Letters to Ottawa

I recently wrote two letters (which can be found below) to Ottawa City Council over two separate, but related issues in regard to urban sprawl and a proposed road that will adversely affect the future of a local endangered population of Blanding's Turtle.

Sierra Club Canada is a grassroots organization.  We have representation throughout Canada and part of the reason for our existence is to help out local communities.  Our current efforts around the Blanding's Turtle are not unique.  As an example, in Comox Valley, British Columbia we are currently in court to prevent a gas station from being built on a watershed.

We, in the environmental community, often face an uphill battle in our efforts to preserve that which has no voice.  These are not trivial battles.  We long ago learned through science that our impact on the environment can no longer go on unchecked and that there is a better way to develop and move forward.  This is what I and SCC will continue to fight for day in and day out.


Your Worship Mayor Larry O’Brien and Ottawa City Councillors
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1

Feb. 23, 2010
RE: Terry Fox Drive Extension                                                                                                             
On behalf of the members of Sierra Club Canada and as a resident of this city I’m writing to urge Ottawa City Council to reconsider the fate of the endangered Blanding’s Turtle as well as several other endangered and threatened species that reside in the area of the proposed Terry Fox Drive Extension.

The city has a legal and moral obligation to act in the interest of these creatures.

They are, in a very real sense, long-term residents of our city who, over more than a century, have continually been forced to share the vast majority of their habitat with us.   In the past, we believed nature’s ability to absorb our actions was boundless.  As a result, we ran roughshod over all we encountered.  Today we have no excuse.  We know full well that there is a limit to nature’s ability to accommodate us.

Last year, when the federal government used the financial crisis as an excuse to remove the protections that environmental assessments are supposed to provide, Sierra Club Canada warned that haste would lead to environmental tragedies.

Thousands of species have disappeared (and continue to disappear).  Sierra Club Canada does not believe the citizens of Ottawa want to be responsible for any more extinctions and certainly not for something as trivial as another road.  City Council must act responsibly at this important junction to ensure Terry Fox Dr. extension does not go forth as planned.

This project has not had a complete and proper environmental assessment and may be open to costly legal intervention.  There is not a need for this road at this time.  Endangered and threatened species should be given priority over development given the rapid and steady decline of wetlands habitat in Ontario.

There should be a limit to human indifference to our environment and the life it supports.

John Bennett
Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada

Your Worship Mayor Larry O’Brien and Ottawa City Councillors
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1

Feb 23. 2010
RE: Extension of Ottawa’s Urban Boundary              

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

Last year, when faced with a proposal to expand the urban boundary by an additional 842 hectares, Ottawa City Council voted instead to limit the expansion to 222 hectares.

Now, we understand there is talk of revisiting this decision due to pressure from local development companies.  We urge you not to allow this to happen and to consider the benefits of smart planning.

Densification is the best way to accommodate a growing population.  Ottawa’s expected growth to over a million people by 2031 can be managed through smart planning in lieu of unnecessary and harmful expansion. 

Urban sprawl has real consequences both for our economic and environmental well-being.  Savings – both for the city and for citizens – can be found through densification.  Otherwise, infrastructure such as roads, water pipes and sewers must be built and maintained, while services such as police, fire, and schools must also be extended to serve these outlying areas.  Taxes must then be raised to pay for this expansion. 

As a result, municipal services end up being more costly on a per-user scale for low-density areas.  A study commissioned by the City of Ottawa last year called “Comparative Municipal Fiscal Impact Analysis” showed that households inside the Greenbelt pay roughly $1,000 more in city taxes than they get back in services, while households outside the Greenbelt get more than they give.

Moreover, urban sprawl will further destroy valuable agricultural land.  As well, our city green spaces have been diminishing over the years and we need to protect what is left – not only for recreational purposes, but also for the rich ecological diversity that exists within them.

Finally, an increase in roadways and cars will have a noticeable impact on our environment and health.  More cars mean more traffic, which means more pollution.  Comparatively, smart planning will result in more liveable cities with a healthier and more interactive environment.

Already, cities such as Vancouver and Montreal have taken strides to combat urban sprawl.  As the nation’s capital, Ottawa should be looked to as a leader on this front – and that begins by holding the existing boundary line.

Development for development’s sake is not smart.  If the City of Ottawa truly values the environment and is concerned about developing a vibrant and diverse city, it should set an example by maintaining a firm urban boundary to encourage urban densification.


John Bennett   
Executive Director                                                         
Sierra Club Canada           



Ottawa City Council decides not to reopen urban boundary limit decision: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Council+holds+line+boundaries/2609184/...



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