Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to speak before the committee today. I am honoured to be here.
My name is Monica Andreeff and I am the executive director of the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment, AMPPE.
We're a non-profit association that advocates for a balance between sustainable tourism, ecological integrity, visitor experience, and education in Canada's mountain parks. Our members include ordinary skiers, hikers, and cyclists, as well as tourism businesses, ski areas, and hotel operators.
For 18 years AMPPE has been the voice of balance, speaking for Canadians who want the opportunity to enjoy national parks. We are based in Banff, where Canada's first national park was created more than 125 years ago.
The Canada National Parks Act states that parks are “dedicated to the people of Canada for their benefit, education and enjoyment”. It's clear that national parks were created and protected for future generations of Canadians to use and enjoy. The intention was not to protect parks from Canadians.
However, as the cultural landscape of Canada shifts, national parks are in danger of becoming irrelevant to new Canadians, technology-centred youth, and people who live in urban areas. Visitors no longer want to simply drive through parks, take a snapshot, and continue driving. People need to connect with the wilderness through outdoor adventure activities that give them meaning and form a lasting impression. Otherwise, Parks Canada is at risk of becoming irrelevant to its core funding base, Canadian taxpayers.
Parks Canada is changing and moving in the right direction with learn-to-camp programs for new Canadians and youth-oriented visitor projects. There are volunteer programs in Banff and Jasper national parks to introduce hundreds of Canadians and international visitors to local conservation projects, wildlife monitoring, and assorted research programs every summer.
Parks Canada has also approved guidelines for new recreational activities so that they can be pursued in a way that enhances conservation and culture. Banff Mount Norquay's proposed via ferrata will provide an entry-level mountaineering program that is safe for all ages and abilities. Via ferrata is extremely popular in Quebec and Europe, and it's an exciting outdoor activity that can be combined with education about the conservation of this unique wilderness environment.
The Brewster glacier discovery walk, which is slated to open next year, is located on the highway between Lake Louise and Jasper. It will be a fully accessible interpretive walkway that provides stunning views and teaches people about glaciology, global warming, aboriginal culture, and the early exploration of the Canadian Rockies.
It's an uphill battle to balance recreational use and visitor experience with protecting the wilderness and wildlife, but progress is being made. Unfortunately, Parks Canada faces constant and unjustified criticism from a small vocal minority more concerned about exclusion rather than inclusion.
These critics are interested in limiting people's use and widespread public enjoyment of these national recreation areas. Unfortunately, these tactics erode public support for national parks, which are important to Canadian identity and a symbol of our nation respected around the world.
AMPPE believes there is no place for elitist points of view in national parks. Not everyone can hoist a heavy backpack and go camping in the wilderness for three or four days. New Canadians may not have the skill set and it's almost impossible for families with small children. It's not just one national park for one type of Canadian. We need to provide a wide range of activities for all kinds of people—old, young, disabled, urban, and new Canadians.
Banff and Jasper have great value in being among the most accessible and most visited national parks in the country. They provide excellent visitor services, recreational opportunities, and amenities in two small communities, unlike more remote national parks that might see a few dozen people in a week.
Banff and Jasper national parks have millions of visitors each year, being located close to large urban populations in Edmonton and Calgary, similar to the tremendous prospects for Rouge national park.
The goal of connecting urban Canadians with conservation is to foster an understanding of human impacts and how you can manage urban life differently. It can inspire appreciation of, visits to, and support for larger protected areas, such as national and provincial parks. Young urban dwellers can become energized about nature, so they see it as relevant to modern life and it may help them engage and become passionate about conservation.
To examine urban conservation practices in Canada, one might start with a look at the two unique national park towns of Banff and Jasper, which are located within a UNESCO world heritage site. They are models for environmental management, sustainable development and tourism, and reflect the fundamental practices of national parks. Banff and Jasper recognize, protect from development, and in some cases, enhance environmentally sensitive areas within the fixed town boundaries.
Both towns have superb environmental sustainability plans and introduce environmental education and interpretive opportunities for visitors and residents.
Banff's environmental protection district is land that is capable of supporting a diversity of native wildlife and does not allow for any human development. Protected wildlife corridors stretch 500 metres wide around some neighbourhoods.
The town of Canmore, a community bordering Banff National Park to the east, is not subject to national park regulations, yet it engages in ongoing dialogue with conservation organizations on wildlife corridors and ways to protect these areas during the planning application review.
Canmore has established an urban growth boundary which identifies areas of ecological importance. The municipal land use bylaw identifies three zones of protected space: natural park district, environment district, and wild lands conservation district. The federal government can play an important role in encouraging urban conservation through funding assistance and legislation to maintain and protect those areas that do not directly contribute to the municipal tax base.
Parks Canada is mandated to protect the ecological integrity of Canada's iconic national parks, but this mandate needs to be balanced equally with visitor experience and education.
Not all national parks are created equal, and national parks near large urban populations such as Banff, Jasper, and now Rouge, can play a special role in fostering a culture of conservation. They are heavily visited by populations from cities and therefore the mandate to educate and provide sought-after activities should be paramount. People come to do and not just to see.
People who engage with national parks through high-quality visitor experiences and recreational opportunities will adopt the philosophy of urban conservation over time. Success will be determined by balancing the challenges of use and protection.
In conclusion, changes are needed to the National Parks Act and Parks Canada's mandate to recognize the importance of visitor experience and education, and ensure that it is balanced equally with ecological protection. The Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment encourages the committee to give consideration to this suggestion and the future relevancy of our national park system for Canadians.
Thank you for your time.
For a bit of context, we manage about 9,000 hectares of parks within the city itself. Fully 50% of that is considered to be natural environment parks.
Some of the signature parks within our system are places like Nose Hill, which is the largest urban natural area in a municipality in the country. The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, which was originally founded as a federal bird sanctuary, is the cornerstone of our environmental education program and is still an important migratory sanctuary in the downtown core as well.
In terms of natural area management within the context of a large urban centre, our understanding of what's needed has certainly changed. Quite clearly, what we do as a parks department has changed significantly as well. Conservation in the context of urban development is certainly a challenge and is certainly different from larger park management itself. We deal with issues like permanent impacts and loss that come with development.
We deal with the fact that in a lot of cases the support systems for critical ecological areas are all quite often impaired or significantly changed. Invasive species are a dominant issue for us in terms of management. Ultimately we deal with an inevitable transition with respect to biodiversity. We see a homogenization of ecosystems and species in many respects.
Our parks department is about 100 years old. We've managed natural areas explicitly for the past 30 or so years, so through the experience we've had, we've learned a number of things that are quite important to bring to bear.
One is the issue of design. We as a municipality are constantly challenged with how to design and maintain functional, viable, and sustainable natural environments in a city core. We recognize that natural environments are integral to the city. They are not something you put behind a fence. They are something you have to weave within the fabric of the city itself.
There is the issue of management. They are often seen as low-cost or even no-cost options for a park system, when we would say the opposite is true. They have costs and need to be managed as such.
We are struggling with a number of issues that are beyond our control. Climate change is one of them. Within the context of southern Alberta, we're in a water scarce region. We need to plan for and learn to adapt to the inevitable changes that will come in the future.
We are looking at the issue of ecological goods and services. We see that as an excellent way to address the value of these systems within the city itself. We think we have a good handle on water and wetlands, but we're starting to say we need to think about the park system itself. The urban forest and all of that is part of the city's critical infrastructure.
The city itself has a fairly strong history of advocacy and protection for natural areas. Some of it stretches back nearly a century. Some of the things we have done which we think are examples of best practices are things like our wetland conservation plan, which is one of the first wetland policies for a municipality in Canada. It is perhaps one of our more interesting success stories in that it introduced a mechanism that allows for compensation and mitigation for loss of wetlands. We found that to be a tremendously valuable tool to do a couple of things: to raise the value and the importance of wetlands within the context of decision-making in the city, but also to give us the tools to plan and mitigate and ultimately conserve wetlands in a more sustainable landscape.
We've done some of these things through the lens of things like imagine Calgary. In 2005, the city embarked on a conversation with 18,000 Calgarians. We asked Calgarians what they thought the city should be like in 100 years. The answers we got were fairly interesting. They spoke a lot of connections. They talked a lot about conservation. We heard quite clearly that Calgarians value their natural environment. This is not just within the city itself, but also beyond. Regionally these are important landscapes to us.
That document has shaped some of the policy and some of the direction the City of Calgary is now embarking on. Our municipal development plan, which is our statutory plan that guides us through the next 60 years, has worked in some of those concepts and policies of conservation, biodiversity, green infrastructure, and protection within the context of a growing and denser city.
Last year our city council elected to sign the Durban commitment for biodiversity, which makes us the third Canadian city to sign on to a commitment to make biodiversity a central plank of what we do. Behind Edmonton and Montreal, we now join about 50 cities worldwide that are saying biodiversity and conservation should be an important part of what we do in providing municipal service.
We're doing things like environmental education, with the recognition that we need to promote environmental literacy among Calgarians. We need not only to give them the knowledge to understand what's important and why these things are valuable to us, but also to give them the incentive to act and to have stewardship over what we own.
We look at it from the cultural perspective, as well. We have cultural landscapes that we've been restoring in the City of Calgary, and that, to us, is yet another way to tie us to the landscape. Ultimately, that's what we think we try to do in the parks department.
Some of the other things we're doing, which are perhaps of interest to the committee, are things like invasive species management. This is a big issue for us. Calgary has developed an early detection rapid response model that has taken off regionally. In fact, it now involves all three levels of government. We coordinate a monitoring program within the Bow River Valley, which now involves local municipalities, the Province of Alberta, and Banff National Park. We think it is a good model which shows collaboration and cooperation within the region.
One of the questions you asked in your terms of reference is what the federal rural and urban conservation would be. I'll close with three things that we thought we would bring to your attention.
We need more conversations with local authorities. As a municipality that delivers on the front lines on a number of outcomes related to the environment, we would welcome any opportunity to build bridges and collaborate. We need your expertise, and we can help deliver some of those outcomes. There's recognition that implementation of some of these programs in conservation is inherently local. National and international leadership in conservation would require effective local implementation. Finally, we need a recognition that urban conservation itself is a critical part of the urban infrastructure. We would look for examples and opportunities to include ecosystem management as part of the infrastructure granting programs.
We'd be happy to answer any questions when the time comes.
Hello everyone. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. My presentation will be in English, but if you have any questions in French, I will be very happy to answer them in French.
Please note that I'll be sharing my time with Ms. Dorothy Dobbie.
I want to start by thanking you, Mr. Chair, and all the honourable members of the committee, for letting us speak to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
My name is Michael Rosen, and for the past five years I've been president of Tree Canada. I'm here with Dorothy, who is the past chair of Tree Canada. Some of you may recognize her as a former member of Parliament from Manitoba.
Tree Canada is a not-for-profit organization that is committed to creating greener healthier communities by encouraging planting and the care of trees where Canadians live, work, and play. We're one of the only organizations that represent urban forests on a national level.
Can you imagine your community without any trees? Trees define your community. They make our lives as Canadians that much more liveable.
Tree Canada has planted more than 78 million trees, greened 530 schoolyards, and helped the urban forest programs of over 490 communities across the country, leaving a legacy that will benefit all Canadians. We manage over 300 tree planting events each year. We've probably held a planting event in every riding that you members represent. On our website, for instance, we have a wonderful picture of the Elmwood—Transcona riding.
I am very happy to say that we were in the Beauharnois—Salaberry riding two weeks ago, with CSX, a rail transportation company.
When we began in 1992, we were very reliant on the Canadian Forest Service and Natural Resources Canada for our funding. We're very proud that 20 years later we're 100% privately funded and we're growing every year.
We have teamed up with some of the best funding partners in Canada: Shell, TD Bank, TELUS, and Home Hardware, to name a few, all of whom share our vision of an urban forest strategy. You may be asking yourself: What is an urban forest, let alone an urban forest strategy?
The urban forest is the forest where we all live, work, and play. It's in our backyard, our front yard, in our ravines, in the mall parking lots, and in our parks. It's by the river, by the office building. It's by the post office; it's on the street corner.
Today, more than 80% of Canadians live in the urban landscape. The trees and plants of this landscape are for many Canadians their deepest connection to nature.
Whose job is it to nurture these living green giants of our cities? In Canada, more often than not, it's the municipality's responsibility. At the provincial and federal levels, few laws or regulations govern the urban forest, except in the case of specific problems, insect outbreaks, or threats.
Many communities have professional foresters. Some work with agencies to manage public spaces, but in many cases the person in charge of maintaining the hockey rink or the golf course is in charge of the community's trees.
The new norm is for municipalities to receive funding for their urban forest projects from not-for-profit organizations like the Tree Canada Foundation, and programs like TD Green Streets that we've developed with TD Friends of the Environment. Why is this? Where is the government's involvement?
Would you believe that Canada is the only G-8 country without a federal urban forest presence or program? For example, the United States, our largest trading partner, and closest fossil fuel polluter, has for some time understood the importance of an urban forest conservation strategy.
In 2011 President Obama announced that he wanted to engage more communities in urban forestry and budgeted $36 million to implement an urban forest strategy.
I am not saying that Canada is doing nothing. The Canadian Forest Service has been a world leader in combatting the emerald ash borer. It's a destructive insect that was first detected in Canada in 2002, and it has killed thousands of ash trees.
Recently we held our 10th Canadian Urban Forest Conference in London, Ontario. We brought together 400 foresters and community people who work all across Canada to share their knowledge and their research.
Corning out of this was a number of initiatives to help our forests. Many municipalities are only now developing an inventory of what they have in their communities. To do this, they have to have some technical background. With the support of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, through the leadership of the chief of the forest service, Thomas Tidwell, some municipalities are actually conducting what they call i-Tree analyses. It's a software suite that allows municipalities to evaluate the trees in their communities.
At our urban forest conference this year, to everyone's surprise, Chief Tidwell launched i-Tree Canada. Yes, our American government counterpart created a software for Canadian municipalities.
All is not negative, though. I am proud that our government has made the courageous and historic decision to make Rouge Park Canada's first national urban forest. It is a great first step, but it really is a small first step.
The Government of Canada must commence a dialogue on a national urban forest strategy or it will continue to fall far behind its international partners and prejudice the environmental health of Canadians.
I would like to turn it over to Ms. Dobbie.
That brings up the question: why is this important and what do trees do? I like to refer to them as trees, rather than the urban forest, because that brings it right home. It's something you know.
Why are trees important to our environment? Well, it's pretty simple. First of all, they clean the air of pollutants. When we're thinking about carbon dioxide in the air, gas emissions, things like that, even dust, trees do a tremendous amount to make that air fresh and clean. They also clean up groundwater. They remove pollutants.
We did a little study in Manitoba on Broadway Avenue, one of our iconic streets. We tested over a period of years what was happening to the salts that were put down to de-ice the streets. We discovered that the trees had actually removed these pollutants from the ground and stored them in their leaves and their wood and so on. In doing that, in some cases they actually changed the composition of some pollutants.
Trees are incredibly important to the environmental health of our communities.
They also conserve energy. If you have a big home-heating bill, you can save as much as 20% by planting the right kinds of trees around your location. They reduce the effects of radiation from the sun and they obviously provide shade, cooling, and wind protection.
They retain water in the soil, 2% to 7% of water that would simply run off into the sewers. As I said before, they transform a number of the contaminants that are in the soil.
They also return clean air to the environment. They drink up carbon dioxide and they breathe out good, fresh oxygen and moisture into the air. This also helps with cooling.
Another interesting thing is studies show that children with ADD function better after being involved in activities in green settings. The greener a child's play area is, the less severe his or her attention deficit disorder symptoms are.
I want to tell you why that is. It isn't just trees. It's the whole environment around us. Apparently, there's something called “happy bacteria” in the soil. It's mycobacterium vaccae. It used to be said that we had to eat a peck of dirt before we die. Well, it's true, because what this bacterium does is it actually triggers serotonin in your gut and it makes you feel happy.
When you're in a green environment where trees and the earth are part of it, you and your kids are going to be healthier. Everybody is going to be a heck of a lot happier and smiley. Also, having enough happy bacteria saves you from things like asthma. Listen to me, because I'm suffering from asthma today, and as I said, it helps kids who have ADHD.
Trees buffer noise. They create a habitat for urban wildlife. They increase property values by 37%, according to our notes, but I think that in some cases it's even more than that.
While we're talking with the federal government, it's interesting for you to know that Tree Canada was started, as Michael said, by an act of Parliament. We actually had a forestry minister at the time, Frank Oberle. He was with us at the urban tree conference in London two weeks ago to help us celebrate what he started and what has become so important over those years.
There is a role for the federal government to play in this, and I think it's one that we'll be looking forward to hearing more about in the future.
Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.
I appreciate very much the opportunity to come and speak to this distinguished committee. I, too, hope that I have something of value to add to your valuable work, your great work.
I'm pleased that I'm speaking on the heels of those three presentations because they were all excellent. Especially pertinent to my message, I think, is what you've heard from Tree Canada.
The people I represent, Trees for Life, the Urban Tree Canopy Coalition, is made up of members who are all not-for-profit organizations dedicated to the planting, maintenance and celebration of our urban trees. One of our valuable members is Tree Canada, of course, so it's great to see them here at the table today.
What I want to say may shed a different light on the same subject. The subject, of course, is the value of our urban tree canopies, with the emphasis on “urban”. I want to put a finer point on a couple of points that were made, especially with regard to four things.
The first would be health and wellness. I think everyone in this room knows there are ecological benefits to a healthy urban tree canopy. Intuitively we know that. Now we have some facts to deal with. But in terms of health and wellness, we now have quantifiable evidence that cancer, diabetes, lung disease, ADHD in children, are all reduced, and in some cases minimized, when people live in the environment of a healthy urban tree canopy. The quantification comes from a compilation of studies, over 200 of them, including university papers, that were published by Trees Ontario. They can be found on their website if you wish to look for them. We now have evidence of things we thought were true for generations, and now we know they're true.
Another would be the economic benefits of a healthy urban tree canopy. The economic benefits are many. You heard about some from Dorothy. I want to put a finer point on the issue of tourism. I want you to imagine a city that you enjoy travelling to, other than your own city, whatever that might be, if you happen to live in a city or the city of Ottawa. Outside of those obvious examples, is there a city that you like to travel to from time to time? I want you to imagine that city and get a snapshot in your mind of that city and then strip it of its urban tree canopy. Strip the trees out of that postcard image in your mind, and what have you got? We know what you've got. You've got asphalt. You've got steel. You've got cement. You don't have a very beautiful city. You don't have a liveable city.
What we're here today to talk about and to emphasize is that when we have a healthy urban tree canopy, we have a liveable city. We have space that people want to migrate to and want to live in.
We know there are lots of economic benefits beyond tourism. In Ontario, for instance, there is over 100,000 permanent, full-time jobs in the area of horticulture in the private sector alone. You could add another 30,000 in the public sector. Many of them—not all, granted, but many of them—are directly associated with the urban tree canopy.
We also know that real estate values increase by over 30%. For example, Manhattan has the most expensive real estate in the world. There is a condominium project on the south side of Central Park overlooking a beautiful tree canopy. If you stripped the tree canopy out of there and, of course, the green space, I don't think you'd have the same kind of value at all, or desirability.
There are all kinds of economic reasons why the federal government really should be focusing some attention on helping the organizations that are currently committed to enhancing our urban tree canopy. That's the group I represent, the people who are already doing the work. We're not doing new work. We're merely organizing them so that together they can do more.
Another reason I think the federal government needs to focus on the urban tree canopy is the societal benefits of a healthy urban tree canopy. It's a fact that vehicular traffic on a well-treed street, a mature street, slows down. We also know that pedestrian traffic picks up. We know that kids come out of the houses and start playing out of doors—God forbid, maybe a little ball hockey. We know that there are all kinds of other societal benefits to having a healthy urban tree canopy.
Finally, I want to mention the ecological benefits, which Dorothy has already touched upon. We know about the sequestering of carbon. We know about the very efficient production of oxygen, more so by a tree than anything man has created. We know that toxins in rain water are filtered. There are all kinds of other ecological reasons we need to encourage, at every opportunity, the development and enhancement of our urban tree canopy.
In a city like Toronto, there is a 17% tree canopy. In the 1960s it was over 40%. It's been in steady decline ever since. In spite of the best efforts by some good people, it continues to decline. It's not just happening in Toronto; it's occurring in every urban centre across the country.
The emerald ash borer is going to affect 8.5% of the Toronto tree canopy. It's going to affect more than 20% of the Ottawa tree canopy. You should be thinking very hard about what you can do to contribute to the sustaining of our urban tree canopy where the ash is concerned. By the way, Dr. Sandy Smith, the dean of the faculty of forestry at the University of Toronto, has signed a document that says it costs less to save a mature ash than it does to cut it down and replace it. Think about that.
In conclusion, I merely want to say that the purpose of Trees for Life, the Urban Tree Canopy Coalition is to take this discussion that we have about urban infrastructure, which could include public education and police protection and fire protection and storm water sewer management and sanitary sewers, and elevate trees so that they're a part of that discussion, so that, as one councillor in Toronto said to me, “Trees are not a nice to have; they're a must have.” That's where we'd really like to go with this conversation.
That is a good question, even though it is a bit complicated.
Historically, our mission has been to plant trees. Our programs, basically, are geared towards tree planting. In the 1990s, in particular, we started to plant many trees in urban areas. As you noted, the conservation of existing forests is very important. Of course, it is municipal regulations that encourage the protection of urban woods.
A municipality that favours growing trees is what has helped us the most. Some municipalities favour growing trees and others have policies with regard to trees. They don't all have similar policies. That is why, in my presentation, I spoke of the necessity of having a national presence.
The current problem is that all municipalities are completely isolated from technology and programs that would help them to improve their urban forests. It is sad to note that we are the only organization that can offer reforesting programs in urban areas. Municipalities need much more than that.
As Mr. Cullen said, there is a significant decline in the number of trees in cities. We don't see it, because it takes a great deal of time. After living for about 80 years, over time, one realizes that municipalities have fewer trees. It is not because they don't like trees, it is because there was negligence, if you will, and planning and reforestation in urban areas have not been respected. Municipalities are asking more and more for national leadership with regard to urban forests.
I'd like to start my questioning with a comment for Ms. Dobbie.
Several years ago during your term as an MP, you visited an elementary school in your riding, and you talked about how young women could run in politics. You have a woman sitting in front of you right now who sat in that class, who since has been elected to politics, and believes the principle that it just takes someone to show that it can be done. I just wanted to thank you for your contribution to our country.
Voices: Hear, hear!
Ms. Michelle Rempel: Moving on, I want to direct some of my questions to the team from the City of Calgary because I represent a Calgary riding. We have a unique challenge in our city in that it's very fast growing. We've seen an enormous expansion in population over the last decade especially. We're under extreme pressures to expand the city beyond its needs. When we talk about infrastructure in the city, it's not just about roads or hospitals and whatnot; the dialogue is also about how we attract people to the city and retain them. Labour is one of our determinants of growth. How do we make the city sustainable in the long term as well? As you said, and certainly I hear this from my constituents, it is something that is important to them.
You touched upon some of the uniqueness of the City of Calgary's management plan when it comes to urban conservation. I can't remember the exact title of it, but it's the wetland conservation plan and some of the other frameworks you have.
Could either of you speak very briefly to some of the challenges you faced in developing them and then speak to some of the challenges you face in implementation, in the context of best practice? I know you have achieved some measurable results over the last few years and it has been very well integrated into the planning process. For the committee's edification, maybe you could speak to how you developed that, any challenges that you face, and any ongoing challenges there may be in implementation.
Certainly. I'll talk specifically about the wetlands conservation plan just to keep within the time limits. You're right, in that we're projected to grow by about 28% in the next 20 years. Infrastructure and sustainability are big issues for us. We do know that if we build the city smarter, we'll ultimately be saving some money.
From a strict conservation point of view, and by that I mean identifying what's important and working with that within the context of development, we work within the confines of what the legislation, the provincial Municipal Government Act, allows us to do. The ability to protect, identify, and conserve wetlands, for example, is covered by, I think, 69 words in the Municipal Government Act itself, which talks about protection of ravines, gullies, swamps, and coolies, land that could be flooded or is otherwise unstable. When you look at what that really talks about, it's saying this is land you shouldn't build on because it's not a good idea.
As a municipality, and there are several in Alberta that do this, we've had to work quite creatively with our partners provincially and federally to determine: What's important about these areas? What's important about wetlands and riparian areas? How do we take that nub of an idea within the legislation and apply it to some broader ecological goals? You have to know who you're working with and you have to be creative in how you apply a fairly small piece of legislation.
I would like to thank all the witnesses here today. This is very fascinating.
Urban conservation is an enormous challenge. It is part of the larger challenge of conservation on a national level. We conducted a study on this and it was published in a report. Of course, we were in disagreement. We mentioned that the committee did not acknowledge significant contributions made by science and scientists, environmental groups, aboriginal groups or communities. Moreover, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy recently tabled its report.
As for urban conservation, there are always problems related to urban development. For example, where I am from, in Drummondville, the city wants to grow. It is natural for a city to want to grow, however it does so at the expense of forests. So we are faced with the difficulty of balancing conservation and housing or industrial developments.
That brings us to the question of climate change. You touched on this when you spoke about the problem of droughts and what not.
How can the federal government provide tools to better reconcile the environment with the economy? What are these tools?
I think that Mr. Manderson and Mr. Cullen have some good ideas on this. Go ahead, gentlemen.
Within the context of environmental change and dealing with change, this is clearly an issue of the best available science. We need science to understand this and to learn to predict.
We have done some work in the Calgary region, for example. We know that we're going to be losing the primary source of water, the Bow River, which is fed by the Bow glacier. That's going to disappear certainly within my lifetime.
The patterns of precipitation are changing in southern Alberta. We're going to expect somewhat wetter, more unpredictable weather. We have to think about that in terms of how we supply drinking water to several million people, which is going to be a big change for us.
We need guidance. We need science. We need advice, I would say, at the federal and international levels, that's going to help municipalities deal with that.
With respect to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an interesting report just came out which talks about cities and the biodiversity outlook, and that the brunt of climate change is going to be borne by cities.
It spoke, for example, of coastal cities and the rise of the oceans as being one issue. Drought is going to be another. It's not just going to be an issue that can be solved locally. It needs to be solved nationally and internationally. Mitigating the effect of that is certainly an important element of that, but the mitigation is going to take some comprehensive planning.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our panellists today. It's been very informative.
I just wanted to go back to a couple of points on the scope of the study: point two, what could be the goals of connecting urban Canadians with conservation; and point five, what are the economic, health, biodiversity and social benefits associated with urban conservation.
The reason I go back to those two points is I know Mr. Cullen and Ms. Dobbie are avid gardeners and big promoters of gardening. Ms. Dobbie, I often enjoy your program on Sunday mornings while I have my morning cup of coffee. It has helped me with great insight into some of the gardening challenges that I face on an ongoing basis. I do appreciate it.
I wouldn't necessarily call myself an avid gardener, but I love getting out in my yard as much as I possibly can. I enjoy gardening, landscaping, the whole aspect of working out there and getting my hands in the soil and getting my fingers really dirty. I know some of the benefits that I feel personally about getting involved in that.
I wonder if either or both of you could speak to some of the psychological benefits of gardening and getting involved in the landscape, kind of becoming one with it.
I want to address that one.
Actually it has to do with a question from Mr. Choquette. He mentioned the same principle because the trend now, of course, is all toward densification. Mr. Choquette was talking about urban areas expanding into rural areas and what we can do. The trend in municipalities is toward densification, to develop more in the cities themselves. That itself, by definition, is going to put pressure on existing trees. We have to learn how trees can live in an area of more hard surface.
There are techniques, and they're not those what we call tree coffins, those little cement boxes that you described. That's a technology from the 1960s and 1970s. There's new technology available. One of them is called Silva Cells. It's a living system underneath sidewalks. They are cells that can support sidewalks and infrastructure but allow for soil so that tree roots can exist in the soil beneath the sidewalks. They're one of the best examples, and they're being used all across the major cities. If you're ever at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto—some of you may be there one day—take a look at the trees planted along there. This is a multi-million dollar project. They ripped apart the entire sidewalk system simply to incorporate these cells to allow the trees that they've planted to grow to maturity and maintain a very large size.
It is possible, but not under the technology that you described. In the technology you described, according to a study that I saw, the trees live an average of seven years. It's more like a replacement program, a job creation program, where the trees are literally replaced every seven years. The long-term solution is to invest big money and unfortunately--here's the plug again—that money is borne by the municipal tax base. It's a tax levy on the municipalities. They have to bear the brunt of trying to support a tree in a hard surface area.
It's a real delight to be here.
Mr. Rosen, I appreciate your comments about Toronto. It's my city. We've lived through all of the digging and re-digging of Bloor Street, and it looks to be a success.
Another project that's been happening in the city of Toronto is one around the waterfront. You're probably aware of it.
I've spent some time with them. They've talked about some of the best practices they're putting in place for all the park space they're developing down there, but also for the tree planting. They mentioned that the vision is to have not seven-year trees down at the waterfront, but 50-year trees. It sounds as though they've been incorporating the Silva Cells, I guess. Is that the technology they're using?
A voice: Yes.
Mr. Bernard Trottier: Is that an example of best practices?
I should mention, by the way, that's it's not all municipal money that's going into the Toronto waterfront. It's actually mostly federal money.
Is that an example of the best practices being used in the country, or are there better examples of best practices when it comes to urban planting?
When it comes to best practices that you could have in a municipality, I'm not going to name the municipalities. I don't want to get into that.
You have to think of the bigger picture. Some municipalities actually have an urban forest strategy. In my mind, every city should have one. I don't know if we want to legislate this, but we should be actively encouraging it.
A municipal urban forest strategy tells the municipality that we have to do an inventory. You have to ask yourself: why do we have the problem with emerald ash borer? Why is it that the City of Ottawa has one-third of their trees in one species? How did that happen?
A lot of it happened because there was not a lot of planning. Actually, there was no strategy in Ottawa in the 1970s and 1980s—after Dutch elm disease, ironically—no strategy to say that the strategy should be to have a diverse urban forest, no strategy to say that you should want to create diversity in the forest.
I think the short answer is that the best management practices always start with a good, comprehensive plan, including: what kinds of trees we have growing now; what kinds we would like in the future; when the trees have to be replaced; what size of tree we have to replace them with; and whether we're redeveloping the downtown. Also, we should be using Silva Cells. All of that stuff has to be spelled out in a comprehensive plan.
Yes, the waterfront is a good example, and so is the area around Yonge and Bloor. Unfortunately, though, there's the rest of urban Canada, with the guy maintaining the hockey rink taking care of the trees, who's not privy to the technology, the training, or the funding to do that kind of innovative stuff. But yes, the waterfront is a great example.
I sometimes call this the elephant in the room. We spend very little time talking about private donors—private foundations, private individuals, corporations. They are very enthusiastic about what all of us represent here this afternoon.
I call this the miracle of matching funds. The federal government could come to the table and say, “Here's a buck to plant another tree, but we would like to see four more bucks. If we put one in, could you get us four more?” I think Trees for Life, as a coalition, would be delighted by that challenge and would go out and find four more bucks, so that your buck would represent five bucks. Then instead of planting 100,000, we'd be planting 500,000, or instead of a million, five million.
We'd have the private donor looking at this and saying, “You've brought the municipality to the table. You've brought not-for-profits to the table. You've brought the province to the table. You've brought the feds to the table. I'm coming to the table.”
I have a file that represented about $750,000 in private donations. Foundations have said they'd like to support what we're doing, doubling the tree canopy, but they don't want to do it alone. When you have money that you're prepared to invest as representatives of the federal government, you probably have the same attitude as private donors in the same situation. Nobody wants to do it all.