Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI)

There were two meetings of the ENVI committee this week. Both continued the study of Urban Conservation Practices in Canada.

The October 22nd meeting heard from three groups of witnesses.  These were Adam Bienenstock, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds; Andrea Gabor, President and David Wise, Chair, Policy Advisory Committee of the  Canadian Institute of Planners; and  Jennifer Powley, Coordinator of Our HRM Alliance  and Mark Butler, Policy Director of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax.

The October 24 meeting heard from four groups of witnesses.  These were Monica Andreeff, Executive Director of the Association for Mountain Parks, Protection and Enjoyment ; Anne Charlton, Director, Parks and Chris Manderson, Natural Area Management Lead, Parks of the City of Calgary;  Michael Rosen, President and Dorothy I. Dobbie, Past Chair, Board of Directors of Tree Canada and Mark Cullen, Chair of Trees for Life – Urban Tree Coalition.

Presentations from all witnesses emphasised the many benefits to be gained from green urban spaces from playgrounds, to small pockets of green, to tree-lined streets, to larger urban parks.  The benefits listed include improved  health and wellness for urban populations especially children who are now experiencing a “nature deficit”, economic benefits as cities improve their liveability, increased real estate values, increased tourism,  societal benefits and ecological benefits from carbon sequestering to water management and filtering.

The witnesses also talked about the need for balance with development and industrialization and business.  They gave the committee many ideas for how the federal government could assist in the rational greening of our cities including creating a National Urban Conservation/Forests Strategy, providing leadership, guidance, research and science,  funds, education and legislation and co-ordination to assist municipalities and other levels  of government reach their conservation goals in urban areas within their jurisdiction.