A Few Centuries, and 150 Years

Most of us will soon be participating in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Overall we can be mostly proud of the society that has evolved from our European and colonial past. Some First Nations are reminding us, though, that Indigenous people have no reason to cheer about an imposed system that continues to have devastating social and economic consequences for their communities.

I took a look at some maps in the Economic Atlas of Ontario from the Ontario Archives, which dramatically illustrates how “Indians” systematically vanished from our consciousness in the century prior to Confederation. The following slides contain four maps spanning 1792 to 1882.

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We can hope that in this 150th year of Canada that history is finally starting to bend in the direction of a more just future. In symbolic recognition, the summer solstice, June 21, is celebrated as National Aboriginal Day, and will be renamed National Indigenous People’s Day. More importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has presented a full catalogue of recommendations to address numerous injustices affecting Indigenous people. (visit Reconciliation Canada)

I think it is both startling and shameful that, over my lifetime in the 20th century, I have had virtually no meaningful contact with Indigenous people. So in that context, it is particularly important and meaningful that Innisfil’s annual event, Celebrate Lake Simcoe, is partnered this year with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre to hold a traditional Pow wow at Innisfil Beach Park in conjunction with other activities later in July.

Travel Ontario website describes a pow wow as a “sacred gathering of Indigenous peoples to honour the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling.” According to Wikipedia, “The word is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader“.

The 2017 Celebrate Lake Simcoe event takes place on Saturday, July 22. Admission is free with a Food Bank donation. At 5:30 a.m. First Nations participants will conduct a sunrise ceremony, Blessing of the Water. A traditional Pow Wow begins at noon with a Grand Entry.

Celebrate Lake Simcoe also includes art, culture and environmental booths and a lake swims of 1, 3 and 5 km. Swim registrants are invited. Visit the website at Celebrate Lake Simcoe 2017

Rotary Walk & Run June 3 Supports Innisfil Trails

Rotary Club of Innisfil has been instrumental in fostering the development of a public trail through a 55 acre woodlot behind the Town Hall and Recreation Complex extending to the 7th Line. The Rotary Trail project consists of “a series of walking and biking trails that will be open to the community and visitors, as well as create a Living Classroom of our local ecosystem our students can come to explore.”  An initial portion of the trail was officially opened last fall and Rotary members are eager to further develop the project.

According to press reports, the County of Simcoe will link the trail to Alcona through a walking/cycling path planned along Innisfil Beach Road when it is widened. “There will also be a link to other County trail systems such as Simcoe and Huronia Trails and the Trans Canada Trail.”

Rotary is organizing this year’s Walk and Run at Innisfil Recreation Complex on Saturday June 3 to help raise funds for this ambitious trail project. (The total funding target is $2,000,000). In the past 2 years the Fun Run has contributed $8,000 toward the trails project. Additional funding has come from the the Trillium Foundation and the Inspiring Innisfil grant program.

This year, participants meet at the Innisfil Recreation Complex, registration starting at 7:30 a.m.; warm-up at 9 a.m. for a 5 km Fun Walk and Run. Entry is $5 for adults and seniors or $20 for families. (See below to register in advance online) The Walk & Run is followed by more Family Fun Day events at the Recreation Complex.

Fun Run 2017

 

Can We Change … for the Better?

I’ve been browsing the full Climate Change Action Plan released by the Ontario government. I see a lot of encouraging policy and a fair share of more vague intentions. But I can foresee the plan hitting some speed bumps along the way too.

The Abandel development proposal that Council just approved is a good example. It is a classic 1950’s strip plaza design with lots of vehicle parking and two drive through lanes. We are being graced with this architectural embarrassment, which does not conform with Innisfil’s Official Plan, because the developer insisted on having the project ‘grandfathered’ under old rules with the assistance of the OMB.

Before it is even constructed it is a fossil, totally incompatible with modern urban planning policy. We’ll be stuck with it for a generation. How many other “grandfather” projects are lingering out there in Ontario? This is a huge obstacle when architects and developers obstinately insist on designing for the 1950s instead of 2015. The government needs to outlaw all ‘grandfathering’ of development proposals. Regular recertification of architects, or early retirement for some of them, might be necessary too.

Let’s look at how out-of-step some current development proposals, like Abendel’s, are when compared to Climate Change Policy:

  • “The government intends to update the Building Code with long-term energy efficiency targets for new net zero carbon emission small buildings that will come into effect by 2030 at the latest, and consult on initial changes that will be effective by 2020.”
  • “Minimum parking requirements would be eliminated over the next five years for municipal zoning bylaws, especially in transit corridors and other high-density, highly walkable communities… Instead, bylaws will encourage bike lanes, larger sidewalks, and enhanced tree canopies.”
  • “The government intends to consult and propose amendments to the Planning Act to make climate change mitigation and adaptation mandatory in municipal official plans.”
  • “Municipalities would be able to require installation of electric vehicle charging stations in surface parking areas.”
  • “Ontario intends to establish a green bank to deploy and finance readily available low-carbon energy technologies to reduce carbon pollution from Ontario buildings.”

In theory, existing strip plazas in Innisfil like Trinity Crossing, Crossroads Plaza, and Innisfil Town Centre are ideal sites for rooftop solar or other renewable energy. There are no nearby buildings, trees or other obstructions. In practice this doesn’t happen because the roof belongs to a landlord with no interest in it, while the benefit would accrue to the tenants below who don’t have legal access to the roof or the means to install renewable energy. I don’t see how a ‘green bank’ is going to solve this problem. The only way I can see to break this impasse is to require landlords with buildings above a certain size to offer all tenants net metering of electricity. This would put the onus firmly on the building owners.

These are some of my initial thoughts as the climate change plan moves forward. I’m sure I will have more to say on the topic.

Energy, Waste and Water

So much energy and time has gone into devising a municipal servicing strategy for the designated Innisfil Heights industrial site that I thought it might be useful to look at alternative approaches or ideas that might be out there.

We tend to look at this as a linear process, spending money on infrastructure upfront and struggling with ‘cost recovery’ of this capital investment in the aftermath. The puzzle is in trying to convince a target audience – citizens, corporations and financiers – that the enterprise is sound. Consequently, there has also been a lot of hand-wringing about exactly what kind of industries might populate out future industrial lands. But we should be aware that past experience is a poor indicator of the future.

Lately, there has been a growing focus on closed loop systems that recycle inputs into useable outputs. In this context, the treatment of water is not ‘waste water’ but more like ‘wasted water’:

“… the EPA is urging wastewater treatment facilities, which treat human and animal waste, to be viewed as Renewable Resource Recovery Facilities that produce clean water, recover energy and generate nutrients.” (Water World, The Rise of Resource Recovery)

A lot of research has been going on that focuses more on refining waste water into valuable and marketable components: phosphorous compounds for agricultural fertilizers, minerals and precious metals, compost, and potable water.

“The traditional mentality has always been that wastewater is a hazardous waste that we need to mitigate. But we view it as an ore. If you were at an iron mine you’re not getting pure iron, you’re getting iron ore and you need to take out the impurities before you have something valuable that you can sell. And wastewater is the same – it’s got water, it’s got energy, nutrients and material. You can produce high-end materials from it; you just have to take out the impurities.”

“Specifically you have nitrogen and phosphorus, which are fertilizers. Production of nitrogen fertilizer actually consumes a tremendous amount of energy and produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions globally. But in wastewater we have a free supply of nitrogen and phosphorus that we could be recovering in a safe way.
(Wastewater Creates Energy, Products and More, quoting Sebastien Tilmans, Codiga Resource Recovery Centre, Stanford University, April 2016)  Continue reading

Fallen Forests, 2

My last article illustrated the loophole that developers exploit to clear forested land long before any rezoning or development approvals are granted. The particular example was of a tract in New Tecumseth where 30 acres of trees are being removed by Tecumseth Estates under the guise of “agricultural expansion”.

In case readers think this is an isolated incident, it’s not difficult to find other examples. In fact, the same developer pulled a similar stunt in Innisfil, although on a much smaller scale. In 2011, under the name Alriz Development Ltd., an application was made for a Special Permit to clear approximately 3 acres “to expand an existing agricultural area”. This was a small portion of 135 acres on the 7th Line, 100 acres of which was agricultural.  Continue reading

How a Forest Falls

Some people may have been following the Quixotic struggle to save a 35 hectare (60 acre) woodlot in Beeton that includes a number of butternut trees, which happen to be a protected species in Ontario. Unfortunately, this particular forest is falling to the axe. There are some lessons here for Innisfil and other communities.

I’m coming to this news late. The facts are that a 241 acre tract has been owned by Tecumseth Estates since 1991.   Of that, 181 acres are class 1, 2 and 3 lands designated for agricultural use and the remaining 60 acres is a mixed woodlot containing butternut trees, which are a protected species in Ontario.

Illegal Cutting; Stop Work Order; Special Permit

November 2008 – The property is not included in revised settlement boundaries established in 2008. “Tecumseth Estates does intend to develop its lands and when the next review of Beeton Community boundary occurs, it will want its lands to be included within any future boundary expansion.”

January 2012 – Simcoe County “issued a ‘stop work order’ as tree clearing was occurring without a permit. As the apparent tree clearing had included butternut, a protected species under the Endangered Species Act, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was also contacted.”

January, 2015 – Simcoe County grants Special Permit to clear 30 acres (12 hectares) to Tecumseth Estates as an ‘expansion’ of agricultural uses  Continue reading