Q & A with St. Catharines Environmental Alliance

Q & A with St. Catharines Environmental Alliance

As you know, climate change has been identified as the number 1 crisis facing humanity, and in April of 2019 the City of St. Catharines declared a Climate Emergency. What place does that hold on your priority list, and what measures do you plan to take to fight climate change? Would you strive to have a robust climate change strategy in place in your first term?

I believe that climate change is the largest threat to our health and wellness. As a city, we are obligated to ensure St. Catharines residents can lead healthy lives.  The City approved its Climate Adaptation Plan in 2021, has completed the first three steps and is in the process of implementing the plan’s action items.  This plan is intended to be a living document, as adaptation of best practices are continuously evolving along with climate data and context. I look to the experts to guide us and help us update the plan over the next term of council.

It has been shown that by managing our natural assets to work for us, governments can decrease costs and increase services, while enhancing the ability to adapt to climate change. Do you support a Natural Asset Management Plan, and do you believe that putting a dollar value on services provided by nature should be integrated into our future planning and management practices?

I fully support integrating a Natural Asset Management Plan into the City’s Corporate Asset Management Plan. The biggest step we can take is to see our tree canopy and other green infrastructure as an asset, just like our roads, sidewalks, water systems and city owned facilities. The lifespan of many trees extends well beyond our roads and sidewalks, we can no longer consider them an afterthought. 

Would you support new municipal policies that require complete transparency and require public input on any and all issues that have an environmental impact?

I believe that the city is very transparent when it comes to implementing policies and regularly seeks out public input on all issues, specifically through EngageSTC.  This is something I will continue to support. I do think that the City can do a better job of communicating information to residents and I would strongly support improving those lines of communication.

Give us your thoughts on what you consider to be the City’s most important environmental issues?

I think the biggest issue is the impacts of extreme weather events.  Whether it is massive snowfalls in the winter, powerful rain storms, and droughts. We are experiencing them more frequently as weather patterns are impacted by climate change. We are not fully prepared to deal with these events. As a Council we need to be willing to invest in ways to deal with and prepare for extreme weather, including updating the technology City staff use to track events so they can respond effectively.

How would you propose that we bridge the gap between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation activities?

The City’s Climate Adaptation Plan isn’t just about adapting to climate change it includes clear steps we as a City can take to lead by example to mitigate our impact on the environment. To bridge the gap we need to make sure that we allocate the budget to:

  • incorporate climate change into the Corporate Asset Management Plan, develop a green reserve fund, including seeking available funding from different levels of government, and non-government grants to advance climate change efforts 
  • continue to enhance and maintain municipal shoreline protection by following the recommendations of the St. Catharines Shoreline Review
  • update and implement the Pollution Prevention and Control plan to reflect current best practices to reduce water pollution from combined sewer overflows

How do you feel about mainstreaming climate change mitigation into planning and land use?

I fully support this and believe that the city has done a good job of incorporating climate change into our planning and land use.  The Community Improvement Plan provides financial incentives to offset the cost of environmental site remediation, encourages developers to incorporate innovative green technologies and stormwater management solutions for new developments by including green roofs, solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and permeable pavement. Like the City’s Climate Adaptation Plan, our planning documents should be living documents that adapt over time as we learn new ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The City has set a goal of achieving a 30% tree canopy by 2030. What are your thoughts on a private property tree by-law & what steps we can take to conserve our existing canopy? I.E.to protect and maintain existing and newly planted trees

I think the biggest step is considering trees and green infrastructure an asset. By doing this it would allow the City to shift some costs of planting trees into the capital budget and allocate funds from our operational budget to tree maintenance and management.  I would also like the city to adopt the 3-30-300  Rule: 3 trees of a decent size can be seen from every home, 30% tree canopy cover in every neighbourhood and each home is within 300m of a park or green space. This will help give clear direction to the planting of new trees.  I am hesitant about a private tree by-law at this time because until the city can confidently say we are properly maintaining and managing our tree canopy, I’m uncomfortable with a different standard for residents.  Once the city has a clear and active tree maintenance and management plan, I would be willing to revisit a private tree bylaw.

We all know that development and infilling are necessary. For future new developments, what percent do you feel should be affordable housing? Explain.

I fully support the adoption of inclusionary zoning in the city, but when it comes to a percentage, I cannot give a specific number.  The City of Toronto is phasing in their percentage over the next 8 years, with varying numbers depending on the area of the city and on the local housing needs.  We need to make sure that as a City we get the number right to meet our current and future needs.

I also strongly support adding all types of housing to increase the overall housing stock with a focus on redeveloping and developing along our transit corridors and close to amenities.  The Warbler Place Urban Village project in Welland at the Seaway Mall is an incredibly great example of how redevelop 420,000 square feet of asphalt parking lot and 130,000 square feet of surplus building to create 1300 new homes that are within a 10 minute walk of a transit hub, shopping, a library, and walking and biking trails. This will add $400 million dollars in increased tax assessment that can go to improving natural environment, parks and services.  The homes at Warbler Place Urban Village offer rental units, rent to own and full ownership.  We need to attract developments like this to our city.