—-Municipal Candidate Survey —- Kathleen May

Huntsville — District Council

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

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about one of my favourite subjects – our Earth and our local environment. My personal steps are part of an ethos I follow to try to make my impact on this planet as harm-free as possible. I compost in my backyard, I buy local and seasonal groceries at the farmer’s market or our beloved food co-op, I cut down on plastic waste by not using it in the first place (including no election signs, which was an environmental choice that I was alone in making).  I don’t have a personal vehicle, preferring to walk or carpool. I have native plant gardens, where I grow local and regional native plants in order to help our ecosystem, which has been noticeably impacted by development and encroaching human use. I also support the Land Back movement, because I believe that we will not solve this crisis without Indigenous people leading, and towns like Muskoka which are part of treaty agreements have a responsibility to make amends as part of Truth and Reconciliation. With all that said, I truly believe that the climate crisis is an existential threat that individual action alone cannot resolve – we have to confront corporate power, tax them appropriately for the relative damage they cause, and give the environment a voice in decisions that impact it. Earth now, or chaos later. I’ve made my choice. 

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

·      Buildings

All the options we need already exist to create buildings less destructively. Hempcrete, rammed earth, modified cob; the lists go on. The barrier always seems to be money, but we’ve decided (it’s been decided for us) that capitalism is the preferred economic system and it doesn’t have to be – but, we can also work within the current system to make changes that will benefit, and not harm, future generations. We can go to experts at Fourth Pig or Tooktree and partner with them in creating carbon neutral, passive heated/cooled, self-sustaining homes that we could celebrate as a community. Investment in this area could make Huntsville a trailblazer when it comes to confronting outmoded, toxic, wasteful, and exploitative building practises. I want Huntsville to be somewhere that other towns emulate, not a cautionary tale of what not to do.

·      Housing

Mixed use housing is key here. Huntsville is not a town that is currently leading in accessibility. Whenever we build new housing (with green techniques), we need to consider the community-within-a-community model. People should be able to walk (and access public transit that works for them) to vital amenities, like healthy groceries. We can model what a lot of European countries look like: eminently walkable, prioritizing mixed use spaces, public spaces that we can all take pride in, and fostering a sense of connection and pride with our natural environment. 

·      Land use (sprawl)

It’s a shame to see clear-cutting and development for new buildings when we have many that are empty or inappropriately used. Most cities and towns in North America are built primarily for vehicle use. This has to change – fuel is expensive and a non-renewable, pollutive product; vehicles are often inaccessible financially but not having a vehicle has a huge impact on where you can live or work. Again, mixed use housing and businesses can alleviate some of the major problems that come with sprawl (commuting, etc), but those don’t get to the root of the issue: we are attempting infinite growth on a finite planet. We also cannot treat our sacred ecosystem like a savings account, where we just decide to make withdrawals whenever it makes financial sense, selling off wetlands or green belts. You cannot plant a 100-year-old tree; you can only choose not to cut it down. We have to protect our trees as if they were the very air our children will breathe, because they are.  

·      Transportation

We absolutely need to improve our transit. I remember a time living in Huntsville without transit, so I don’t want to be ungrateful for what we have. Some transit is always better than none. But a robust, frequent, accessible, FREE transit system would only improve our town with very few drawbacks, and if someone with the numbers did the math, I bet we’d make back the investment in the savings on road infrastructure, the damage to which is mainly caused by vehicle wear-and-tear, which proper, 7-day-a-week transit can start to eliminate. More and more communities are also choosing electric vehicles for public transit; if I am elected for Town and District Council, I will work to implement EVs when it comes time to upgrade our Transit buses, as some of the school buses have come. When it comes to personal vehicles, I can see the tide turning when it comes to Elective Vehicles, and as they become financially comparable to fossil-fuel powered vehicles, that tide will continue to roll in. Incentives/rebates could further expediate this. However, EVs are not a panacea and come with an environmental cost of their own. Like with heating and energy, we will need to employ a variety of solutions insteading of relying on one change alone. Creativity and innovation are key here, which is exactly what I hope to bring to the table.

·      Other

I’m also really keen to get our Council to consider using native plants in the downtown. We plant thousands of zinnia and petunias, neither of which are very nutritionally beneficial to pollinators, and most of the annuals we plant are non-native and have no host species. I know exactly which native plants we could use in planters for season-wide colour that will also support pollinators and positively impact the ecosystem. At the end of the year, we could offer these plants, many of which could be perennials, to local growers. We could also collect seeds to give to the Seed Library at Huntsville Public Library. This is a really easily implemented concept that comes with huge benefits, and the local support is there. We just have to make it happen – and that’s what I intend to do.

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

I love the idea of a hundred-year-plan. We need to stop thinking – and acting – in 4-year chunks. If elected, I want the impact that I have on our community to last a lot longer than until the next election. And I do make decisions with the bigger-picture in mind. I think we need to focus on many small changes, fast. I also think we need to be more open and realistic about the impacts that the climate crisis will have on our town and district, because we will be responding to this issue for the foreseeable future, possibly for the next 100 years, if we do not act decisively for the planet today. We need to foster resiliency and sustainability, both as individuals and as a community. We can’t pay lip service to climate actions and then approve buildings that use traditional concrete and off gas untold amounts of CO2. I have a vision for a future community, seven generations from now, that is peaceful, welcoming, has eliminated false scarcity, celebrates diversity, faces challenges collectively and wisely, does not uplift those who would exploit nature or people, and is resilient in the face of coming storms – whether those are climate-drive or ideological.