Friday, October 29, 2010

ECO Mayoral debate

Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Living Green, Miller set for mayoral debate".

During the 2010 municipal elections in which I am running for school board trustee, guest authors Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are taking over my column.

Has it ever bothered you when politicians promise one thing but do another? We get an endless parade of government announcements about new initiatives to make things better, yet things still seem to get worse. And no-one ever checks to see what was actually done, or what was really accomplished.

There’s an exception in Ontario, where we have a real watchdog to report on how our environmental initiatives are working (or not). Created in 1994 by Bob Rae, almost eliminated under Mike Harris, but renewed and expanded under Dalton McGuinty, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) is an independent officer who reports annually to the Legislative Assembly – not to the governing party. His mandate includes monitoring the workings of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights and has recently expanded to include the use and conservation of electricity, natural resources and fuels.

Each year the ECO produces a report detailing how well the Ontario government has been following its own environmental rules, and provides extra insight into aspects of what is happening in ecological conservation. These reports are a sober and critical look at our government’s activities. Next week ECO Gord Miller, recently appointed to a third 5-year term, comes to Barrie to do something similar. By moderating Living Green’s “ECO Mayoral Debate”, Miller will help to keep the challenges and promises in perspective.

And Barrie certainly faces challenges. Over the next two decades, our population is set to grow another 50%, and we’ve just annexed almost 2300 hectares of “new” lands. Yet we are also tasked to intensify our urban development, reduce our carbon footprint and extend the life of our landfill. How can we do less with more? Certainly our next Mayor and council will have a critical role in crafting a vision and setting the tone.

Which brings us to the most exciting debate of this election, the ECO Mayoral Debate at the Fisher Auditorium (Barrie Central Collegiate) at 6:30 pm on October 19. With 8 candidates vying for the mayoral chain, debates can be repetitive and uninformative. This one will be different! Each candidate will have five minutes to lay out his vision for how to manage growth in Barrie while trying to achieve sustainability. Then, the audience will take charge and decide which candidates they want to hear from further by choosing a “Final Four” to remain for an hour of Q & A grilling and debate. (The other candidates will be asked to leave the stage.)

It’s free and open to the public, and the more who attend the better, so come to the ECO Mayoral Debate this Tuesday. Not only can you hear the candidates and ask your questions, you’ll be able to vote on which ones you feel would best represent Barrie.

For those who’d like more up-close-and-personal contact with Gord Miller, there will be a catered reception at 5 pm. For information, contact Karen Fox at 721-6867 or

Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are local realtors and founding members of Transition Barrie with a passion for green issues and are directors of Living Green.

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