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

Active transportation forum a great success

Last night’s Active Transportation Forum was a great success, bringing together a lot of different groups, from Oak Bay, the CRD, and the school district. Despite the cold weather, there were over 50 people in attendance, up from last years. With the theme of “Connecting Locally, Connecting Regionally”, with a major goal to just get the major players in a room together. Too often these plans are considered in isolation, even within an organization (see the CRD’s various transportation plans:  Regional Corridors and the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan – not to mention the old TravelChoices). I wonder where else the head of the CRD’s PCMP, Sue Hallett; the chief architect of the new Oak Bay High, Rod Windjack; and the chair of Oak Bay’s Community Initiatives Committee, Councillor Herbert; were all in the same room listening to each other?

Success for the event can be credited to Gerald Smeltzer, one of my fellow directors at the Community Association of Oak Bay, and the various people, including myself, who he pulled in to help. In the next day or two I expect Gerald to post a great deal of information on the forum on the Community Association’s page, so stay tuned for that.

GG2010: Roger & Sara talk Metro Van vs CRD

Early yesterday morning two speakers with similar jobs but in very different regions stepped up to the podium to share just how different their regions, separated only by the Salish Sea (nee Georgia Strait) are tackling climate change and all the other attendant challenges these growing regions face.

Metro Van’s air quality head, Roger Quan, led off, talking about how the then-GVRD had being “doing climate change before climate change was cool”, talking about air as “our common ground” and how their mandate to control various aspects of air quality — which they have done for over 15 years — directly led in to the sustainability initiatives that the region has embarked on since then. Roger explained that part of the challenge lies in how little of the region’s emissions the region actually has control over. The two biggest sources of pollution are under the mandate of local councils or other agencies, namely transportation (controlled by Translink and the local councils) and buildings (controlled by local councils), leaving Metro Vancouver to “work around the edges”, as it were. What they control is a great deal of the utilities in the region, and are thus looking at heat recovery for their sewers and hydro from the Capilano reservoir, for example. They also do lot of advocacy work, both to senior levels of government to ask them to speed up the process and to local businesses on how to become sustainable faster. With the organization of regional district itself, they also try and model sustainability, having set a “shadow” price on carbon of $25/tonne and are working on embedding a sustainability lens in all the work they do.

The CRD’s Climate Action Coordinator, Sarah Webb, then brought the perspective of the capital region. Unlike Metro Vancouver, the CRD lacks the large utilities under their control, so more of their work is focused on the advocacy side, adding that they need to push local councils to make some of the hard changes they have yet to do. Partly the CRD can do this by adding capacity, both with systems and with people, of which Sarah is one of them (the other side of her office is a half-time person, so she lacks people power). But what does Sarah see as critical to allowing the climate change goals to be met? Vision of the possible, management processes and other systems, people (and champions), money, and possibly most critically, time to “steer the ship’s course”, as she put it.

With the loss of the regional districts major planning powers in 1983 and the challenge that they are only slowly regrowing that capacity and regulatory ability, both Roger and Sarah pushed how the regional districts can bring people to the table and be good models of what needs to be done, especially for mildly-reluctant councillors and mayors. And while neither regional district has the power or people required to do job, they can leverage other divisions within their districts (such CRD Planning’s Pedestrian & Cycling Plan) or other organizations within the region (such as Translink in Vancouver). Hopefully it will be enough.

Monday Quick Links

There are a few interesting announcements today from the CRD and the Federal Government regarding communities, planning and green space.

The CRD is looking for people to sit on their Regional Parks citizen advisory panel for the new Regional Parks Strategic Plan. If you are interested, the site has documents with more information and the deadline for applying is June 12th, 2009.

The new CRD Pedestrian and Bicycling Master Plan has its launch event next week. Curiously, it doesn’t have a website yet, so to get a better idea of what this plan with entail, see the Request for Proposals (PDF). The CRD has selected Alta Planning & Design out of Portland to do the initial stages of the work. Alta has done some great work all over the US and Canada and they are very focused on planning for bicycling and walking, so I look forward to they can bring to our great region. The initial report is due this fall with the larger plan including network maps done by Spring 2010.

The federal government also dropped another tiny little bit of money in the bucket today, with a $4.2 million announcement of the EQuilibriumâ„¢ Communities Initiative. And yes, they did trademark the name. So sayeth the press release:

The new $4.2- million, EQuilibriumâ„¢ Communities Initiative will seek to improve community planning and develop healthy sustainable communities that are energy-efficient, economically viable and vibrant places to live.

Colour me not impressed. $4.2 million is nothing. The new CRD plan above will cost $20,000 – $30,000 just for the inital report with the 2nd and 3rd stages being considerably more. I suspect this might just be a feel good thing for Lisa Raitt, better known the whole Chalk River “sexy” isotopes statement, bad-mouthing a fellow minister on tape and leaving documents behind at a newspaper issue.

(Hattip to the Livable Region Blog in Vancouver for the link)

I am off to council tonight, where the agenda pretty normal. It is the season for block party requests and there are the usual rezoning requests. Also up is a letter from the Oak Bay Marine Group regarding the ongoing saga of the getting the Sea Rescue Society a new boathouse.