TORONTO, September 17, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Less than six weeks to go before Ontario's municipal elections, a new non-partisan election campaign was launched today by Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. The Vote Smart campaign is polling candidates on environmental positions, going door to door to talk to voters, running advertisements, and organizing a get-out-the-vote push.
"Municipal councils make key decisions that have a direct impact on Ontarians' quality of life," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. "The outcome of upcoming municipal elections will be critical to preserving Ontario's Greenbelt and what is left of the farmland and green spaces across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. We hope to help voters make good choices."
The non-partisan campaign includes one of the largest municipal candidate surveys ever conducted in Ontario, with about 1,000 municipal candidates surveyed across the Greenbelt region, as well as in Waterloo, Guelph, Mississauga and the Lake Simcoe region. In all, Vote Smart covers 53 municipalities and 9 regional councils across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Survey results are already available to voters at www.votesmart2010.ca.
Campaign workers have already been at festivals and farmers' markets, and going door to door talking to voters. A report on municipal campaign financing is being produced, and ads encouraging voters to make good choices will be run. The campaign push will end with get-out-the-vote activities encouraging voters to go to the polls.
Over 320 candidates from regions across the Greater Golden Horseshoe have already responded to the survey. Of those that have responded:
94% indicated that they support growing or strengthening the Greenbelt in their community.
65% indicated that they would support a province-wide ban on election contributions from corporations and unions
94% indicated that they would support the creation of a policy that would favour purchasing locally-grown foods for their municipal facilities.
"Every year we are losing farmland and our access to local food is dwindling at an alarming rate," said Amber Cowie, Greenway Program Manager for Ontario Nature, and member of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance. "It is important that voters know that their representatives will work to protect the remaining agricultural land and the natural heritage systems within them, otherwise the economy and ecology of Ontario will be even further compromised than it is now."
Environmental Defence and The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance do not support or endorse any individual candidates running for elected office.
Visit the Vote Smart website at: www.votesmart2010.ca
About Environmental Defence (www.evironmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada's contribution to climate change.
About the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance (www.greenbeltalliance.ca): The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is a diverse multi-stakeholder coalition of close to 100 organizations who share a common vision for protecting and expanding the Golden Horseshoe Greenbelt. Environmental Defence is the coordinator of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance.
VoteSmart2010 Municipal Candidate Survey Questions
There are 9 standard questions for all candidates in the Greenbelt area. In some areas there is an additional question related to a local issue, these are listed in Regional Questions, below.
1) Currently, only municipalities can make a request to the Province to grow the Greenbelt, and they are responsible for implementing the Greenbelt Plan. Do you support growing the Greenbelt within your municipality and/or strengthening support for Greenbelt protection in your municipality?
2) In order for the Greenbelt to remain protected, municipalities must adhere to the Province's Places to Grow strategy, specifically, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, while respecting the protections under the Greenbelt Plan. Do you support concentrating development within your municipality's existing urban boundary, with no further urban expansion into farmlands or greenfields?
3) New roads and other infrastructure fragment the natural areas of the Greenbelt, threatening its ecological integrity by destroying connections between natural heritage features. Do you support urban planning that would facilitate enhanced infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, an efficient public transit system, increased funding for public transit and/or improving links to regional public transit systems?
4) Strong market demand in urban areas near the Greenbelt for locally-grown foods supports a viable agricultural sector in the Greenbelt. Do you support the creation of a policy in your municipality that favours purchasing locally-grown foods for municipal facilities like nursing homes, day care centres and City cafeterias?
5) Do you support stronger recycling and green-bin programs to reduce waste in your municipality?
6) Water is a precious resource, yet Canadians continue to be one of the biggest per capita water consumers in the world, using almost double the amount of other developed countries. Do you support creating the water conservation policies necessary to offset new residential water demand for your municipality?
7) Given the need to reduce Ontario's contribution to climate change and foster the creation green jobs through investment in the green energy economy, will you support the removal of local barriers to facilitate the development of renewable energy projects in your community?
8) Although aggregate (gravel) extraction is a permitted land use in the Greenbelt Plan, it continues to have huge negative impacts on the natural environment. Would you pursue a procurement policy that requires the highest level of recycled content allowable in municipal works projects, and situates aggregate extraction in areas away from sensitive natural heritage and source water features?
9) Do you support changes to the Ontario Municipal Elections Act to require that donations to candidates come only from electors in the municipality where the candidate is running, and that union and corporate contributions are banned?
10) Regional Questions
Candidates for Aurora, Barrie, Bradford-West Gwillimbury, Brock, Innisfil, King, Newmarket, Orillia, Oro-Medonte, and Ramara: If elected, will you take measures in your municipality to help achieve the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan's target of "a minimum 40% high quality natural vegetative cover in the watershed" while protecting prime agricultural lands?
Candidates for Burlington and Oakville:
Do you support the Region of Halton's Natural Heritage System and will you oppose any attempts to locate new highways through it?
Candidates for Collingwood, Essa, New Tecumseth and Tiny:
If elected will you push Simcoe County to set a waste diversion rate of more than 76% by 2030 and increase public oversight of the program?
Candidates for East Gwillimbury and Georgina:
If elected, will you take measures to ensure a stronger municipal role in limiting new infrastructure in the Greenbelt, such as highways and sewer lines, proposed for your municipality?
Candidates for Hamilton:
The Province issued a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) in April 2010, at the request of the City of Hamilton and the Region of Halton, to stop the first Greenfield quarry in the Natural Heritage System of the Greenbelt and the Carlisle drinking water protection area, proposed by St Mary's Cement. Will you defend the governments' decision to protect the Greenbelt before the relevant tribunals, such as the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB)?
Candidates for Mississauga:
Valley lands and other natural infrastructure are irreplaceable air and water purifiers. They are a major factor in fighting the effects of climate change in our municipality. If elected, will you support the highest level of protection possible for these valuable natural features?
Candidates for Vaughan:
If elected, will you support the protection of the remaining non-urban, or "whitebelt", lands in Vaughan, to help preserve farm land and greenspace and to control urban sprawl and traffic?