Debra McCarthy’s Response to Sustainability Questionnaire

SC: Sustainability – what does this mean to you, with respect to Cobourg, and how would you ensure that these issues are addressed in your term as a Councillor?

DM: In 1972 I read the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth and that set my lifelong journey to consider every way in which I could preserve the environment and influence others to do the same. When I was a school trustee, I lobbied for an Environment Issues Committee that went on to develop an Environmental Policy to govern the Board’s practices. I also served on the Roundtable on the Economy and Environment  (in Guelph) to be part of a dialogue between business leaders and environmentalists which at the time (1990) created bridges among previously divided groups. And now it is 2014. While progress has been made, it has not been enough to create a sustainable Earth for future generations.

For me, sustainability with respect to Cobourg means educating and promoting ways in which the municipal government, as well as Cobourg’s businesses, industries and citizens can become stewards of our environment creating a culture of sustainability. This means changing the way we do things – at all levels. I believe that all citizens have a desire to leave our community and the planet in better shape than it is currently. Small individual changes in behavior when done collectively can result in significant Green House Gas reductions in Cobourg.

SC: Climate change – is one of the greatest, global threats in our time. Current Canadian greenhouse gas emission levels must be reduced by 50% within the next 6 years (by 2020) to address climate change issues. If elected to Council what measures will you propose that Cobourg take to both reduce the town’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to help enable Cobourg residents to do the same? What GHG reduction target will you set for Cobourg for the end of your Council term?

DM: There are so many ways that we can bring down our GHG in Cobourg with education and incentives. I am unable to provide a specific target percentage and am eager to understand how this is measured. Here is what I have done and others can consider to reduce energy and water consumption, reduce waste, and improve air quality:

When replacing a furnace, choose a high energy efficiency model
Add insulation in places where heat escapes in winter or enters in summer
Consider an aluminum roof which reduced my energy costs considerably
Compost organic waste and then add it back to your garden
Use rain barrels to collect water to use on plants
Sign up the for the free Peak Saver Plus program through Lakefront Utilities
Protect our urban forest which cleans the air and cools our home by ensuring the trees on your property are healthy and not prone to ice damage by having an arborist prune

SC: Town planning – amendments to the Cobourg Official Plan require the development of an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) for the town. This plan will address water and energy conservation, air quality protection, waste reduction, environmental monitoring and taking various other initiatives. If elected to Council what deadline will you propose for completing this plan? What resources will you propose for its completion? How will you involve the community in the development of this plan?

DM: Our Official Plan speaks to the intent of developing an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) with specific targets (Section 4.8.3). Now is the time to put this intent into action with specific measurable outcomes. The ICSP Tool Kit, developed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), provides the mechanism to measure our progress. The good news is that the Town and its residents are already implementing aspects of this Plan. By undertaking the full process, we can be sure that as a community we are adopting practices which contribute to the planet’s sustainability. The Official Plan has been approved by Council but has not been approved at the provincial level due to two complainants. This potentially will interfere with the goal of adopting the ICSP process in this municipal term. Nevertheless, Council can continue to promote water and energy conservation, enhance air quality, reduce waste in partnership with the County during this term through education and incentives for residents to businesses to change.

SC: Transportation – has for many years been designed for automobile usage at the expense of other forms of transportation. This has caused many problems related to health and climate change. If elected to Council what would you do to promote and action changes to the transportation systems within Cobourg? As “active transportation” (cycling, walking, in-line skating, etc.) has emerged as one possible solution, how would you ensure that Cobourg continues to improve the Town for active transportation? Would you be prepared to sign a pledge to support active transportation within Cobourg?

DM: Any redevelopment of city streets must include bicycle and multi-purpose paths that contribute to active living. This not only improves our environment by reducing greenhouse gases but also enhances our health profile which reduces our burden on the medical system. The work of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee can provide feedback on how this can be expanded as various road improvements or subdivision developments are proposed. I have taken a pledge to promote active transportation in my community.

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