The members of the BEA Board want to take this opportunity to wish you, your family and loved ones, all the very best this holiday season. We look forward with optimism and excitement to 2023 despite the economic, social, and environmental challenges we face.
This year the BEA advocated at all government levels for legislation and actions to bring harmony and balance to social, environmental and economic issues. We partnered with conservation authorities and other agencies to sponsor events that highlight environmental problems and bring specific actions to our neighbourhoods. And we’ve supported our members in their work, restoring and protecting habitat, cleaning our neighbourhoods, planting trees and riding bicycles.
This coming year we will maintain our prime objective to have Brampton grow as a sustainable community. We will stay focused and strive for the future. We look forward to working with you as we continue building momentum for a caring and balanced Brampton community that is healthy and resilient, economically, environmentally and socially. Think of the planet as you complete your seasonal shopping.
Saturday morning dawned cold, wet, and blustery. By noon, the rain had stopped and about 50 people braved the low temperatures and wind chill to protest the Ontario government’s intent to remove land from the Greenbelt and to implement the New Homes Built Faster Act 2022, a bill that would further erode protections for environmentally sensitive areas in the province.
In last week’s blog, I indicated Bill 23, the Provincial Government’s Building New Homes Faster Act 2022 would mean higher taxes for Brampton property owners. The Bill was passed by the Ontario legislature on Monday. Brampton staff have been working hard to analyse the bill and now the extent of the impact is emerging.
Yesterday I had the privilege to present to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure, and Cultural Policy regarding Bill 23 More Homes Built Faster Act 2022 that is currently in second reading at the Ontario Legislature.
As stated in a previous article this Bill, unless substantially altered, has the potential to inflict massive environmental damage on communities all across this province but especially on those in the greater Toronto area. Below is the text of my opening remarks to the Committee. If you are like me and believe in building communities that are healthy and happy through environmental, social and economic sustainability, then I urge you to let your MPP know that Bill 23 needs a significant overhaul. An easy way to do that is through the David Suzuki Foundation’s letter campaign.
Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act is the Ontario Government’s latest omnibus bill that is being fast tracked through the Provincial legislature. Purportedly designed to reduce red tape and allow developers to build 1.5 Million homes over the next 10 years, this bill proposes sweeping changes to multiple provincial statutes in support of the government’s “Housing Supply Action Plan”.
There are a few positive aspects to Bill 23 including:
A MODEL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND ECONOMIC STABILITY
The relationship between the natural world and the “progress of humanity” has been complicated and contentious ever since man invented tools and fire. The human brain and psyche have allowed us to out compete most other living organisms. We have developed a model that measures progress based almost exclusively on economic growth.
For centuries our ingenuity and the application of technology have allowed human populations to continue growing at increasing levels of prosperity, consuming resources and producing waste while skirting the limits of a finite world.
How long can we continue dancing on the edge of the cliff and not fall into the abyss? We now affect, what some would argue, is an outsized portion of the world’s resources compared to our population. Example, our species is throwing so much carbon into the atmosphere that it is affecting the climate, threatening our very existence as well as the natural world around us.
Is there a better way? Is there a different model based on something other than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that would allow us to live in relative comfort while maintaining a sustainable relationship with the world that surrounds us and nurtures us? Smart people like Peter Victor think so.
Peter Victor is a Professor Emeritus in Environmental Studies at York University. His book, Managing Without Growth – Slower by Design Not Disaster, challenges the priority that rich countries continue to give to economic growth as an over-arching objective of economic policy. The challenge is based on: a critical analysis of the literature on environmental and resource limits to growth, the disconnect between higher income and happiness, and on the failure of economic growth to meet societal objectives of full employment, elimination of poverty and environmental protection.
Peter’s book uses a rigorous approach to provide insight at the frontier of ecological economics using both systems modelling and a more conventional macro-economic analysis. I encourage you to read the book but here is my précis. Summarized elements of Peter Victor’s economic model:
The Economy is a system which converts inputs (energy, material, land) into valued goods and services which contribute to individual well-being. Along the way, wastes are also produced as by-product. As the economy grows it consumes more inputs, generates more goods and services and creates more waste. The Economy is an open-ended system meaning that, theoretically, it could grow forever. It is responsible for neither creating the inputs nor for assimilating the wastes. For these things the Economy relies on the Environment. But the Environment is a closed system meaning that there is a finite limit on the amount of inputs it can supply and the amount of waste it can assimilate. As the Economy grows beyond the bio-physical limits to support it, economic output goes into precipitous decline.
Initially individual well-being improves as the economy grows. But, as economic growth continues the relationship between economic growth and improvement in well-being becomes less and less direct. What that means for most “western” economies is that economic growth is no longer contributing positively towards individual happiness.
In a traditional economy, economic throughput is essentially controlled by market prices. The economy assumes that all of the inputs are owned by somebody. If someone wishes to produce a good or service that requires an input (raw materials, labour etc.), a price for that input will be established with its owner. The scarcer the input, the higher the price. The higher the price, the more effort will be expended to create cheaper alternatives or discover ways to reduce consumption by making more efficient use of the input.
Many aspects of the environment are used by everyonebut owned by no one. Lack of ownership means no custodianship and scarcity in this context is not defined nor effectively measured. Market forces, therefore, are not good at setting prices for environmental qualities. Examples would be the atmospheric quality degradation as a result of the production of greenhouse gases or the bio-diversity reduction as a result of habitat destruction. There is not an entity that owns the atmosphere or that has custodianship of bio-diversity. Until recently, this didn’t matter so much as the natural cycles were able to accommodate and adjust to the environmental pressures caused by economic growth. Now the scale of the economy is so large that the natural cycles are being overloaded and have begun breaking down. A partial answer to this dilemma is to reduce the global rate of economic growth to near zero.
In Canada, a no-growth economy would still strive for the following: a. Full employment (defined at 4% unemployment or less) b. Poverty elimination (based on Statistics Canada Low Income Cut-Off model) c. 2% inflation or less managed by the Bank of Canada d. Environmental sustainability as measured by decreased GHG emissions that would sustain a 1.5°C increase or less to the global climate e. Declining debt to GDP ratio
The government policy elements that would move us in the direction of this low or no growth economic model would be: a. Balancing immigration levels, life expectancy and birth rate to achieve a stable (not growing) population base b. Management of the environment according to the three “Daly” principles, i.e. : i. The rate of consumption of renewable resources should not exceed their rate of regeneration, ii. The rate of depletion of non-renewable resources should not exceed the rate at which renewable alternatives are created, iii. The rate of waste emissions should not exceed the eco-system’s ability of to absorb it (For example, this implies setting a price on carbon emissions, either tax or cap and trade) c. Setting out a measures to combat social exclusion and poverty including: i. Macro-stabilization and framework measures, (e.g. framework legislation establishing rights and freedoms) ii. Protective measures aimed at maintaining a safety net, (e.g. targeted wealth transfers such as social assistance and social housing) iii. Measures to promote work incentives and support labour market entry and participation, (e.g. literacy, language and skills training) iv. Measures aimed at creating/expanding/maintaining economic opportunity, (e.g. job creation and support for self-employment) v. Measures to promote community based economies and neighbourhood quality, (e.g. community, social and economic development, local support for culture, sports and recreation) vi. Reformation of public programs for greater accessibility, (e.g. health, education and financial services access) vii. Measures promoting the quality of life, well-being and personal development, (e.g. investments in health programs and support for issues such as teen pregnancy, mental health, substance abuse) viii. Measures aimed at enhancing community receptivity, (e.g. anti-discrimination measures) d. Setting our measures to encourage work-week reduction to reduce individual “over-employment” (i.e. those working more than 50 hours/wk) and provide better work/life balance as well as creating more employment opportunity) e. Focus investment, productivity gains and technology development patterns in ways that support and reflect the changing direction in how people lead their lives: more leisure and recreation, more time with family, friends and community, more public goods, fewer private, status goods. f. Tax corporations based in part on the capital that they employ because it favours investment in people over produced assets g. Impose a structured capital gains tax that favours investment in beneficial, less damaging technologies h. Impose tax structures that favours maintenance and repair of, rather than replacement of, existing capital stock i. Implement limits on economic throughput that would translate productivity gains into increased leisure to reduce the rate of unemployment or to reductions in environmental burden through environmental training, awareness and changes to process j. Implement technology assessment programs that would review proposed implementation of new technologies to evaluate both their beneficial and deleterious effect in terms of achieving the goals that people really value k. When evaluating the benefits of international trade agreements, consider their environmental impact both in the source country and in the transport of raw materials and finished and semi-finished goods around the world. Aim for net zero balance of trade on a global basis. l. Impose policies to curtail the culture of consumption as a way to increase status at the expense of others. Instead, consumption should be focused on purchasing goods or services that are truly useful and on increasing individual well-being.
Caveats: a. Don’t expect very many of these policy initiatives to come from governments as they are now structured. As Peter Victor says, “they must be wanted and demanded by the public because they see a better future for themselves, their children and the children of others, if we turn away from the pursuit of unconstrained economic growth.” (hence the Fridays for Future movement) b. It is highly unlikely that a single country could move towards a no-growth economy on its own. It must be a global initiative, one which initially tolerates growth for the less developed countries at the expense of growth for the currently, “richer” nations c. While small community based initiatives will help initiate and support the groundswell, ultimately the change must migrate to the mainstream. Again to quote Peter Victor, “A ground swell of support for voluntary simplicity and for more locally based economies and communities, or something similar, might be just what is needed to lead the transformation that logic, data and compassion say is required, but it will not be sufficient. Unless governments introduce appropriate policies for managing without growth based on widespread support but obliging all of us to change our ways, the contributions of those willing to lead the way will prove insufficient.”
Peter Victor’s book was written in 2009 with an updated edition released in 2019. It’s concepts are even more relevant today than when the book was first released and the reasons for change ever more compelling.
The COVID – 19 pandemic has taught us global economic transformation is possible if the consequences of not taking action are seen as too dire. The catastrophes associated with climate change mount up by the day with untold human suffering and economic damages into the trillions of dollars. What will be the tipping point when collectively we say, “enough is enough. We need to try something different.”
Submitted by: Save Huttonville Forest member Ken MacDonald
A year ago, a Brampton resident stumbled upon a peculiar finding on City maps, while searching for future walking trail plans in his new Huttonville neighbourhood. Placing a digital image of subdivision proposals over Google Map images revealed that 37 houses were to placed directly over a thick forest overlooking the Credit River. The discovery led to conversations with long-time residents who had attended past City planning meetings and were equally baffled with the forest destruction. The concerned residents launched a “Save Huttonville Forest” campaign to investigate how 3 hectares of protected greenspace and locally-significant wetland on the river’s edge had been released into the hands of developer Great Gulf Homes.
The so-named Huttonville Forest sits at the rear of the village’s most historic 200-year farm on a high and picturesque tract of table land on the south side of the Credit River. Ironically, it is directly beside Heritage Road where the much-maligned Highway 413 would slice its way through this last major development frontier of Brampton, if the Progressive Conservative government has its way.
The “Save Huttonville Forest” team went to work, establishing a Facebook Group to document and share its findings with the community and environmental groups, like the Brampton Environmental Alliance, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defence and others who would care about this destruction.
Meetings were held with the City, the developer and twice with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC). Further freedom of information (FOI) documentation disclosed that this important greenspace was transferred by the City, to the developer, against the recommendations of the CVC. The only reference to the land transfer was an arrow in a thick planning report pointing to a “boundary change.” This City action to transfer the lands is estimated to have created an instant $50 million windfall to Great Gulf Homes . After being pressed for answers, neither the City nor the CVC has yet produced any information to suggest that they received any compensation for the forest. A formula normally applies requiring hectare-for-hectare compensatory plantings when trees are removed from table lands. In this case, City direction to the consultants who produced developer-funded “Environmental Impact Studies” was that the Huttonville Forest be designated as “Valleyland.” In City vernacular, that label exempts lands entirely from the rigor of detailed tree and vegetation analysis and compensation.
Massive Executive houses, that few can afford will replace the decades old forest land that now tumbles irregularly down the river slope. The land is poised to receive final plan approval, unless something is done, and will be shaved clean of all life and vegetation, and then filled in with several metres of soil to match the adjacent table lands.
The greenspace boundary change, amending the community’s approved official Secondary Plan, that took place in 2010, without CVC approval and without any public disclosure to citizens, was the first deviation to public process. More followed. The one (and only) public meeting held on April 9, 2018, failed again to disclose to participants that the thriving forest was underneath the housing blocks displayed to the public. Again later, no public notice was given to residents, when a Draft Plan and Rezoning of the lands was considered by the Planning and Development Committee of Council in 2021 . During that meeting, it would appear one local Councillor was cognisant of the blindsiding of citizens. He asked, explicitly, that before the motion be heard again, that City staff “extend the distance requirements for notice of this application to all residents of River Road (the Huttonville residents most affected by the project).” City staff did not comply with this formal Council request, taking away any opportunity for knowledge-of, and challenge-to the forest destruction, by citizens.
Save Huttonville Forest team is committed to fighting this, but there’s nothing like the passion found in the words of Grade 7 student Shaurya Jadeja, from Cheyne Middle School. His class wrote letters to local politicians, after learning of our issue, expressing in some cases a very raw fear for their own future, with the environmental destruction they see.
Shaurya wrote: “Huttonville forest has been around for decades, the ecosystem has been built so strong that taking away parts of the forest is going to affect not only us as humans but the entire ecosystem chain. I understand that you want to grow your city, which is a great idea, but I suggest that you grow your city in places that might not be affected as much as Huttonville forest. On another note, Huttonville residents need to agree on the terms of new houses being built over their land. Sources show that in 2009 and 2010 the decision was made to destroy the forest but in hidden documents. Why? Also, later in the year 2018 a public meeting was held, though the builder doesn’t show the plans of the forest being cut down. What are your thoughts about the incident? The information presented in the year 2018 misled the public into agreeing with the “draft plan”. Though in the year 2021 the residents of the area soon come to understand that the “draft plan” was to destroy the Huttonville forest but it was too late it was virtually impossible to change it now. But I haven’t given up yet and it is never too late to do the right thing. Also, CVC should be protecting the areas that are close to rivers to protect the health of watersheds. Yet they are not. What do you have to say about this?” The destruction of Huttonville forest is not only affecting the animals in a way of living but is also taking away their home, taking away their family and much more. I really hope that you take this letter to heart and that you rethink your plan. Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing Huttonville forest but not the houses, the trees.”
It is unclear why local Councillors have chosen not to call for deeper investigation into this issue. Not one member of Council has spoken to the Save Huttonville Forest team and the only response to date, is a brief e-mail stating that a public meeting was held, and that notice was in compliance with policy.
Without a strong public outcry, we fear this forest and wetland is doomed. We urge readers to challenge this loss of precious forest, by sharing this information and contacting city politicians. To learn more, please visit, and consider joining, the public Facebook Group site “SAVE HUTTONVILLE FOREST”
A footnote: Huttonville Forest is estimated to contain 5000 mature CO2-absorbing trees (10% of the small sapling plantings the City strives to plant each year). In 2019, Brampton City Council voted unanimously to declare a “climate emergency” aiming to reduce CO2 by 80 per cent by the year 2050. Current science indicates that even if all existing climate pledges are achieved, they won’t be enough to reduce global energy-related CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050. Shaurya, presently age 13, will be 41 in 2050, and perhaps raising his own children, when a potential 2-3-degree Celsius rise in world temperatures will begin to display catastrophic effects.
The Brampton Environmental Alliance (BEA) is teaming with Engage Peel, Human Impact Environment and GreePAC to host an all-candidates debate for the upcoming Provincial election in the riding of Brampton North. The debate will take place virtually on May 17th, 6:30-8:00pm.
GreenPAC is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that runs 100 Debates on the Environment, with the objective to make the environment an issue that no party and no candidate can ignore. GreenPAC works with local groups to co-ordinate and underwrite the costs of hosting an all-candidates debate.
“GreenPAC believes, debates let candidates know that the environment is a top voter priority”, according to GreenPAC Program Coordinator Rizwana Hussain. “They help voters to make the connection between climate change and their other priorities, like health and affordability, and to make an informed choice at the polls.”
Recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change paint a grim future for our planet in the coming years unless we make dramatic changes in how we produce and consume energy. That scary analysis should be enough to mobilize us to take action. But what can we, as individuals, realistically do?
Carbon emissions are a waste by-product from our production and use of energy. We can lower emissions either by using less energy or by using energy from less wasteful sources. It turns out that one of the most effective things we can do here in Brampton to reduce emissions is to use our cars less and our bodies more.
A 2019 energy audit completed for the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, found that Brampton’s cars and trucks account for almost 60% of the city’s carbon emissions. And a 2016 transportation survey found that, of the 2.3M transportation trips taken in Peel Region by car each day, the median distance is just 6.3 km. That’s an hour’s walk but less than a 20 minute bike ride.
The human body uses energy very efficiently to move itself, especially when travelling by bicycle. The calories contained within a glass of orange juice will carry a cyclist about 5km. That same amount of energy derived from gasoline burned in a car’s engine, typically won’t carry the driver to the end of their driveway.
Adding costs to the equation makes the case for travelling by bicycle even more compelling. Brampton drivers spend just under $1B per year on gasoline and diesel fuel. That’s on top of the costs for, licensing, road construction and maintenance as well as the vehicle capital and repairs. Overall, a typical motorized vehicle costs more than $6,000/year to own and operate, whereas the average cost of ownership for a bicycle is less than $100 annually.
Barriers to cycling
Access to a bicycle, perceived distance, perceived comfort, lack of skill or concerns about theft, weather and arriving sweaty to the destination are among the many reasons cited for why more people don’t use a bicycle for transportation. A barrier not often discussed, however, is a lack of cycling culture.
Cycling for transportation is considered the norm in many parts of the world where conditions are similar to those here at home. But, in many North American cities, cycling behaviour has been discouraged to the point where a person who uses a bicycle for anything other than recreation is considered second-class or more than a bit odd. Eleanor McMahon, a past Ontario cabinet minister, past Board Chair of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, and the current President and CEO of the TransCanada Trails Association, once said that, “cycling is known as a rich man’s sport, and a poor man’s second choice.”
Fortunately that perception in Ontario and specifically in Brampton is beginning to change. There is no question that cycling popularity is on the rise, especially since the pandemic began encouraging more outdoor activities. Bike retailers have had a hard time keeping up with demand and long wait times for new bicycles have only recently begun to ease.
The city of Brampton responded in 2020 initiating a “Streets for People” campaign that is building bicycle infrastructure as part of an Active Transportation Master Plan. Last year 15km of linear bicycle infrastructure was added including, multi-use paths, urban shoulders and on-street bike lanes. This year city plans call for an additional 31.5km that will flesh out a significant portion of the city-wide cycling network.
Safe infrastructure, is only one of the required elements leading to the cultural shift necessary to get folks out of their cars and onto their bikes. Education and encouragement are two other important factors. That’s where BikeBrampton and the Community Cycling Program comes in.
BikeBrampton is a volunteer group advocating for better and safer active transportation choices in Brampton and Peel Region. As the name implies active transportation is the term used to describe destination type trips that are mostly or entirely human powered including, cycling, walking, skateboarding, etc. But BikeBrampton also partners with PCHS (Punjabi Community Health Service) to deliver the Community Cycling Program (CCP) on behalf of Peel Region.
The purpose of the CCP is to increase cycling mode share by creating a cycling community and normalizing cycling as a legitimate form of transportation. The program increases access to a working bicycle through a bike lending library and by teaching basic bike maintenance skills. It also helps build familiarity, comfort and confidence for riding on existing infrastructure by teaming new and experienced riders as well as through skills training programs and group rides.
One of the more popular aspects of the program is the series of ‘BikeWrx’ pop up events at different sites in both Brampton and Caledon throughout the spring, summer and fall.
Last year’s pop ups proved very popular. According to Sonia Maset, the Brampton and Caledon Bike Hub Program Manager working for PCHS, “Our goal at the beginning of the summer of 2021 was to provide 100 hours of service to 2,000 residents between July and October at 13 different locations, 10 in Brampton and 3 Caledon. In four months, we delivered 120 hours to 2,348 residents over 46 events spanning 17 locations in the two municipalities.”
Services at these events included free bike bell and light installation (courtesy of the Region of Peel), free bike inspections, basic repairs, bike and helmet fittings, route planning, trail etiquette, group rides, obstacle courses, and one-on-one rider education.
Students Rajbalinder Ghatoura and Gavin Lin reflect on their time supporting the Brampton Environmental Alliance as student interns.
Rajbalinder Ghatoura is a fourth year student in Environmental Studies at York University. He is also a Brampton resident who has been involved in several environmental initiatives starting when he was in Grade 7! As a secondary school student, Rajbalinder was one of the founding members of Human Impact Environment, a youth focused environmental not-for-profit organization.
Here is a video that Rajbalinder produced summarizing his time working with the BEA as the Director of Memberships.
Gavin Lin is also a fourth year student at York University in Environmental Studies. Gavin’s focus is urban planning and incorporating sustainable practices as part of city building. Although he is a resident of Mississauga, Gavin chose to join the BEA as a student intern last fall. He continues to support the BEA as a Board member at large. Here is Gavin’s description of his time at the BEA.
“My experience working with the Brampton Environmental Alliance (BEA) as a student placement has been very pleasant. The BEA is a professional organization with an active board of members who are each very passionate about their role while creating positive change in the city of Brampton through different environmentally focused initiatives. I was able to attend their regular meetings and take part in different aspects of the organization such as marketing, website development, and research.“
“Outside of board meetings I had weekly meetings with my supervisors Stacey and Rajbalinder, they were extremely friendly and were able to help me stay organized during my placement. They also continuously encouraged me to build and improve on my skills throughout the term. The entire placement was a very good opportunity for me and I appreciated the level of professionalism and communication I experienced. “
“In my experience with the Brampton Environmental Alliance, I have been able to be a part of a growing community of passionate individuals looking to create a positive change for Brampton and I would encourage any environmentally driven students and individuals to apply and be a part of this initiative.“
The BEA currently has opportunities for student interns to fill roles for the spring, summer, and fall of 2022. Anyone interested is welcome to apply by forwarding their resume and cover letter to, firstname.lastname@example.org.