Listen to my interview with experienced municipal public servant Ilmar Simanovskis, P.Eng, MBA, on how the public sector works.
As he describes the episode:
Dianne Saxe is an environmental lawyer who has an extensive career in advocating for environment, climate and sustainability in our society both locally and globally. In her private practice and as the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne has come to understand much of the issues threatening our planet. Her message is clear and her concerns real as the effects of climate change become more and more visible around us. But she also has hope and optimism in a brighter future if we all appreciate the impact our activities have on our environment and take personal responsibility for our daily actions. She is optimistic that together we will make a difference…in her view we have to.
The Law Society of Ontario, which regulates Ontario lawyers, has finally announced my Law Society Medal. The prize was originally to have been awarded in May. Thank you to all my colleagues for recognizing my work as an outstanding Canadian environmental lawyer.
Their website says:
“Called to the Bar in 1976, Dianne Saxe is being recognized for her exemplary dedication and leadership to the development of environmental law in Ontario. As a pioneer in this area of law, she is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers with more than 40 years’ experience in writing, interpreting and litigating Ontario’s energy, environment and climate laws.”
This week, the Globe and Mail ran a fabulous two page spread about the growing engagement by the Royal Ontario Museum with the climate crisis. This new initiative has been triggered by the generosity of Allan Shiff, with whom I have had the pleasure of working for the last year. Now, finally, after much effort, the search for the new curator is underway.
Equally important, existing curatorial staff at the ROM are getting energized about using their collections to tell climate stories. The Globe article tells brief climate stories that feature 14 different artefacts from the full range of ROM collections, both human history and natural history: varve clay, red knot (bird), art made of trash, religious paintings.
Sascha Priewe, Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships, has been tasked with getting climate-related programming underway even before the new curator arrives. It’s not a moment too soon.
Because of the convention of using round numbers, predictions about the climate crisis often talk about what will happen by 2100. I have never met a politician who expects to be alive, much less in power, in 2100. 2100 is many election cycles away, much too far away to matter to them. By Dianne Saxe
Who does 2100 matter to?
I have three small grandchildren and my youngest is expecting again. Her baby will be 29 when 2050 arrives, preparing to set up, provide for and protect a family of his own. That will be harder for him than it was for me. Unless we change course, his world will be hotter, weirder, less beautiful, less stable and less safe than it was when I was 29. And on New Year’s Day, 2100, he will only be 79, younger than my mother is now.
Indigenous people have a right to be consulted and accommodated about major projects in their territory, but they do not have a veto. Once there has been a deep respectful process of consultation and accommodation, the federal Cabinet has the right to balance indigenous claims with overall societal interest as they see it.
The federal government has adequately performed that process for TMX, in accordance with the judicial guidance given in 2018. When the Federal Court of Appeal turned down the TMX approval in 2018, and sent it back to the federal government, they identified specific flaws that they said could be remedied by a “brief”, “efficient” and “focussed” further consultation. The government did what the court had directed it to do, and, as a result, the approval was amended with significant additional conditions.
Consultation and accommodation are a difficult balancing act, and the federal Cabinet’s evaluation of the process deserves deference. The process does not have to be perfect.
The opponents were, in essence, seeking a veto, a right to prevent the pipeline from being built without their consent. Under Canadian law, they do not have that right. Nor can they insist on more years for further study or consultation. The Cabinet can take into account that, of the 129 indigenous communities consulted, 120 support the project or do not object, and 45 signed benefit agreements.
To the best of my knowledge, that means that the opponents no longer have a legal right to prevent the construction of the pipeline. However, they can still make this pipeline slow and difficult to build, and to further damage its economic rationale. The detailed alignment is still to be determined and some environmental studies are still underway. There could be a worldwide campaign to dissuade purchasers from booking space on the pipeline, and from buying oil transported by this pipeline. We may still see a campaign of civil disobedience, people laying down in front of bulldozers and in front of trains across the country.
Opponents can also continue to attempt to persuade the government, and the public, that it is a bad decision to build this pipeline, for economic, climate, environmental and other reasons. Just because the project has been approved does not necessarily mean it has to be built. There has also been considerable discussion about whether the federal government will turn the pipeline over to a First Nations consortium to be built and operated, and if so, how much this would address environmental and indigenous rights concerns.
For those who want to influence public policy, it is important to speak up when political decisions are being made. There’s one of those moments this week. Until June 9, there is an opportunity to write to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, which is considering how the Canadian government is spending billions of dollars of our money on COVID-19 response. In particular, the committee is studying:
a) certain elements of Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19;
b) the provisions and operations of Bill C-14, A second Act respecting measures in response to COVID-19; and,
c) the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences
If you want that money to be spent on building back better, write now to the committee, care of:
One of my most engaging gigs is assisting the Climate Caucus of mayors and councillors across Canada. Proud to have contributed to this letter.
April 22, 2020
To: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada Cc: Members of Parliament
Re: Green, just recovery and creating resilient local governments
Climate Caucus is a non-partisan network of more than 250 Mayors, Councillors, and Regional Directors working collaboratively across Canada to build equitable, regenerative, and resilient communities through fact-based, science-driven policy. This letter is endorsed by the Climate Caucus members whose signature appears below, and others whose endorsement will follow.
We appreciate the difficult and essential work that you are doing to sustain individuals, communities, and businesses through the immediate Covid-19 crisis. We agree that Canada must ensure the health and safety of all citizens, particularly those hardest hit by disruption including Indigenous communities, racialized people, women, low-income earners (many of whom we now recognize as essential workers), seniors, and people with disabilities.
Local governments play a critical role for precisely these individuals, communities and businesses. As you know, local governments have lost significant revenue in this crisis and are being forced to cut spending and to layoff staff in order to balance our budgets, as required by law. This cutback not only undermines federal and provincial economic recovery efforts; it undermines our efforts to respond to the climate emergency.
While some politicians and members of the public yearn to return to the pre-Covid “normal”, Climate Caucus members stress that the old “normal” was a planet losing its ability to support life, with an economic model that disregards planetary limits. The old “normal” was a global population suffering from gross inequity, exacerbated by decades of failing to take decisive action on climate change. The old “normal” repeatedly failed to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The old “normal” was unsustainable and unjust in so many ways, for both people and the planet. We refuse to accept that old “normal.”
This moment, Mr. Trudeau, is your moment to act decisively and to embrace a bold plan that confronts these interconnected crises. As your partner at the level of government closest to the people, we pledge our commitment to work with you to rebuild our communities into the sustainable, equitable future everyone deserves, and that we know is possible.
To perform this critical work, local government requires unprecedented investment at the community scale, along with transformative policyinitiatives at all levels of government. We also know that this investment needs to be equitable, as those who are most marginalized in our communitiesare being hardest hit by this pandemic, just as they are by the changing climate.
Numerous challenges threaten the ability of cities to become viable pillars of sustainable development. Unequal access to, and inefficient use of, publicservices, as well as financial fragility and the harm inflicted by natural hazards, demand an integrated and coordinated response at the local, national andinternational levels. (source: United Nations World Economic and Social Survey 2013)
The types of disruption every citizen has experienced with Covid-19 will become more frequent as our climate changes. We can begin life-saving work by building resilient and regenerative communities right now, in a way that respects planetary limits and creates jobs centred in equity, well-being, and health.
A Green and Just Recovery
To ensure a green and just recovery, we respectfully ask you to support green local government:
Legislate and honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at all levels of government. Fulfill Canada’s commitment to end ongoing human rights violations, including the right to water and sanitation, through public, not private,partnerships with Indigenous peoples.
Invest in building Canada’s decarbonized and resilient future. Local governments across Canada need to retrofit millions of existinghomes and buildings – and construct hundreds of thousands of affordable, climate-resilient homes just to address the current wait-list for subsidized housing. Building and retrofitting with wood and other plant-based materials will create homes that people love to live in, plus jobs in forestry communities, while sequestering carbon in the buildings.
Invest in the restoration of forest, stream, river, wetland, and coastal ecosystems. Restored ecosystems will, for free, provide a wide variety of Ecological Goods and Services such as clean air, clean water, long term carbon storage, and habitat, which are required for life on this planet and to combat climate change. Local governments, through natural asset management, can increase carbon sequestration, reduce carbon emissions, increase health and well-being, and lower infrastructure and related costs by working with, rather than against, nature. Implementing green infrastructure projects including urban forests, daylighting streams, and stormwatermanagement systems requires transforming the way local governments work and how they partner with stakeholders, but are worth the investment by several orders of magnitude.
Invest in universally accessible public transit. Our public transit systems require direct funding from the Federal government to remain functional during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to avoid a death spiral afterwards while people maintain physical distancing. Public transit is critical and is utilized by people who support our communities by working on the front-lines. Public transit is the only transportation option for some people on fixed incomes, youth, seniors, and people with disabilities. Long-term, stable funding in decarbonized public transit will create good jobs, improve health and well-being, support equity, and help Canada achieve its climate goals.
Invest in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Safe, universally accessible infrastructure for active transportation provides inexpensive, non-polluting mobility, supports public health by allowing physical distancing plus physical activity, and enlivens acommunity.
Invest in health-sustaining environments. Clean air, water, and food supplies through reduction of polluting activities and toxic wastes and support of safer technologies and practices such as local organic farms. One way to achieve this is through a federalenvironmental bill of rights. This means the right to clean air, clean water, and food. This is essential for the health of all.
Invest in renewable energy infrastructure, transmission & storage. Rapid deployment of renewable energy is a dependable path to a cleaner future. It also creates a high level of good localized jobs per dollar invested, and is increasingly the cheapest way to generate electricity. An interprovincial grid would pair the outstanding wind and solar resources in western Canada with the outstanding hydropower storage in Manitoba, Quebec and Labrador. Distributed renewable energy generation plus energy storage builds resilienceand would allow remote communities to get off diesel. Ample access to low-carbon electricity would support massive electrification of personal and freight transport along with other present uses of fossil fuels.
Invest in local food security. While much of the agricultural industry is a significant contributor to the climate and ecologicalemergency, restorative agriculture can contribute much to lowering emissions. In addition, the coronavirus has demonstrated that relying on long supply chains for the essentials of our lives makes us highly vulnerable; food insecurity will only increase as the climatechanges. Local farms and farm workers need support in the transition to regenerative farming practices. Climate Caucus supports a national food security network and the inclusion of effective food security plans in local climate mitigation and adaptation plans. This would require cross-sectoral collaboration between municipalities, provincial and federal ministries, local farmers, nonprofits and industry, and new tools/ authority for local governments to preserve and expand food growing areas that are relevant to the multitude ofclimates.
Work with provinces to restructure municipal funding so that municipalities are no longer financially dependent on property taxes, gas taxes and development cost charges. The current funding model essentially forces municipalities to allow endless urban expansion,which has major adverse impacts on carbon and ecological footprints and municipal budgets.
Work with provinces on infrastructure repair including highway and street pavements. Consider specifying hot in place patch repair instead of cut/remove/replace with new asphalt. Reusing the asphalt that is already paid for can save up to 40% on CO2production. Consider rebuilding the entire surface course pavements by hot in place reconstruction, instead of mill and remove, aprocess which has proven successful in BC for many years.
Support local, independent, small businesses. Clean, compact, connected, low-carbon, resilient communities allow most residentsto meet essential needs within a 20 minute walk. This means keeping alive local, small businesses that create a sense of community andcontribute to the mental health of our residents. Over 69% of Canada’s workforce (2017 data from Stats Canada) are employed by small businesses (1-99 employees), but many will not survive the pandemic without your energetic support. In
the medium term, energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives would help small businesses reduce their operating costs as well as their carbon footprint.
Invest in zero waste. Resource consumption and waste is a major contributor to carbon pollution and environmental degradation.Developing a national circular economy is a solution and an opportunity for job creation and strengthening the national economy. Climate Caucus supports the regulatory change and public investment needed to develop solutions with the goal of creating zero waste in Canada by 2030.
Divest from the fossil fuel industry. Climate Caucus supports a just transition for workers to a low carbon economy. Recovery funds should support workers, not fossil fuel corporations who are already deeply subsidized. Climate Caucus supports a moratorium on allnew fossil fuel infrastructure. Scientists have made clear that we cannot build new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate emergency.
Prime Minister, local governments are on the front lines of both the pandemic and the climate crisis. We are also your critical partners in serving Canadians today, tomorrow and for decades to come. We ask that every decision you make be designed to reduce Canada’s climate pollution, restore natural systems, and to help us help you to ease the transition to a resilient, low-carbon economy.
The undersigned members of the Climate Caucus (www.climatecaucus.ca) Zeni Maartman, Councillor, City of Nanaimo
Megan Curren, Councillor, District of North Vancouver Rik Logtenberg, Councillor,City of Nelson
Christine Boyle, Councillor, City of Vancouver Ben Geselbracht, Councillor,City of Nanaimo Amy Lubik, Councillor, City of Port Moody
Will Cole-Hamilton, Councillor, City of Courtenay Michael Wiebe, Councillor, City of Vancouver Tony St-Pierre, Councillor, District of Sooke
Jenn Pfenning, Councillor, Wilmot Township Royce Bodaly, Councillor, City of Waterloo Kelly Greene, Councillor, City of Richmond Michael Wolfe, Councillor, City of Richmond
Debbie Chapman, Councillor, City of Kitchener Jessica McIlroy, Councillor, City ofNorth Vancouver Dirk Lewis, Councillor, City of Rossland
Adriane Carr, Councillor, City of Vancouver Tyler Brown, Councillor, City of Nanaimo
Ramona Faust, Director, Electoral Area E, Regional District of Central Kootenay Gerry Wilkie, Director, Electoral Area G, Regional District of East Kootenay Audrey Dépault, Councillor, Municipality of Terrasse-Vaudreuil
Nadine Nakagawa, Councillor, City of New Westminster Kathy Moore, Mayor, City of Rossland
Angela Girard, Councillor, City of North Vancouver CaroleAnn Leishman,Councillor, City of Powell River John Manuel, Councilor, Town of Golden
Jeremy Loveday, Councillor, City of Victoria Erika Johanson, Councillor, City of White Rock Leslie Adams, Councillor, Town of Golden
Doug Holmes, Councillor, District of Summerland Colleen O’Neill, Councillor,Town of Mahone Bay Michelle Staples, Mayor, City of Duncan
Jason Clarke, Mayor, Village of Silverton
Al Sizer, Deputy Mayor, Councillor, City of Greater Sudbury Ann Baird, Councillor, District of Highlands
Erin Hemmens, Councillor, City of Nanaimo Lisa Helps, Mayor, City ofVictoria
Jean Rousseau, Conseiller Municipal, Ville de Québec
Janice Nightingale, Councillor, City of Rossland
Andreas Tize, Director, Sunshine Coast Regional District Keenan Aylwin, Councillor, City of Barrie
Sara Duncan, Councillor, Town of Sidney Mike Layton, Councillor, City of Toronto Pete Fry, Councillor, City of Vancouver Brad Bradford, Councillor, City of Toronto Ben Isitt, Councillor, City of Victoria
Laura Dupont, Councillor, City of Port Coquitlam Kellie Knoll, Councillor, Village of Kaslo
Chris Pettingill, Councillor, District of Squamish Karen Cilevitz, Councillor, Cityof Richmond Hill David West, Councillor, City of Richmond Hill Nrinder Nann, Councillor, CIty of Hamilton Debbie Schaefer, Township of King
Elizabeth Peloza, Councilor, City of London Andrew Stevens, City Councillor, City of Regina Joe Cressy, Councillor, City of Toronto
Don Bonner, Councillor, City of Nanaimo Jane Fogal, Councillor Town ofHalton Hills
Godwin Chan, Councillor, City of Richmond Hill Jesse Woodward, Councillor, City of Nelson Moya johnson, Councillor, Town of Halton Hills BrittnyAnderson, Councillor, City of Nelson
Vanessa Craig, Director, Regional District of Nanaimo Tenille Bonoguore, Councillor, City of Waterloo
Murray Weisenberger, Councillor, District of North Saanich Josh Matlow, Councillor, City of Toronto
Bonita Zarrillo, Councillor, City of Coquitlam Aaron Stone, Mayor, Town of Ladysmith Josie Osborne, Mayor, District of Tofino
Zac de Vries, Councillor, District of Saanich Kim Zippel, Councillor, City of Peterborough Merlin Blackwell, Mayor, District of Clearwater Jay Fallis, Councillor, City of Orillia
Additional Signatories (non-elected):
Kendra Norwood, Watershed Stewardship Coordinator, West Kootenay EcoSociety, Nelson, BC Tzeporah Berman, Stand.Earth
Gabriella Kalapos, Clean Air Partnership and Chair of Clean Air Council Lois Corbett, Louise Comeau,Conservation Council of New Brunswick Jim Pojar, Forest Ecologist, Smithers, BC
Ann Dale, Canada Research Chair, Royal Roads University
Matt Murray, Energy Planning Director, West Kootenay EcoSociety, Nelson
Erik Piikkila, Forest and Watershed Ecologist, Yellowpoint Ecological Society, Ladysmith, BC Susan Stern, Toronto
Judy O’Leary, Co-lead, Citizens’ Climate Lobby BC
Tracey Saxby, Executive Director, My Sea to Sky, Squamish BC
Herb Hammond, Forest Ecologist, Silva Forest Foundation, Vallican, BC Claire Perttula, Balsillie Schoolof International Affairs
Maureen Bodie, CEO, West Vancouver/Sunshine Coast/Sea to Sky Country Green Green Party EDA Dr. Stephen R.J. Sheppard,Professor, Faculty of Forestry, UBC., and Director of CALP research group
Jessica Fong, Climate Policy Expert, Kimberley, BC
Guy Dauncey, Author, President Yellow Point Ecological Society, Ladysmith BC Lindsay Telfer, NationalDirector, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, Orillia ON
I am glad to have been able to help the outstanding Clean50 (contributors to clean capitalism) deliver a compelling letter to the Prime Minister on Earth Day calling for a #CleanReset of our economy. Read it here. If you can, please send it on to your member of Parliament with an endorsement.
The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with low oil prices, have created extraordinarily hard times in oil producing provinces such as Alberta, and unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. Quite properly, the federal government has promised to help. But it is shameful that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is using your tax dollars to bail out the oil and gas exploration and production industry, perhaps the wealthiest and most polluting industry in human history. For details, see my op ed in the National Observer.