FRIENDS OF THE GREENSPACE ALLIANCE
Annual General Meeting, 18 November 2010
The Friends of the Greenspace Alliance (FGA) assists local and regional efforts to protect greenspace throughout the whole of Canada’s National Capital Region, collaborating across the many jurisdictional boundaries that otherwise tend to keep activists segregated and less effective. Regular meetings of the FGA are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
Les Amis de l’Alliance des espaces verts appuient les efforts locaux et régionaux de protection des espaces verts dans l’ensemble de la région de la capitale nationale du Canada, et collabore dans de nombreuses frontières politiques qui, autrement, maintiennent les participants disassociées et moins efficaces. Les réunions mensuelles ont lieu le 3ème jeudi de chaque mois.
Members of the Board in 2010:
Joseph Potvin (Chair), Janice Seline (Treasurer), Amy Kempster, Cheryl Doran, Sol Shuster, Christel Woodward, and Eric Cousineau.
Though not a board member in 2010, special mention goes to Edelweiss D’Andrea who stepped forward with a great deal of energy and insight to help with organizational tasks and logistics, including arrangements for our meeting venue at the Conservation Co-op, and contributing an enormous amount of creative work towards planning of the 2010 AGM.
Partnership and Participation
Friends of the Greenspace Alliance (FGA) is called an “alliance” because our primary role is to assist groups and organizations that have organized to defend terrestrial or aquatic natural areas in Canada’s National Capital Region.
We have been active throughout the year in numerous and very different types of campaigns led by civil-society groups, as well as in government-hosted consultation and review processes, at all three levels of government, in both provinces. As usual, it’s been a very, very busy year.
In the news last month we noticed that the Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) commissioned the Environics Research Group in the summer of 2010 to conduct a national public opinion survey, as part its Vital Signs program. The focus of this year’s survey was about how Canadians assess the current quality of life in their local communities with respect to environment and sustainability, and who they see as responsible for its protection and enhancement. This was a telephone survey of 2,000 Canadians (aged 18 and over). Environics found that Canadians consider that they “can make a difference, but are unmotivated to act”. It shows that high profile national and global environmental issues, such as climate change, the oil sands and most recently the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, continue to be front and centre on the public agenda in Canada. But on local issues, the survey found that Canadians look primarily to somebody else to do something. And while respondents do tend to feel they have a responsibility and capability to make a difference on local issues, they reported that laziness and resistance to changing lifestyles are the primary constraints.
The results of that survey describe the challenge that we have in defending terrestrial and aquatic natural areas in the National Capital Region. All those who do get directly involved in ecological protection know full well that Canadians cannot depend upon the concept of “the other,” and that it is not enough to “be concerned” within one’s internal psyche about ecological destruction going on around us. There are campaigns to run, creativity to find time for, formal submissions to research and prepare, funds to raise, planning and participation in meetings, events to organize, websites to update, proposals to write, court processes to engage. In sum, there are lines to draw in the sand.
Following is a list of activities that Friends of the Greenspace Alliance has engaged this past year in partnership with activist groups and organizations throughout the National Capital Region. The list alternates between our collaborations on the Ontario side of the region, and on the Quebec side. In this short report, we do not try to outline the issues of each situation, which are always complex. Think of this as a menu in a restaurant that serves whatever it is that makes activists get up and go.
With the Greenbelt Coalition, Ottawa
Under Sol Shuster’s leadership, the Coalition – which brings together 14 of the capital region’s environmental organizations – developed a vision for the Greenbelt as well as a set of specific objectives. An extensive position paper, covering a wide range of immediate and long term issues, was also developed. (See www.greenbeltcoalition.ca [no longer online but see Greenbelt Master Plan review].)
Our joint efforts to prevent the destruction of a Greenbelt forest and wetland resulting from the construction of a Trade Show Centre at Uplands by Shenkman Corporation on land leased by the Airport Authority involved presentations to the City’s Planning Committee and its Committee of Adjustment, meetings and other representations to the National Capital Commission and other federal government departments, interviews in the media, and protests out in the street and at the site. Despite all our efforts, the forest and wetland were destroyed.
We participated in a working group to protect wildlife in the Greenbelt and other parts of Ottawa.
We also worked in partnership at NCC open houses and other consultations sessions on the Greenbelt [link is to GB Master Plan].
With Common Ground, Chelsea
Our 2008 suggestion to a residential developer in Chelsea, Quebec to create an agro-residential development and organic crop farm was accepted enthusiastically. The developer created a plan in collaboration with Canadian Organic Growers for a 30-acre commercial farm, and a community garden, plus facilities for a farmers market, as an integrated highlight of the new neighbourhood. The developer has suggested potentially donating greenspace to the municipality or Nature Conservancy under a covenant. The plan has unprecedented community support.
But the municipal officials had other ideas… for two years they have dragged their feet on responding, and more recently have, in effect, been taking steps that would ban greenspace from new development.
The local paper stated: “Common Ground developers Sean McAdam and Carrie Wallace say their share of the infrastructure project could force them to build more than 550 units on their Old Chelsea Road property west of the A5 as opposed to the 110 they proposed. They also say their plans for an organic farm and affordable housing could be jeopardized.”
Here’s a case where the developer is ON OUR SIDE, and still greenspace is blocked.
FGA has been assisting with strategy, and on occasion, communications to the Municipality, the Quebec Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Minister of Agriculture, and the media.
With the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands, Kanata
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session ahead of one of our monthly meetings at Conservation Co-op to discuss organizational options with an ad hoc group that was being formed to oppose destruction of the Beaver Pond Forest at Kanata Lakes, and old-growth forest.
The Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands is a highly competent group of activists. The FGA board shared some of its own battle stories relating to other recent campaigns and ideas on strategy. FGA offered early support to the South March Highlands Coalition in their pursuit of legal channels with a financial contribution.
FGA is just one of several partners in that campaign, which includes the Ottawa Field-Naturalists, the Kanata Environmental Network, the Greenbelt Coalition, the Sierra Club, Riverkeeper and Ecology Ottawa.
Threatened Deschênes Wetlands, Aylmer Sector, Gatineau
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session at which Aylmer community organizer Lisa Mibach spoke about the threatened wetlands and migratory birds’ nesting area in Deschênes, across the Ottawa River from Britannia.
The City of Gatineau has gradually downgraded the conservation-preservation zoning, and this area is now zoned for high-density housing by the developer Brigil.
No-Bridge Networks & Public Transit
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session with leaders of several neighbourhood groups advancing a common position that no new bridge across the Ottawa River is needed. All proposed options have similar negative impacts on greenspace. They are proposing a shallow tunnel solution under the King Edward Avenue corridor, in combination with improvements in public and freight transportation using the Prince of Wales Bridge, which needs only moderate refurbishment. FGA supports this strategy – it does not damage any greenspace, it does not pit neighbourhood against neighbourhood, and it would be financially cheaper than a bridge. FGA signed a Joint Statement that was submitted to the Interprovincial Crossings Study.
FGA participated in the Interprovincial Transportation Study, which is led jointly by the National Capital Commission (NCC), the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Québec Ministry of Transportation, with technical support from the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau.
FGA also collaborated with Transport Action (formerly called Transport 2000), to the extent that transportation options are direct determinants in greenspace protection. For example the decision to extend Hwy 5 in Chelsea instead of re-establish passenger rail there causes the loss of a large swath of forest along the north-east side of Gatineau Park.
Eco Echo Environmental Campus vs. Light Industrial Park, Wakefield
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session with Mark Graham of the Eco Echo Environmental Campus in Wakefield. He reported that in February, the La Pêche council announced a proposal for a 100-acre light industrial park along both sides of Hwy 105 in Wakefield, Quebec, including expropriation of 60 acres of greenspace. In 2003 the land was rezoned to multipurpose at the request of the previous owner present owner. The current owner wants it to be an ecological reserve to be used by Eco Echo, a registered charitable organization dedicated to green learning and sustainable living.
Suggestions were made by FGA members as to what might be done to steer the council away from expropriation, as well as to find ways to find common interest with the municipality’s interest in employment: for example the light industry plan that would include ecologically sound and agriculturally suitable light industry, such as food processing and cheese-making from products of the farm.
Urban Tree Canopy, Ottawa
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session with Gregory Richardson, who requested that FGA provide the organizational/promotional support to his citizen-volunteer coordination of a speaking series to be held during February-March 2010 on the value of urban trees. He is a graduate of urban planning at McGill and professionally he works at NRCan’s Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Division.
He asked that the invitation be circulated on the FGA list, and to members of Ottawa’s Forest and Greenspace Committee (OFGAC). FGA also suggested that at least one of the events should be on the Gatineau side, perhaps in collaboration with Le Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais which maintains an active tree-planting program.
A settlement was reached with the developers in the long standing effort to protect Leitrim Wetland. For details, please go to http://www.greenspace-alliance.ca/settlement.
Gatineau Park Coalition
The FGA has been participating frequently with the Gatineau Park Coalition to defend and to strengthen the official status of Gatineau Park.
There has been a great deal of controversy lately regarding the implications of Bill C-20 (“An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts”) for the protection of Gatineau Park.
In addition to numerous representations to the NCC on this broad set of issues, FGA participated with the Gatineau Park Coalition in several case-specific challenges. For example we participated in a media tour opposing the future A5 autoroute extension through Gatineau Park, near Wakefield, Quebec. The group, which represents several local and national conservation organizations, argues that the divided four- lane 6.5 km stretch of highway will create the largest single environmental impact in Gatineau Park’s 76-year history.
With “Gravel Watch”
The NCC is the owner of the Stony Swamp Conservation Area, which comprises almost 2000 hectares of woodland, wetland and regenerating old field, and has the largest forested area in the Greenbelt.
There is a Lafarge quarry by Moodie Drive that pumps water from the quarry into Stony Swamp and Graham’s Creek. Lafarge applied to pump 11,000 Olympic pools worth of water into the wetland.
FGA assisted the Gravel Watch group with information on “species at risk”.
Urban Semi-Natural Meadows
FGA hosted a Guest Strategy Session with activist Linda Fitzgibbons to discuss what sort of protective designation should apply to semi-natural meadows that serve as spring/summer nesting grounds, but that are mowed in the autumn.
FGA offered to assist with some communications and recommended partnership with the Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club, including its children and youth section, the Macoun Club, to do a bio-blitz and to raise awareness.
With Ecology Ottawa
FGA helped to promote Ecology Ottawa’s 2010 municipal election campaign, and was one of the co-sponsors of its pre-election debate on the environment.
We are exploring areas where FGA and Ecology Ottawa could advance their collaboration on issues that have a broad regional character.
Ontario Provincial Policy Statement
FGA made a formal submission to Ontario’s review of its Provincial Policy Statement.
FGA found that greenspace elements in the Provincial Policy Statement are quite good, but that exemptions for woodlands of the Canadian Shield are insufficient. Too much damage goes on in those remote areas.
FGA made detailed comments on the Provincial Policy Statement and read and assessed other submissions including one from a group of environmental organizations. We also submitted our support for other submissions, and provided comments to them.
The Ontario Municipal Board
FGA has challenged certain aspects of Ottawa Official Plan Amendment 76 (which promotes intensification as a strategy to manage growth in a sustainable way and targets areas near rapid transit for intensification), and Official Plan Amendment 77 (based on the Community Design Plan for Fernbank). The proposed amendments provide insufficient consideration of losses to habitat and to species at risk. Many thanks to David Morrow for his litigation experience and continued support to help the FGA with OPA 77.
Generally FGA has had more success with policy approaches, than via appeals to the OMB (i.e. when attempting to resolve issues in an OMB hearing). FGA, its predecessor corporation, and EcoJustice itself have faced SLAPP action in efforts to challenge what we have contended are violations of due process and demonstrable ecological facts.
There are currently 19 appeals of the urban boundary decision, part of OPA 76. We decided to be only a “Participant” in the Ottawa Homebuilders case, putting us on the same side as the City, but to be a “Party” to Country Lot Estates appeals, where we would be on the same side as both the City and the Ministry of Housing. The lower level of participation on the first issue is due to FGA volunteer time limitations. Being a Party means we can put forward evidence and cross-examine witnesses. We would call a witness that the city may not call.
The Airport Master Plan
The Airport Master Plan continues to be a concern for the 14 environmental groups with the Greenbelt Coalition. Members of the FGA have worked tirelessly over the years to advocate for protection of Species at Risk and Federal Wetlands in the south part of the Greenbelt (on lands leased by the Airport). This year, the Airport Authority, the City of Ottawa and Shenkman Corporation have undertaken to build an Exhibition Hall on federal lands which will forever transform significant habitat.
This project, which is a Municipal Class Facility, has up to now avoided the Ontario Environmental Assessment process. The FGA has brought this matter to the attention of Minister Bartolucci of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
Friends of the Greenspace Alliance as an Organization
FGA Treasurer’s Report
The Treasurer, Janice Seline, reports that the Friends are modestly solvent in this first full year of operation, able to support our activities and some of others, as well. We heartily thank our donors – those who gave funds and those who contributed plants for our annual sale. And we thank those who support us through membership, and with the gift of helping hands, with work on the website, with their presence at demonstrations, at meetings and hearings, and for keeping us informed and engaged.
The “rich experience” of being Treasurer is illustrated with two items on opposite ends of the fun spectrum:
- Fun: In 2010 FGA activists again sold perennials at the annual Rare and Unusual Plant Sale organized by the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm on Mothers’ Day, and a couple of subsequent sales. This raised over $900. Thanks, in particular, to Christel Woodward, Gert and Erwin Dreessen, and Albert Dugal for their contributions of plants, to Michael Mack and Cheryl Doran for selling, to Simon Seline for loading and unloading, and to our faithful customers, especially those who look for us.
- Not fun: Motions by developers for cost awards.
FGA Internet Presence
FGA has been working to review and renew the GA/FGA website. Mainly, it needs a committed content manager and Drupal geek. Webmaster Ron Rancourt is an extremely active volunteer with multiple organizations, and we end up relying on him more than we should.
FGA has considerable content in both paper and electronic records that will be of value to historians looking at decisions affecting greenspace in the National Capital Region, and would thus be of interest to the National Archives. A volunteer to shepherd that process would be appreciated.
GreenMyCapital / MaCapitaleVerte (Greenspace Wardens / Gardiens des espaces verts)
FGA has in mind to launch a regional social media initiative called “GreenMyCapital / MaCapitaleVerte”, a free, informal, non-commercial open data web-enabled co-operation service for people in organizations or individually, who want to document and protect neighbourhood greenspace from a landscape and watershed perspective.
This collaboration bridges local and regional efforts, and cuts across the many jurisdictional boundaries that otherwise tend to keep our efforts segregated and less effective than we’re all capable of. It is an easy away for people who are active in neighbourhood associations and public service organizations, and anyone else, to combine their efforts in protecting greenspace throughout Canada’s National Capital Region.
We plan to attract contributors for each ward, in each of the more than dozen municipalities in the region. Data is organized by ward, because we want to ensure that greenspace issues are noticed by every councillor in every municipal election.
At election times, participants can find out about, and document, the ecological performance and platforms of each and every municipal candidate. Together we will assemble trusted information that enables the voting public to include ecologically sound decision-making in their voting criteria.
Our goal for 2010 was to have 1/10th of all the wards of the National Capital Region represented, but this is delayed due to time constraints of volunteers.
The concept was presented to the CAFES Group in June 2010, with very positive reactions. But we need a core group of social-media-aware activists to help with the groundwork.
Call for Participation
As noted at the beginning of this section, the Community Foundations of Canada and Environics found that Canadians consider that they “can make a difference, but are unmotivated to act”.
Let’s change that.
And as mentioned above, we are an “alliance” because we assist activists that have organized in one way or another to defend terrestrial or aquatic natural areas in Canada’s National Capital Region.
United we stand.
Many people, and many species, would appreciate whatever proactive role YOU can accommodate in your busy life to help defend the greenspace that makes our region a great ecosystem to live in. Turtles included.