Managing without Growth

A MODEL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY AND ECONOMIC STABILITY

Managing Without Growth – Second Edition

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Many aspects of the environment are used by everyone but 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.
  5. 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.”

YOU’RE THE SOLUTION TO LESS POLLUTION

ANTI-LITTERING WASTE EDUCATION CAMPAIGN organized by the Brampton Environmental Alliance and supported the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority

Excerpt from a paper written by the BEA’s York University Student Intern, Sapthasvanaa Killewalavan, (Saptha).

Through the 2040 Vision process and other outreach activities, Brampton residents indicated they want the city to be a leader in environmental innovation. They want our civic leaders to build a healthy, safe, and sustainable city.

Community resilience is fostered by helping connect people with nearby nature. We
want people to value nature. Humans depend on forests and rivers for their well-being. We
wish to help people understand human impacts on the built environment.

Brampton’s littering problem contributes to environmental impacts that interrupts
economic growth and breaks down the quality of life. As the population grows amongst diverse communities, some people may have a limited understanding of proper waste disposal methods and their effect on the environment. Additionally, the economic sector of the city is vast, but it is not entirely responsible for environmental impacts such as air pollution and the possible loss of ecological habitats.

The BEA and its members including the TRCA, Sierra Club, Human Impact Environment and People Against Littering, have teamed to produce a waste education campaign to reduce waste, soil, and air pollution from littering.

A healthy, accessible, litter-free urban park encourages people to engage and connect with green spaces. This waste education campaign will inspire people to take action and contribute to healthier urban parks. As litter slowly disappears the risk of visiting parks in Brampton reduces. Reducing litter can ensure safe and welcoming urban parks.

A major part of the campaign involves engaging people to paint park waste collection barrels and create public art posters. Public art has the ability to shape urban behavior.

Creativity in waste education campaigns to engage the community along with consistent city enforcement, and provision of proper receptacles, all contribute to a positive paradigm shift to reduce littering behaviour. It is an interactive component in the public realm. Hence, anti-litter public art designs can help people behave and interact with the art.

The goal of this project therefore is to provide accessible information and education to people including those in vulnerable communities. Graphic and public art messages will be circulated in the neighborhood and on social media. This can grab the community’s attention. Using large fonts, slogans and bright images, on posters and public art will include important details about littering.

A sample design of a trash can mural inspires the community to protect the
Mississippi River.
Sample poster designs from Google

The program will culminate with an event on Saturday August 27th, 1:00-5:00pm in the Greenspace behind 4 Knightsbridge Road where the community can help paint City of Brampton waste cans based on an artist’s design. Keep that date open on your calendars and stay tuned for event details.

Save Huttonville Forest…for the generation that will inherit our mistakes

Huttonville Forest
Photo: courtesy of Ken MacDonald

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.

Etobicoke Creek – Have your Say

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is asking for public input as it prepares an update to the watershed plan for the Etobicoke Creek. The last watershed plan was prepared in 2002 and updated in 2010.

The Etobicoke Creek flows for about 35km from northwest to southeast. It starts in southern Caledon, travels through forests, open areas, a dozen or more parks, three golf courses and hectares of residential, commercial and industrial properties. It runs past Main Street in downtown Brampton, past the western end of Toronto Pearson Airport, becomes the boundary line between Toronto and Mississauga. Eventually the creek empties into Lake Ontario along the shores of Etobicoke at the western edge of Toronto.

Second only to the Don River watershed in area, the Etobicoke watershed covers over 200 square kilometres. The watershed is classified as heavily urbanized with almost 60% of the area designated as urban, 28% rural and only 12% as natural. The urban pressure on the watershed has been increasing steadily over the past several decades and watershed health as measured by water quality, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, flood protection and erosion control has continued to decline.

The Etobicoke Creek watershed provides natural habitat for many species of plants and animals including birds, fish, mammals and amphibians. As mentioned it supports dozens of parks, for both active and passive recreational activities and provides much needed areas for overland flood management and protection. Its future depends on the Town of Caledon and the rest of Peel Region growing sustainably, putting as little additional strain as possible on already fragile eco-systems.

Please let the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority know you care about protecting this important natural resource. HAVE YOUR SAY!

BEA to Co-host Provincial Election Debate

Ontario 100 debates on the environment

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.”

The debate will offer local candidates the opportunity to answer questions on the environment and other issues important to voters in the Brampton North riding. Attend the debate by registering through Eventbrite here. If you would like to have your question put to the candidates submit your question here.

BikeBrampton Announces 2022 Outdoor Schedule

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.

Transportation carbon intensity
Creating a cycling culture Katie Whittmann (2015)

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.

shows a typical pop up venue
2021 Professors Lake Pop-up

The BikeBrampton Bike Hub team is preparing once again for a full slate of outdoor events for this year in both Brampton and Caledon. Bring your bike for a free inspection and minor tune-up. Learn about route planning and bike safety. Get a free bell or bike light while supplies last. Check out the schedule on BikeBrampton.ca. Sign up to the BikeBrampton News to stay up to date on the latest event information including Bike the Creek, Brampton’s signature cycling event.

Brampton’s Urban Forest Management Plan – Have Your Say

Urban Forest Management Plan Art Contest – Hirnakshi Joshi, second place winner

The City of Brampton is looking for citizen feedback on its urban forest master plan. The urban forest encompasses all the trees on both public and private lands, including parks, valleylands, and woodlots. It also includes street trees, trees in parking lots, trees on institutional/employment lands and trees on residential property. Residents and stakeholders are being asked to complete a survey available until April 1, 2022.

Trees are a very important part of the city-scape. According to the Government of Canada, “Urban Forests increase our quality of life by promoting mental well-being and encouraging physical activity.” Trees, produce oxygen, filter out air and soil contaminants, support biodiversity, reduce heat loss in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer. Their shade and majesty beautifies neighbourhoods and increases property values. As many tree species can live for hundreds of years, they connect us to our past and help build our sense of community.

For Brampton, trees are critical to the city’s 2040 Vision and the achievement of the Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, (CEERP). Brampton’s trees absorb over 7,700 tonnes of carbon each year which is like taking more than 1,500 cars off Brampton’s roads. Large trees store 75 times as much carbon as smaller trees so the maturity of the forest is also an important factor.

The presence of trees also helps reduce Brampton’s energy requirements by slowing the rate of heat absorption in the hard surfaces of nearby roads and buildings. Urban locations with lots of tree cover can be as much as 10-12 degrees cooler than those with lower amounts of natural vegetation.

Brampton boasts an inventory of 3.6 million trees with an estimated economic value of $780 million. Yet, despite its reputation as a green city, Brampton’s urban forest falls short in several key areas including, canopy coverage, species diversity, and forest maturity. The tree canopy covers only about 18% of the city’s total land mass. This compares to a 25% average cover for other selected communities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Three tree species, maple, ash and, spruce account for almost half of the total cover. And Brampton’s forests are dominated by smaller younger trees.

These short-comings make the forest vulnerable to climate change risks. Invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer have all but wiped out the city’s stands of large ash trees. The 2013 ice storm killed more than 30,000 trees, with larger mature trees experiencing the most damage. Mature trees are particularly important in terms of the eco-system services they provide. They store 75 times more carbon than small trees and filter out approximately 10 times the amount of pollution from the air. Larger trees also provide more shade and wildlife habitat.

Fewer than half of Brampton’s trees are considered to be in good or excellent condition. The Urban Forest Management Plan’s purpose therefore is to outline a vision for the future of Brampton’s urban forest, define the targets necessary to achieve that vision and then implement a process to monitor progress towards those targets. Click here to see a draft of the city’s urban forest management plan.

Nurturing Neighbourhoods Program Survey-Participate Today!

Nurturing Neighbourhoods
Nurturing Neighbourhoods logo

The Nurturing Neighbourhoods program provides residents the opportunity to play an active role in shaping the future of their neighbourhood! 

Complete the Nurturing Neighbourhoods survey and participate in the online mapping tool – this will allow us to capture comments from you; telling us what you love about your neighbourhood, what you wish was there, and where we could do better.

The survey is offered in multiple languages including Gujarati. Simply select your language at the top of the survey screen. Participants completing the survey by January 30, 2022, will be entered into a draw for a chance to win 1 of 10 prizes.

Learn more!

Brampton’s Use of Ministerial Zoning Orders

Post Update: January 20, 2022

David Laing as Co-Chair of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee delegated to Committee of Council on Wednesday January 19th. See video of the delegation and subsequent discussion starting at 1:01:38 . The outcome was that Council referred the matter and BEAC motion to staff to ask for a report back. See below for further information and history on this issue.

What is an Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO)?

A Ministerial Zoning Order, is an extremely powerful but blunt tool that purportedly helps cut red tape for much needed development proposals and brings them swiftly to the shovel ready stage. In doing so, however, it curtails much of the existing planning process, particularly for environmental protections,  it takes away the right of appeal, and eliminates public consultation. It also places much of the decision-making in the office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thus limiting involvement of City and Regional staff as well as the technical experts from the Conservation Authorities.

Historically MZOs have been used only in emergency situations such as the replacement for the one shopping mall in Elliot Lake after the roof collapsed on the existing building a few years ago. The use of MZOs has skyrocketed in the past few years under the current Provincial Government.

The Ministry justifies the use of MZOs, pointing primarily to the need for more affordable housing, and indicating that it is the municipal government’s responsibility for doing due diligence and receiving public feedback prior to an application being sent to the Minister’s Office.

The City of Brampton’s recently sent seven MZO applications to the Minister for approval with little or no public engagement. Some of these applications have little or nothing to do with affordable housing. And a review of some of the applications raises questions about the level of due diligence undertaken by Council and staff prior to making these applications.

Ultimately it is the citizens of this City who must hold our elected representatives to account. Up to now this Council has demonstrated a pretty good track record of savvy development process and environmental stewardship. Which makes these actions by Council, seemingly out of character and particularly puzzling.

The issue of MZOs was raised at the BEAC meeting December 7th. The following motion was received by BEAC members:

Whereas the Auditor General of Ontario has reported that actions of the Provincial Government indicate a bias prioritizing land development at the expense of environmental protections including species at risk and climate change mitigation,[1]

Whereas the Auditor General has reported, and the Ontario District Court has ruled that the Provincial Government has demonstrated an unlawful disregard for public consultation on environmentally significant decisions[2],

Whereas a spokesperson for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has stated, “it is our expectation that municipalities have done their due diligence and have conducted proper consultation in their communities before any request for an MZO comes to the Minister for consideration”,[3]

Whereas City of Brampton Council endorsed the Brampton 2040 Vision document in May of 2018 and in January 2020, approved an extensive community engagement strategy to assist in building the 2040 Plan,[4]

Whereas Brampton City Council has passed motions of support for submissions of seven Ministerial Zoning Orders (MZOs) to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing without first providing the substantive opportunity for public consultation[5][6],

Whereas it is the understanding of the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee (BEAC) that, if these MZOs are approved by the Minister, it effectively removes environmental protections related to the affected land, some of which contain substantial natural capital, environmentally sensitive areas, habitat for endangered species, and flood management issues,

Whereas In 2018 City of Brampton Council created the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee with the purpose to, “engage the community to advance the goals and actions of the City’s Grow Green Environmental Master Plan as well as to advise City Council on environmental planning policy and sustainability matters to promote the protection, enhancement, and management of the City’s natural and built environment”,[7]

Therefore, be it resolved that the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee recommends either:

City Council discontinues supporting the use of Ministerial Zoning Orders as a planning tool until the impact of these orders is better understood in relation to environmental protection and the ability of the City to fulfill the 2040 Vision and meet its carbon reduction targets or;

In the event City Council decides to continue using MZOs as a planning option then BEAC recommends the City create a procedural bylaw for MZOs mandating the preparation of a staff report accompanying each MZO request, including an analysis of servicing costs, an environment impact assessment of the proposal, as well as two public meetings, all to be completed before council votes on whether to send the MZO to the province or not. 

David Laing, as co-chair of BEAC, will be delegating to Committee of Council on January 19th, to ask Committee to endorse this motion and take immediate action. The public can watch a livestream of the Committee meeting at https://www.brampton.ca/en/city-hall/meetings-agendas/Pages/Welcome.aspx


[1] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-automatically-approves-permits-for-developers-that-harm-at/

[2] https://mcmillan.ca/insights/divisional-court-confirms-environmental-significance-of-ministerial-zoning-orders-and-importance-of-consultation-under-the-environmental-bill-of-rights-1993/

[3] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-10-26/brampton-asks-queen-s-park-to-skip-public-consultation-on-massive-development-12-500-new-residents-as-mzo-mockery-continues

[4] https://weeklyvoice.com/brampton-council-approves-exciting-work-plan-and-engagement-strategy-for-citys-new-official-plan/

[5] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-10-26/brampton-asks-queen-s-park-to-skip-public-consultation-on-massive-development-12-500-new-residents-as-mzo-mockery-continues

[6] https://thepointer.com/article/2021-12-02/developer-invokes-new-peel-police-division-to-bypass-local-planning-for-large-brampton-subdivision

[7] https://www.brampton.ca/EN/City-Hall/meetings-agendas/City%20Council%202010/20181204spcc_Agenda.pdf