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The Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee (PEAC) met for the first time in months on October 21, 2020, in the City Hall chamber. There were noticeable COVID-19 protocols in place for everyone in attendance. The committee had been unable to meet for several months due to the pandemic restrictions, however this did not mean that no action on environmental issues were taken or that that work stopped. It was clear that some of the committee members and city staff continued to work behind the scenes.
The first item was a presentation from communication staff. This presentation regarded public engagement, focusing on the background of websites like Connect Peterborough, which can be found at www.connectptbo.ca/, that are used for consultation and community engagement. Connect Peterborough, referred to as Connectptbo online, is a site the City uses to involve residents in making decisions on municipal policies and plans. The City recognizes the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)’s spectrum on public participation. This participation spectrum recognizes steps that go beyond consultation and informing the public and includes involvement, collaboration as well as empowerment. The presenter said that there is a two-way involvement in the process for collaboration.
The presenter said most engagement occurs within the first four sections of the spectrum: inform, consent, involve and collaborate, especially online. There is an organization, Bang the table, which is a company involved in software related to Connect Peterborough. An example of IAP2’S spectrum from the City of London Ontario was shown. The software the website uses, Connect Peterborough also uses, allows users to conduct polls, write stories, pin things on a map, and ask questions. Others can see comments, and the municipality has the ability to restrict comments that may be off topic or comments that the municipality is not prepared to receive. This is important because as the presenter pointed out, staff have to be ready to engage in discourse or the project might not be ready for more advanced levels of participation. The site also has a 'who is listening' feature. Connect Peterborough currently has engagement largely related to transportation.
Dana Jordan, a committee member, asked about changes to city busses and how it could be included in consultations Connect Peterborough. The answer was that some changes are not a good fit for consultation due to time constraints or other factors which was the case with buses in part due to COVID-19. Michael Papadacos, Infrastructure Management, suggested that there could be a more general page for movement where comments could be redirected. In addition to these questions there were questions about accessibility for people who do not use computers, which was asked by Mary Elizabeth, a committee member. It is reassuring that the consultations are not solely online and there may be options for phoning or visiting City Hall in person. Additionally, media releases from the City departments were discussed and how they are distributed and that people sharing the notices are effective. A review of the Connect Peterborough site shows that it is informative and interactive.
A second major topic dealt with climate change updates on the Recovery and Resilience Task Force. This committee looks at environmental, social, and cultural recovery opportunities related to the recovery from COVID- 19. Just over a year after the City of Peterborough Declared a Climate Emergency action is being taken to reduce greenhouse gases although perhaps not as strongly as some would like.
The first of these climate updates regarded a Home Energy Efficiency Program funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which Peterborough looks like it will receive funding for. The idea is for Peterborough to fund retrofits, education, incentives, and low interest loans to help homeowners address climate change in older homes while helping the economy. In the update it was reported that homes account for 40% of greenhouse gases with older homes being the focus due to lower building standards. There was conversation around new homes being included in the retrofit program because they might be an issue in the future. There was no conversation around land use changes impacting greenhouse gases.
The Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program was the next update where there was an application for 8 charging stations from Natural Resources Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program for vehicles owned by the city but this was revealed not to apply to busses. However, there is a review of future opportunities. In addition to this, there is a Waste Management Master Plan with Source Separated Organics, transit 2050, and a proposed Green Economy hub. These items will contribute to greenhouse gas reductions.
In other business, there was a request to start having land acknowledgments at the PEAC meetings and conversation surrounding David Miller’s book Solved. Finally, there was conversation about a possible December meeting and future topics which will include the urban forest bylaws most likely in January. The next meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2020.
If you would like to attend you are asked to call ahead for contact tracing. You can view agendas of current and past meetings of the PEAC or other municipal meetings by visiting www.peterborough.ca/en/city-hall/upcoming-and-past-agendas.aspx and you can watch in person by calling the City of Peterborough Clerk’s Office at 705 -742-7777 ext. 1820 before 11am of the meeting.