May 15, 2012
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On the eve of the Ontario Government’s budget, Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition presented its report, Health, Prosperity and Sustainability: The Case for Green Infrastructure in Ontario.

The 40-page report contained six recommendations that ask the Ontario government to have a greater focus on green infrastructure projects.

Well represented

Landscape Ontario is well-represented on the Coalition’s steering committee by executive director Tony DiGiovanni. Also on the Coalition is the Ontario Parks Association (OPA), represented by executive director Paul Ronan. Other members of steering committee are Janet McKay, founder and executive director of LEAF, Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Deborah Martin-Downs, director of the Ecology Division at Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, David Stonehouse, director and site development of Evergreen Brick Works; and Doris Chee, a practicing landscape architect for over 25 years.

In commenting on the report, Ronan stated, “We need to think about public infrastructure the same way we think about health care, with an eye towards prevention. Taxpayer dollars can go further, and provide a wider range of economic, health and environmental benefits, when significant green infrastructure investments are made to support more common ‘grey’ infrastructure spending.”

Report important for industry

DiGiovanni stated, “The reason that the Green Infrastructure Coalition report is so important is because of its focus on the economic and environmental benefits of green infrastructure. As an example, the report provides solid and credible research on the millions of dollars that communities could save by managing storm water using low-impact landscaping rather than traditional grey infrastructure pipes and catch-basins. Another example is the huge reduction of energy costs available through proper landscaping. The report is full of examples.”  

Ronan says that OPA got involved with the Coalition because it was a perfect fit for the organization’s mandate of ‘Protecting Tomorrow Today.’ “We are very proud of both our contribution to the development of this report, and something even more powerful, the education and promotion of the health and financial benefits of this crucial component of public infrastructure,” said Ronan. “Our board saw the diverse team which the Coalition was assembling and knew that working together with such recognized sector leaders, we could make a profound and well researched impact on the future of green infrastructure in Ontario.”

Improves quality of life

DiGiovanni stated, “At the core of all of Landscape Ontario’s public awareness activities is the idea that the landscape improves quality of life. Most people understand that plants and gardens are beautiful. Not many understand the economic, environmental, social, recreational, health and legacy benefits.”

The report’s list of recommendations asks the Government of Ontario to:
  • Change the definition of public infrastructure to incorporate green infrastructure. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Transportation, and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs should all refine the definitions of infrastructure to include green infrastructure.
  • Fund green infrastructure projects through various mechanisms such as:  eligibility for public infrastructure funds; stormwater fees/utilities; and incentive programs.
  • Capture opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure into existing legislation, policy and programs. Priorities include: incorporate green infrastructure into the Planning Act and the updated Provincial Policy Statement and make green infrastructure a consideration in planning and development; update the MOE’s Stormwater Management Planning and Design Manual so that new development and redevelopment projects require a creative suite of lot and conveyance (low impact development), as well as end-of-pipe measures that address local needs and provide multiple benefits; feature green infrastructure prominently in regulations of the Ontario Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act; feature green infrastructure prominently in the proposed Great Lakes Protection Act; and employ green infrastructure as a means to reach provincial energy conservation targets in Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan.
  • Improve inter-governmental coordination and co-operation, specifically among the Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Transportation, and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • Assemble a group of experts to gather information on existing research and programs, and create a comprehensive plan to eliminate barriers and develop provincial targets for green infrastructure.
  • Establish a research and development fund to support green infrastructure planning, evaluation and implementation activities such as i-tree eco studies; ecosystem services valuation studies; and Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP).

Greater awareness

The OPA executive director says that since the launch of the report, “We (Coalition) are now getting requests for more information on scientific data, which quantifies the social, physical and environment impacts of a healthy and adequately funded green infrastructure management program.” He said that the Coalition is looking to the province to open the doors to greater awareness and appreciation to green infrastructure value and to ensure that all projects embrace and employ green infrastructure technologies to save taxpayers’ dollars, create new jobs and ensure Ontario residents have a healthy sustainable future.”