How urban design affects our health

Research from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) has found that people in more walkable cities are more likely to be healthy.

The research involved studies in 11 countries, and recommends that cities encourage walking and physical activity through:

  • better integration of residential areas with commercial areas 
  • building communities so that the places where people want to go are in walking distance
  • prioritize pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit

Click here to read a Globe and Mail interview on this issue with UCSD Professor James Sallis.

‘New normal’ weather a major threat to Canadian municipal infrastructure and finances

Newly updated weather benchmarks from Environment Canada show that Canada’s national average winter temperature has risen 3.2 degrees. Canada is getting hotter faster than ever before and at a faster rate than almost any other country. This also means that rain, snow, sleet and hail storms are becoming more erratic. 

As Canadian insurers and other economists have noted, Canada’s infrastructure wasn’t built for this kind of climate, and much of the resulting burden falls on municipal governments. 

To read a January 2013 Globe and Mail column about the municipal financial, health, safety, infrastructure and  legal liability implications of these ‘new normal’ weather patterns, click here.

Atlantic Canada mayors call for CETA water exemption and seat at table for municipalities

Atlantic Canada mayors expressed concerns last week about the impact of CETA on local procurement and are calling for water services to be exempted from trade negotiations. The mayors are concerned that municipalities have been excluded from CETA negotiations and want a voice in all future talks. 

To read the media release from the Atlantic Canada mayors meeting, click here.



More municipalities raise CETA concerns, demand exemptions

More and more Canadian municipalities are raising concerns about the impact of Canada-EU trade negotiations (CETA) on local government decision making and economic development strategies.

In the last two weeks, Mississauga, Welland and Niagara Falls joined Hamilton, Toronto and a growing wave of Ontario local governments in asking the province for a “clear, permanent exemption” of their muncipality from CETA. Early in April, Grand Forks became the latest BC municipality to ask for an exemption from the deal.

At the end of March, Hamilton-Wentworth became the first Ontario school board to pass a CETA resolution, joining the BC School Trustees Association and the Chilliwack school board in BC. Many school boards are concerned about the impact of CETA on local food purchasing and other procurement policies.

For a map of Canadian local government resolutions on CETA, click here.

To read the Centre for Civic Governance CETA research and a resource list, click here.

BC school boards to recapture carbon offset funds

BC school boards have succeeded in recapturing funds previously levied on them and distributed to the private sector.

Carbon offset fees charged to boards by the Pacific Carbon Trust will now be deposited with the Ministry of Education’s Energy Efficient Capital Account for the exclusive use by boards for energy-efficiency projects. This should amount to about $5 million for 2012/13.

In addition, schools and other public sector organizations will no longer be charged fees for access to the SMARTTool software used for carbon emissions inventory and reporting, saving public sector organizations about $850,000.

These reforms parallel a number of policy solutions suggested in the 2011 Centre for Civic Governance report “Catch $25,” which can be downloaded here. While the carbon offset reforms are an improvement, structural underfunding of school districts remains a barrier to maximizing energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions from BC schools.

For a Vancouver Sun story on the announcement, click here .

CETA’s municipal implications “ringing alarm bells across the country” (Toronto Star)

An article in today’s Toronto Star warns that municipal procurement provisions in CETA are “ringing alarm bells across the country” and  that the proposed Canada-EU trade deal’s “effects on Toronto could be serious.”

The Star article quotes a recent City of Toronto staff report warning that CETA could impact Toronto’s hiring, local food procurement, strategic procurement and transit procurement policies, especially in regards to any requirements for local or Canadian content.

To read the full Toronto Star article, click here

To download the report on CETA from the City of Toronto’s general manager, click here


Gateway pipeline will hurt Canada’s economy says report

A new report says the Northern Gateway pipeline would boost crude oil prices $2 to $3 per barrel annually over the next 30 years, causing significant damage to consumers, businesses and the Canadian economy.

The economic assessment of the $5.5-billion project by former Insurance Corporation of British Columbia CEO Robyn Allan says the price shock will have “a negative and prolonged impact on the Canadian economy by reducing output, employment labour income and government revenues.”

To download Robyn Allan’s study, click here

Report on Leaked CETA Documents shows threat to Water Services

A briefing note on recently leaked CETA documents shows that Canada and the provinces are failing to protect drinking water and wastewater services from trade rules that would encourage and lock in privatization. In contrast, the EU’s CETA offer specifically protects it’s own water and wastewater services.

To read the full report from the Council of Canadians and Canadian Union of Public Employees, click here.

Climate change could cost Canada billions: report

Canada can expect to pay $5 billion per year by 2020 and between $21 billion and $43 billion each year by 2050 if it fails to come up with a domestic plan within a global agreement to tackle climate change, according to an assessment released by a federal advisory panel.

Other key findings from the report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy include:

  • Timber supply impacts could range from $2 billion to $17 billion per year, with high impacts in B.C.
  • Flooding damages to coastal dwellings could cost between $1 billion to $8 billion per year. 
  • Poorer air quality resulting from higher temperatures will result in millions of dollars in costs to local health care systems in Canada’s major cities.
  • The economic benefits of investing in adaptation outweigh the costs of simply letting rising climate impacts and costs occur

The full report and an executive summary can be downloaded here

Billionaire Warren Buffet says rich should pay more taxes

Multi-billionaire US investor Warren Buffet says that that wealthy people like himself are not paying their fair share of taxes and governments need to start collecting more revenue from the ‘super rich’.

To read Buffet’s New York Times op-ed, titled “Stop Coddling the Super Rich”, click here

Is it bad for cities to be in debt? Not necessarily

With all the talk of government debt recently — Toronto, $4.7 billion; Ontario, $240 billion; the U.S., $14.6 trillion — the spectacular figures and the concept of debt itself have become so abstract many people don’t even understand the conversation. The Toronto Star recently spoke with Dr. Enid Slack, director of the University of Toronto’s Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, Ryerson urban planning professor and municipal finance expert David Amborski and senior staff in the City of Toronto’s finance department to answer the ABC’s of how municipal debt works.

To read the Star article, click here 


Poll: BC residents support using carbon tax to fund health care and education

Most British Columbians support carbon taxes, according to a recent poll by the Pembina Institute. The poll found that 69 per cent of respondents supported applying the carbon tax to all sources of greenhouse gas pollution, and 56 per cent supported using the tax revenue for health care and education.

Click here for the Pembina Institute’s press release and analysis of the poll results.