Raise the Hammer asked the candidates how they would address five issues of sustainability: climate change, peak oil, sprawl, transportation, and aerotropolis.
By Ryan McGreal
Published November 08, 2006
In our last issue, we invited candidates for the upcoming municipal election to share five specific actions that would improve the city. The response was underwhelming, characterized mainly by a dearth of big ideas and a lot of hollow rhetoric in its place.
However, in a council of fifteen members, any individual councillor will spend more time working with other people's ideas than with his or her own. In the interests of fairness, therefore, Raise the Hammer asked the candidates how they would address five issues important to RTH:
The responses were, if possible, even more discouraging than the responses to our previous, open-ended survey. For one thing, only fifteen candidates responded. Granted, the run-up to the election is a busy time, but we're talking maybe fifteen minutes to sketch out the candidate's understanding of the issue and ideas on whether and how to respond.
It's probably safe to assume that the candidates most likely to respond are those who are already thinking of these matters, so it's disappointing to see that most candidates are stuck at tinkering around the margins - an anti-idling by-law, promoting alternate fuels, encouraging more transit ridership, and so on.
Well, yes; these are all worthy actions, and should really have been no-brainers for the outgoing council, but the candidates are treating these issues as if a very slight adjustment here and a minor concession there are enough to respond to what the evidence suggests will be major global crises with the potential to cause massive economic and social upheavals.
One candidate for mayor, Steve Leach, suggested that city council shouldn't be directly addressing these issues at all, although he does offer some promising ideas, including district heating and mass transit development.
Another candidate for mayor, incumbent Larry Di Ianni, is on record saying he does not believe peak oil is a serious risk, and in today's Hamilton Spectator says the city should focus on the Mid-Peninsula Highway for "improved transportation", although he did not cite this in his response to RTH.
Only a couple of ward candidates demonstrated a real depth of knowledge around the issues and a willingness to explore more substantial actions.
Brian McHattie, a candidate for Ward 1 (and the incumbent), has been deeply involved in encouraging the city to develop comprehensive plans to respond to climate change and peak oil, and he cites these frameworks as potential ways to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas production - if the city follows through.
Julia Kollek, a candidate for Ward 13 (Dundas) demonstrates a detailed understanding of the aerotropolis economic development plan and advocates a comprehensive approach to transforming Hamilton's transportation system to become cleaner and more sustainable. Defying the "anti-business" label often ascribed to environmentally-conscious politicians, Kollek makes several suggestions on how to spur economic development in ways that benefit the community and provide more opportunities within the city.
Moving Hamilton toward a truly sustainable future is going to be a major uphill battle no matter who wins the upcoming election.
Read all the candidates' responses on the Raise the Hammer website: www.raisethehamer.org.
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