Two amendments to Council's Priorities, and a supporting Direction to staff and follow-up memo, pertained to trees and protection of environmental lands:
At Environment Committee's meeting of June 16, 2015, Councillor Leiper moved a motion which passed and was sustained at Council on July 8. The motion reads:
That the Urban Forest Management Strategy be included as a strategic initiative in the 2015-2018 Term of Council Priorities under objective ES1-Supportive and environmentally sustainable Ottawa with the associated performance measure of completing the development of the Forest Management Strategy in 2016.
(Find this on the audio tape starting at the 4:44 mark. Go to 4:30 to hear his questions on tree planting which were, I believe, answered by David Barkley. Go here for Matthew Pearson's report on the meeting.)
In discussion, it was made clear that this motion does not call for additional resources since the Strategy is funded, but serves to highlight the importance of preserving our urban forest, in addition to the emphasis on planting new trees.
In addition, there were significant Directions to staff, including:
That Planning and Growth Management staff provide, for the information of Council, options regarding Urban Forestry Management and reliable sources of funding (i.e., an analysis of funds currently available for land preservation / conservation / acquisition at the federal level or through the Nature Conservancy or other sources) for the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands, that these options be reported to Council in the form of a memorandum, and that this memorandum be submitted to Council before the matter rises to Council on 8 July 2015.
This came about as a result of questions by Chair Chernushenko at 4:38 about land acquisition, wherein he specifically referenced Ecology Ottawa and the Greenspace Alliance. In reply, Nick Stow confirmed that three Urban Natural Areas (UNAs) had been recommended for funding but did not come forward. He also alluded to opportunities to work with other partners (including federal) to protect some rural natural areas but funding to pursue this was not carried forward either. Later, at 4:51, Chair Chernushenko returned to the importance of not missing opportunities to save important woodlots.
The Memorandum from Michael Mizzi and its Appendix are attached. They review seven sources of alternative funding and five alternative protection mechanisms. They conclude that tax dollars as a source and outright purchase as a mechanism are best but that these alternatives may work in site-specific cases.
The full Action Summary of this item is also attached. (The discussion had also featured questions about Toronto's energy retrofit program, the need to learn from other cities, and a request by Councillor Brockington that a report on renewable energy be brought forward by Q42016 instead of Q42017; the latter request was implemented as a technical amendment on July 8.)
At Council on July 8, Councillor Qadri, seconded by Councillor Wilkinson, moved Motion 15/6 which was carried. The "Therefore" portions are:
THAT City Council approve that the partial or outright acquisition of the Urban Natural Features identified in the 2013 report be included as a priority in the 2015-2018 City Strategic Plan under the Strategic Objective ES1 – Support an Environmentally Sustainable Ottawa, and that Planning Committee have oversight over this strategic initiative; and
...THAT staff be directed to explore other funding options, such as those outlined in the September 2013 Urban Natural Features Strategy Update, to advance the acquisition of urban natural features and provide a status update to Planning Committee and Council by Q3 2016, and that staff be directed to develop options to change the current Council policy of replenishing the Environmental Acquisition Reserve Fund only with future excess amounts from the City of Ottawa Sinking Fund for consideration as part of the next Long-Range Financial Plan.
The first part references the three UNAs that were identified in Nick Stow's report to Planning Committee about a UNA Strategy Update on October 8, 2013, namely ## 193 (Shea Road Woods), 100 (Armstrong Road South Woods, and 95 (Nantes Woods). #100 has since received partial protection through a land swap with the developer.
One must be grateful that at least notice of the continuing need to protect natural areas was taken.
Erwin - 1 September 2015
Update - 3 March
+ Liberal Party critic of Canadian Heritage Stéphane Dion on Feb 26 came out against the location of the memorial (Ottawa Citizen, Feb 27). An article printed on Feb 27 also disclosed that the designers had slightly reduced the size of one part of the memorial. Available on the web site is a pre-press conference article dated Feb 24.
+ In response to a question by MP Paul Dewar, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Heritage Minister, Rick Dykstra, denied that there had been no consultation. The article appeared only in print, on Feb 28.
+ The CBC's The National on March 1 had a story (2'14"), with clips from Shelley Glover, Toon Dreessen, Paul Dewar, Stéphane Dion and Pierre Poilièvre.
Update - 5 March
Canadian Institute of Planners joins chorus opposing location - Ottawa Citizen, March 5, 2015
Update - 7 March
Joanne Chianello, in the same paper, also chimed in.
Update - 12 March (updated again, March 26)
In addition to four more letters to the editor (some for, some against), Andrew Cohen offered his insight in the Ottawa Citizen of March 11: "... a monumental folly conceived in cynicism." He mentions that there is a Change.org petition. It was launched by University of Ottawa students and has attracted almost 1500 signatures to date. They also created a Facebook page. (Update: 3,075 signatures to date.)
Update - 13 March (updated again, March 26)
In an article in today's Metro that is mostly about Phase 2 of the LRT, Minister Pierre Poilièvre also comments on the memorial and is quoted as saying: "...as for the location, listen, I think that the alternative is yet another government building … I don’t have any of my constituents calling my office and saying that we need to put another government building on that particular spot". He repeated this claim, apparently at an event in Sandy Hill, as quoted in an article by Jordan Press in the Ottawa Citizen of March 26. As subscribers to the GA List know, that's a lie! The same quote appears in an article in the Globe & Mail dated 25 March that didn't make it in print.
Update - 18 March (updated again, March 26)
Update - 19 March
The Globe and Mail today devoted three articles, including its double-page Folio, to the controversy. Bill Curry found that the Tribute to Liberty charity has declared to the CRA for each of the past five years that it has not engaged in any political activity and has passed a CRA audit "with flying colours." Architecture critic Alex Bozokovic recaps the site selection process and reviews the design (mushed into one article on the web site; with interactive map of a walk along Wellington Street). Chair of the Tribute to Liberty charity is quoted as saying: "It's a process. Stay tuned. We are not in the business of not listening to the voices that are being expressed."
The Ottawa Citizen's Don Butler (March 19), via Access to Information, dug up a 2009 report from a committee of experts who opined that a memorial to the victims of communism did not really meet the requirements of the NCC's commemoration policy because it is not a central theme in Canadian history. It recommended approval anyway. The committee was disbanded shortly thereafter. The only concession the promoters made was to add the tag line "Canada, a land of refuge."
Update - 20 March
An absolutely hilarious cartoon by Gable and a poignant letter to the editor (among four) by George Haeh of Lethbridge, Alberta, in today's Globe and Mail:
"It seems a little too facile to memorialize victims of a safely far-away government when our own government seemingly turns its back on Canada’s victims.
For example, our Plains Indians were subjected to starvation in the 19th century to open the land to European settlement. More recently, generations of Indian children suffered in the residential school system; many of their children and grandchildren remain victims today as the harm cascades through generations.
Today, where is the government’s concern about missing or murdered aboriginal women, about ensuring that all remains are identified – a failure to care that goes all way to the top.
Perhaps we should first memorialize the victims of our own governments."
Update - 23 March
The NCC's CEO replied to our letter in a letter dated March 17. The reply notes that the Parliamentary Precinct is in the hands of Public Works and Government Services, "which is also the landowner". The Department wrote to the NCC in March 2013, advising it that the land in question would change from building site to monument site. A handwritten note from CEO Kristmanson adds: "Thanks for your letter. One of our concerns with the current design of the monument is its treatment of 'greenspace,' which is being addressed through the federal design approval process."
Update - 26 March
Seventeen former presidents of the Canadian Bar Association signed an open letter, "This monument puts justice under a shadow," published in the Globe & Mail of 26 March.
Update - 29 March
A long editorial in the Globe & Mail asks: "A monument to what, exactly?" (print version, March 30; on the web site it's entitled "The Victims of Communism Memorial: Right idea, wrong place"). The editorial concludes that it is "a well-meaning tribute to victims of communism that has been appropriated by the Conservative government as a prop in its constant effort to cast itself as tough on evil and on evildoers."
Update - 1 April
Minister Glover replied to our letter. No new information.
Update - 2 May
CEO Mark Kristmanson's reply to our letter alluded to the federal design review process. Based on comments by the CEO at the previous day's NCC Board meeting, an article by Don Butler in the Ottawa Citizen of 23 April confirms that this process could delay construction. The design will come to the Board in either June or September; if the latter it is unlikely that construction will begin this year. An accompanying article on the same page by Butler reveals the specific objections the NCC's advisory committee expressed between February and August 2014. As well, an attempt by the NCC to have the government announce the site as "intended" did not succeed. A bonus article, again by Butler on the same page tells of an Environics survey of 1500 adults in the NCR last fall. It reveals that many people are unaware of the change in the NCC's mandate imposed by the government in 2013. For example, 42 percent thought that the NCC was still responsible for Winterlude.
Andrew Seymour, in the Ottawa Citizen of May 1, quoted Pierre Poilièvre, speaking at a rally of more than 500 people on the site, as saying: "It is shameful thatthe Liberals and the NDP have come out against building this monument at this site, and it is shameful that some in the media have done the same."
A column by Joanne Chianello in the Ottawa Citizen of May 2 highlights the two faces of MP Pierre Poilièvre, now the Minister responsible for the NCC and our region -- supportive of the city when it comes to investments in infrastructure, but stubbornly partisan about, for instance, the memorial to the victims of communism. Says Chianello: "Maybe that sort of hyperbole is par for the course for politics. Maybe he'll grow out of it?" Let's hope so.
Update - 5 June
Articles, letters to the editor, polls, they keep coming. Here are some key developments of the past month:
Don Butler in the Ottawa Citizen of May 7 reports that the NCC's Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Relaty will consider the memorial's design at its meeting that week.
Nadine Blumer, a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia University, in an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen of May 9, compares the controversy around this memorial with the silence around the Holocaust Memorial set to be erected on LeBreton Flats.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney is quoted in Metro of May 13 as saying that the memorial is a "suitable" tribute. "I'd rather have a park on that lot, with a monument on the back of it as a public space as opposed to yet another downtown office tower," echoing Minister Poilièvre's earlier statement that he didn't hear a popular desire for a building full of lawyers.
In a May 22 letter to the editor of the Citizen, Peter Fedirchuk of Ottawa, whose parents suffered under Stalin, proposes that the memorial be placed in Strathcona Park, facing the Russian Embassy.
Elisabeth Payne, in the Citizen of May 25, reports on a Canada-wide EKOS poll showing that 78% opposed the memorial; 83% in the national capital region. Even 63% of self-identified Conservatives opposed it. A national library and a monument to the injustices against Aboriginal peoples were top choices. Joanne Chianello devoted her column on it on May 26 as well. The full list of questions is on the Citizen's blog, which has a further link to the EKOS web site for the full report. The poll was based on 2,116 on-line respondents (340 in the NCR), held May 12-19.
On the same page as Chianello's column, Lee Berthiaume reports that Ministers Jason Kenney and Shelly Glover were standing firm in the face of all this opposition.
On May 27, on a motion by Councillor Nussbaum, seconded by Councillor McKenney, City Council voted 18 to 6 to formally ask the federal government to move the memorial. The Nays were from Councillors Moffatt, Qaqish, Chiarelli, Hubley, Mitic and Darouze. Joanne Chianello's column on May 28 discussed it. She notes that City Council has full rights to intervene, given that the memorial plans contradict the Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary and Jucicial Precincts that emerged from broad consultation and was updated and approved by the federal government in 2006.
Letters to the editor keep coming (some favouring the monument, most not), including one on May 30 from Mary VanBuskirk in Ottawa which was accompanied by a lovely picture of a chapel in Vidin, Bulgaria, on the Danube riverbank that is dedicated to the victims of communism. She would "rather have that, than the massive, vulgar monstrosity being proposed".
It's a well-trodden terrain, Al, and all power to those propagating an appreciation of what "nature" gives us "free," with these provisos: 1- measurement issues loom large, so one should always go for the smallest number "to be conservative" ; 2- however measured, a monetary value does not exhaust the full value of the "service."
You may recall that Michael Bordt is doing his disseration research on methodologies for valuing "ecological goods and services" and presented some ideas at our meeting of 26 June 2014.