Browsing the archives for the Public Consultation tag.

The City’s Failed Wildlife Strategy

Green Reality, Legislative Gaps

The City of Ottawa’s Wildlife Strategy is a disappointing response to the public and to environmental groups who have been highly critical of the reactive and negative way in which the City responded to wildlife conflicts.

The public has been routinely frustrated that wildlife-related decisions are handled by an inter-agency group that included the City’s by-law department, the NCC and the Ministry of Natural Resources – without any transparency or accountability.

So, without any transparency or accountability, it appears that Mayor Watson has done what he seems to do best, a backroom deal that puts the City’s Wildlife Strategy in the hands of the City’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee – even though this group has no mandate to do this and its chairman, Doug Thompson is an advocate for coyote culls.

Killing wildlife whenever there is conflict may be a strategy, but Mayor Watson is it a good one?

So after more than 3 years of deflection and delay and a 200-page report filled with a lot of empty platitudes, it will be ‘business as usual’ for beavers killed at the majority of conflict sites in Ottawa.  Neither will there be any real help for people experiencing a wildlife conflict.

As for the process, the City’s public consultation created a new low for public participation initiatives undertaken by the City because it was deliberately stalled and dragged out.  Several of the community stakeholder groups resigned because the working group had not met in over 16 months after the draft strategy was released. Nor were any community stakeholders involved in its development.

Meanwhile a parallel and secretive process was running in background between city staff and agency representatives, some of whom had obstructed the process on the working group from the very beginning.  This is the same inter-agency group that operates without transparency and accountability – take for example, the MNR’s arbitrary refusal to allow the Constance Creek Wildlife Centre to open.

According to the mayor, ARAC was given responsibility for City-wide wildlife management in 2011. If this is true it is another example of the secretive way that the Mayor runs the City because there is no public record of approval for it.  The wording in ARAC’s 2011 Terms of Reference with respect to wildlife is identical to that in its 2006 Terms of Reference and both documents explicitly state that its responsibilities do not extend outside the rural boundary.

So why is this committee now responsible for managing wildlife conflict within the urban boundary?

Mayor Watson’s abysmal record on the environment continues to reflect 18th century colonialist attitudes.  Maybe it’s time to

  • dispense with backroom deal-making
  • operate an inclusive decision-making process in the public sunlight
  • establish a balance between the needs of development and nature
  • look for creative 21st century solutions to age-old problems.

We can only hope for a new mayor in the near future actually cares for the environment, public participation, and for implementing democratic process.

No Comments

There is no Good Way to Execute a Bad Idea

Green Reality, South March Highlands

It appears that the City of Ottawa has two standards for engaging public consultation – one for East end citizens and another for the West end.

In Navan, the City will engage the public through the consultative Schedule C Environmental Assessment process when a development proposes a major water drainage area diversion across a watershed boundary that threatens environmentally sensitive wetland at Mer Bleue and an important woodland at Notre-Dame-des-Champs.

Yet in an identical situation in Kanata (where KNL is proposing a water diversion that threatens the National Capital Greenbelt, South March Highlands, and the Kizell Provincially Significant wetland) the City has cancelled plans to engage the public through a Schedule C EA, because it will allow KNL to conduct a pre-approved Schedule A/A+ EA involving no public consultation at all.

Worse the City has made this bad decision:

  • Against the professional opinion of 4 licensed water resources engineers who have all recommended that a Schedule C EA be done;
  • Against the objections of the National Capital Commission who is against a water diversion that would impact the nationally significant Greenbelt that lies downstream;
  • Against the objections of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority who is against a water diversion because it is contrary to the official Watershed Plan which is supposed to guide all development in both watersheds;
  • Against the provincial guidelines for development planning and storm water management that state that development should be planned on a watershed basis;
  • Contrary to KNL’s Conditions of Draft Subdivision Approval that requires conformance with the Watershed Plan;
  • Contrary to KNL’s Conditions of Draft Subdivision Approval that requires public consultation prior to any phase of development – which has NEVER occurred;
  • Ignoring the public safety risk to a nuclear isotope processing facility that lies on the floodplain less than 500 m downstream from Beaver Pond Dam.  According to a recent CEAA study, water infiltration is a recognized nuclear safety risk at that facility.

Is the planning department so inept that they seemingly apply two different standards in Ottawa?  Or is there another hand at work behind the scenes that has corrupted decision-making?

How can the City’s Planning Committee, allow such bad decision-making to be perpetuated?  You can ask the Chairperson yourself by emailing Peter.Hume@ottawa.ca .

If Mayor Jim Watson is sincere about improving the City’s consultative process he would ensure that all citizens be treated fairly by his administration.

1 Comment

Harper Owes Us Minimum EA Standards

Canadian Politics, Legislative Gaps

The changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA)  proposed by Harper will withdraw or limit the Federal government Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency from mandating or participating in a wide range of Environmental Assessments (EA).

Since the federal government will not require EAs on a broader range of projects, this creates a vacume of responsibility that effectively hands over more responsibility to the provinces for assuring that EAs are actually done.

While we should question the wisdom of a federal retreat on EAs, we must absolutely insist that if the government wants to retreat, then they must ensure that a higher minimum standard is in place to be enforced by other levels or branches of government.

There are many holes in the current set of provincial standards as is well evidenced by the current Terry Fox Road fiasco in Ottawa.

For example, current code of conduct for EAs:

  1. Do not require species impact assessment to be performed when species-at-risk are threatened by a proponent of a project.
  2. Do not identify hard minimium criteria for when mitigation alternatives must be considered by a proponent.
  3. Do not require that effectiveness assessment be performed for proposed mitigation measures when the are intended to protect endangered species.
  4. Do not require a proponent to specifically address the issues raised by public consultation – they only require that public consultation occurs.
  5. Do not provide a minimum standard of practice to be used when evaluating alternatives. For example, there is no requirement to prioritize criteria nor is there a required code of practice for evaluating alternatives.
  6. Do not identify hard criteria to guide the selection of scope for an EA. Existing guidance varies by province and uses woolly terms such as “project complexity” which is to be interpreted solely by the proponent.
  7. Do not require minimum criteria to ensure provincial oversight of the EA process. The Class EA process in Ontario, for example, is a proponent-driven process with little involvement from provincial authorities to ensure that it is properly completed.
  8. Do not identify hard criteria for determining when an EA Addendum is required due to changing project circumstances. As an example, the City of Ottawa took the position that it did not need to file an EA Addendum even though it’s project planned to divert the only tributary that drains a sub-watershed.
  9. Do not require proponents to publish and entertain feedback on planned environmental measures.
  10. Do not provide a basis for appeal after completion of the EA process when new information arises that contradicts the assumptions made during an EA. For example, a poorly executed study may fail to identify species-at-risk during the EA process. Subsequent discovery should be basis for appeal.

There are many, many other improvents that can be made to the EA process. If Harper wants to retreat, then he should strike a royal commission to assemble minimum standards to be left in his wake.

Please post your own suggestions for minimum EA standards.

1 Comment


/* ADDED Google Analytics */