Ecology Ottawa conducted an analysis of political contributions made by housing developers to Ottawa City Councillors during the last municipal election.
In total, over $121,300 was contributed to winning candidates (the study did not examine contributions to losing candidates). Top of the list was Gord Hunter who received over 49% of funding for his political campaign from developers.
Not surprising considering that Mr. Hunter is a member of the City’s Planning & Environment Committee. Other members of the PEC that received substantial contributions are Bob Monet (32%) and Michel Bellemare (25%).
Fortunately the Chair and Vice-Chair of the committee had the integrity to decline such donations. However, there is nothing other than personal integrity preventing them from doing so.
The municipal planning & environment committee is the only oversight that municipal environmental studies have. The City of Ottawa has an indepedant Environmetal Advisory Committee, however, their mandate does not include quality assurance of environmental studies.
As far as the provincial Ministry of Environment is concerned, Class Environmental Assessments are conducted on a self-assessment basis. These are the vast majority of environmental studies and the province only requires that they be done and that they address prescribed content - not that they be done properly!
For example the province only requires that proponents of Class Environmental Assessments consider alternatives and document their decision making process – not that they follow any specific decision making process, or even test that they have a sound process for evaluating decisions! This is the loophole that allowed the City of Ottawa to ignore it’s own planning criteria in evaluating alternatives for the Terry Fox Road Expansion.
Another example is that the province does not provide clear-cut criteria for measuring the impact of a proposed project. For example, the Terry Fox Road Expansion which threatens 3 endangered species (because it cuts across a Provincially Significant wetland) is subject to the same process as the Hazeldean Road Expansion which poses no threat to endangered species (because it occurs in a semi-urban area).
So without minimum standards governing engineering practice to be followed when conducting Class EAs, there are no checks and balances in the process – other than the checks written by developers!