. It runs in the Michele Pujol room of the SUB between 11am-2pm and 4pm-6pm. See the poster (PDF) for the full details.

On the 21st UVic will be Oak Bay Council meeting for a presentation of the new UVic strategic plan, currently in the planning stages. This is part of a committee of the whole meeting so it will fairly informal as these things go. Join UVic and Oak Bay Council at 7:30pm in the council chambers of the municipal hall. See the ad for the full details.

FCM Sustainable Communites wrap-up

The FCM’s 2011 Sustainable Communities Conference is over and all the delegates have gone home. I thought I would post a few more thoughts about the conference:

  • I had a great “corridor conference” with a number of people, including Nicole Tomes, from the City of Cochrane, AB. I met her at Gaining Ground 2010 (a conference which got volunteering right – see below), so it was great to run into her again. She is doing great things with the Cochrane Sustainability Plan, a well-written and well-designed piece of work.
  • I went to the session on the Green Municipal Fund and I was pleased to see that the FCM is now taking implementation seriously. They have a push to actually fund projects with shovels and all that, not just creating additional places for dust to collect.
  • It was amusing to hear discussions of how to fund sewage via a user-pay method. It had never occurred to me that this wasn’t the norm now. (For context, Oak Bay just changed so that 80% of the sewage bill is per-unit and 20% a fixed cost per household)
  • The recent push by the big disease-specific charities to target the causes of their specific illness was out in evidence here: Heart & Stroke Foundation has a big campaign about changing community design to keep kids and communities healthy. Their session on Thursday was packed and filled with great info. (This ties in well with the recent push by the Canadian Cancer Society to advocate for cosmetic pesticide bans.)

And now the bad: volunteer management. I have volunteered for a lot conferences, festivals, and organizations. While I was working for Luminara, my production coordinator duties meant helping manage volunteers. So it is with this knowledge that I say that this amongst the least-well organized conference for volunteers that I have seen.

An example: When we arrived, we were told we weren’t going to get into the conference for free, the usual reward for providing free work. They later relented and “offered” us one free day, “a value of $300”. Apparently they had no experience with actual volunteers. FCM thought we were municipal staff who were getting paid to be there. Sorry, but no. All I can say is that I truly hope that this wasn’t anybody’s first conference they had volunteered at. One bad experience could put them off for life. Overall, I got the impression that FCM had very little experience dealing with volunteers.

Still, even with the issues with the volunteer management,  this was a great conference. It was a great mix of people from the public and private sector. And the energy was great.

FCM Sustainable Conference mini-update

I have been having a great deal of fun attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Sustainable Communities Conference this week, talking with all sorts of people from Nunavut to Newfoundland.

  • Registering people, despite being a largely dull job, was actually fairly interesting, because you get little 30-sec bios of where they are from, something that happening there, etc.
  • A great highlight was a bike tour of various rain gardens and low-impact developments — including the CRD Building and the Atrium — with the Fraser Basin Council‘s Angela Evans and the CRD along with 11 people from across Canada all at various skill levels with bicycling. It was interesting see some of our infrastructure from a new cyclist’s eyes, especially the abysmal Johnson St. Bridge (it just can’t go fast enough) and just how good some of it is, including the superlative Galloping Goose (although they tended to right two abreast, not realizing that this wasn’t just a recreational cycling path).
  • Talking funding of active transportation with the FCM’s Green Municipal Fund people, Transport Canada, and Infrastructure Canada.
  • Listening to CropLife Canada spin that they are not an evil GMO-pushing multinational-front that hates pesticide bans. Honest! They just want “science-based” decision-making. Preferably at the federal level where they can buy the votes to prevent pesticide/herbicide bans like Oak Bay’s from ever seeing the light of day.

I am off today to see more, if the 12-hour days don’t get me first.

OakBay coucil doesn’t reject sewage mitigation

Despite what Oak Bay News reported, Oak Bay Council did not reject mitigation of the proposed sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, rather they rejected the “community benefits agreement” which would have built things like bike lanes. What they didn’t reject was mitigation, much like what they did at the Currie Road pump station near Windsor Park wherein they hid it as a residential house. Mildly ironic that it is a picture of that very pump station that Oak Bay News used to illustrate their article.

People for a Paved Planet need your vote

People for a Paved Planet are looking for a few good votes to let them know exactly who should win the 2010 Pavey Awards. Contenders include Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong and Langford Mayor Stew Young. Vote now, vote often.

(h/t to Senora Godfrey. Although they don’t take credit on the site, it appears that the Dogwood Initiative is behind this. Telltale include the file named, as seen in the source, and the fact that their Vimeo account uploaded the video above.)

Council delays pesticide bylaw again

Oak Bay isn’t going to get a pesticide in 2010 after all. After some testy debate, Council decided Monday night to table the bylaw, which bans cosmetic pesticide use by the public, after Councillor Ney raised a pair of questions about exempting the municipality and who gets to issue pesticide use permits.

The questions began with Ney wondering why why municipality was exempting itself from the bylaw, choosing to stick with a pesticide-reduction scheme called “integrated pest management”. She noted that Parks & Rec maintains many of the playing fields in the municipality and that reducing children’s exposure to harmful chemicals is one of the stated reasons for enacting the ban. This received a slightly annoyed response from Councillor Braithwaite, who sits on the Parks & Rec Commission, saying that Ney had been invited to the commission meetings where the bylaw was discussed and she “was sorry that you weren’t able to attend.”

Ney also wondered why the approving officer was the Manager of Parks & Rec, not council itself, as is common with other municipalities (and the draft CRD bylaw which Oak Bay’s is modelled on.)  This may have been an effort to take items off council’s plate — a recent example would be the changing of the boulevard planting process that allows staff to process them — but may be premature, given that the boulevard planting process was generating quite a bit of work and, according to Ney, Esquimalt has received zero requests since enacting their bylaw.

The objection that wasn’t raised last night, but has been brought up before, is the inclusion of the loophole that allows pesticide application where a pest infestation “will cause significant economic loss”. This lovely little inclusion comes to Oak Bay via Saanich, which included it in their bylaw due to their mixed urban/rural setting, something that Oak Bay does not have (Oak Bay’s one farm is in the Uplands and is basically a tax dodge).

Creating giant loopholes in the pesticide bylaw isn’t just an Oak Bay or Saanich problem. The Canadian Cancer Society, which is working aggressively to get bans enacted, strongly criticized the City of Victoria’s bylaw in 2007 for not keeping the requirement to publicly post notices when pesticides are used and for exempting the municipality.

So into 2011 the bylaw gets pushed, but don’t expect any bylaw passed at that meeting to be final. Oak Bay Council has been tinkering with the Tree Protection Bylaw for quite some time now (almost a half dozen revisions in four years) and this bylaw is likely to be the same.