OPINION: The most important pillar

By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: The most important pillar
Solar panel stock photo.

On Monday night, Cornwall City Council met to discuss their strategic plan for 2019-2022. In the draft of the plan, the City identifies five strategic priorities for the next three years, waterfront development, skilled workforce, housing opportunities, economic development and environmental sustainability.

I think these are all worthy focuses for the City to address and make progress on over the next three years, but the last one I feel, is the most urgent.

The other four categories will go a long way to help grow our municipal economy, but neglecting the last one could do a lot to hurt it.

Municipalities are the ones that will be the most economically impacted by climate change. We have already seen examples of this in recent years with sever spring time flooding in Ottawa, Montreal, and their surrounding townships like Clarence-Rockland.

Some of the proposed initiatives that Cornwall is looking at in the environmental stability department include banning plastic bags, introducing water meters and forming an Environment and Climate Change Committee.

More can be done. The issue of climate change and environmental sustainability should be the top priority in the strategic plan as it affects every other strategic goal in this draft.

When looking at developing more housing opportunities in Cornwall for example, the municipality should consider how these homes can be more sustainable and efficient. New homes in the city should have water meters to encourage less waste of water, they should also be properly winterized as to not waste winter heating. Finally, my most ambitious suggestion would be homes with some sort of sustainable or re-useable energy source.

Another pillar of the strategic plan is Economic Development, an initiative under that pillar is to reduce the number of vacant commercial spaces in the city. Rather than leaving these as empty spaces, until they are sold, the city can use them as places to promote sustainability. Why not add solar panels on vacant properties or on roofs to reduce electricity costs for the city? Or add community gardens dedicated to supporting local food banks?

The same goes for brownfields. There are properties within the City of Cornwall where there has been historical land contamination. The municipality maintains a fund that developers can use to help them offset the cost of cleaning up these lands for residential development, however, until these lands are sold, why not use them to build renewable sources of energy. Solar panels don’t need to be built on clean land, so if there are brownfields in the city that are difficult to sell, then they should be made to be useful in someway. Using them to develop renewable resources might even be a way to sustain the brownfields fund while not relying on taxpayer support.

Climate change poses real challenges for municipalities, but also real opportunities for those cities who are proactive and progressive. Cornwall should be a leader in this arena. When developing this strategic pillar and incorporating it into the upcoming three year plan, councillors should be asking themselves how Cornwall can become a leader in the province and in the country when it comes to green initiatives.

What do you think readers? Is the environment a priority for you? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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