—- Municipal Candidate Survey —- DON SMITH

Bracebridge — District Councillor

1.     What actions have you personally taken to support a greener, more sustainable climate?

It is my belief that it’s many small steps that can make an overall difference in the reduction of GHGs and a healthier environment. The following is a partial list of some personal initiatives undertaken by me and my wife, Susan:

  • for heating, we run a forced air electric furnace, recognizing the importance of renewable energy.
  • in the spring, we neither rake nor cut our lawn until late May to allow pollinators and other insects that contribute to biodiversity and a healthy ecosytem to get a head start. And, that saves an extra month of using energy to cut the grass.
  • when we do cut our lawn, we cut the lawn at the highest setting on our mower. This provides more shade for the soil, keeping it moist and avoiding lawn burnout. With the exception of when we’ve overseeded, we haven’t watered our lawn in years. We use less water and all the energy that is required to deliver water to our house.
  • we’ve reduced the size of our lawn in favour of a perennial garden and natural cover such as mulch, chipped from deadfall and trimmings on our property.
  • rather than a hard finish driveway such as paved, we have opted for a more permeable surface created from filings.
  • we rarely use our air conditioning. Instead, we open our windows at night and then close them in the morning, capturing the cool air and maintaining a cool house during the day.
  • while we own two vehicles, wherever possible, Susan and I adjust our work schedules and carpool.
  • and we recycle and compost for a whole host of reasons from reducing GHGs to putting food waste nutrients to good use. And, that extends to election signs – almost 90% of the signs I’ll use in this election are signs recycled from the past two municipal election campaigns.
  • In our business lives, we have utilized FSC paper, which meets certified environmental and stewardship standards, for the printing of our magazine. We also regularly feature articles on conservation, the environmental health of the community and individuals who are focused on Muskoka’s environment.
  • Our retail store features many items that can be considered “slow fashion” while including many local and Canadian-made products. It’s our belief that encouraging the purchase of products with both a long life and / or a Canadian label reduces GHGs by reducing shipping. We use only paper bags for our shoppers’ purchases.

2.     What opportunities for climate leadership at the municipal level (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)) would you champion in one or more of these areas: Buildings | Housing | Land use (sprawl) | Transportation | Other

During this past term of council, I was a strong advocate for the declaration of a “climate emergency” at both the District and Town levels. However, I would be remiss if I did not provide credit to the sustained and informed advocacy of Climate Action Muskoka in raising my awareness and demonstrating how we can take local action to make a difference.

The declaration of a “climate emergency” was necessary to recognize the severity of the challenges facing all of us and to create the impetus to engage both local government and the community in addressing the many issues that exist. We need to not only find ways to adapt to our changing climate and to mitigate the impact of increased GHGs but to dramatically reduce GHG production. And, all of us need to work together.

Currently, staff from the six area municipalities and the District of Muskoka are working together to coordinate their efforts, and their reports are expected later this term. The mandate they have been given is time-sensitive and clear.

While I do not wish to pre-empt their work, I’d like to offer some thoughts from my personal perspective. Firstly, municipal leaders can lead by the choices we make – retrofitting existing buildings, net zero standards for the construction of municipal buildings, acquisition of electric/energy efficient vehicles, promoting renewable energy and maintenance practices that reduce the use of energy. We can also incentivize the community to be participants in reducing GHGs by, as an example, reducing development charges for those who meet specific construction standards.

3.     A long-term problem requires a long-term solution. What is your 100-year plan? If elected, what would be your first action?

While a long-term solution may well be important from a maintenance perspective, the focus today needs to be on solutions that will allow us to get to that maintenance step. Action such as that can not be taken by one municipality in isolation or by one level of government, or for that matter, just government. All Canadians need to be engaged, if we are going to realize the targets set out for reducing GHGs.

For me, that comes down to developing clear goals, creating a plan to reach them and communicating the role each of us needs to play. The work soon to be released by municipal staff will inform the decisions that need to be made as we work towards realizing the targets that have been set out.