Don Kirkup’s Response to Sustainability Questionnaire

DK: Thank you for the opportunity to address your concerns regarding Sustainable Cobourg. Of course, as we all know, this is a very important and big subject that cannot be properly answered in a few words but I am pleased to provide brief answers to your questions. As mayor, I will work closely with organizations like yours to help develop programs that ensure the protection of our environment and further the goals of a sustainable community.

SC: What does sustainability mean for you, with respect to Cobourg?

DK: Sustainability with respect to Cobourg means a great deal to me. It goes further than simply supporting the obvious environmental issues like renewable energy, waste management, wildlife and natural habitats. It requires leadership and thinking that develops economic growth and social and community initiatives within the context of our environment, and in sync with it, not harmful to it. In the 20th century, we caused so much harm by of what we did, or didn’t do, that we now have to do so much more just to catch up. Sustainability means we must find ways in Cobourg, and beyond, to shift the balance of what we do to favour our environment, not favour economic growth that disregards the environment. A disregard for the environment is a disregard for the well being of all of us, most importantly, of our children and grandchildren. The reason I am running for mayor is for my children and grandchildren and I am committed to leading Cobourg in a new and more sustainable direction.

SC: How would you ensure it is part of your mandate over the next four years?

DK: Today, we are living in disharmony with nature and nature is losing the battle. I intend to fight the battle on behalf of nature and on behalf of our community. I will make environmental issues an integral part of my leadership and work with council to embed environmental planning into our Official Plan and all planning considerations. Environmental decisions must be part and parcel of economic decisions, not separate from them.  For example:

  • I am opposed to any expansion of the marina west of the harbour, not just because of economics (too costly), but because it would do irreparable damage to our waterfront and ruin wildlife habitat. And I want more green space, not more pavement with more places for citizens to picnic versus park cars. What we need is more parking for bicycles, not cars.
  • I am opposed to the building of the proposed cross-town expressway. People don’t live in Cobourg to be near an expressway, they live here to enjoy the neighbourhood streets. I would turn the wide swath of land where the expressway is proposed into more bicycle paths, walking paths and places to enjoy nature. Even the idea of an expressway in a town like ours is the antithesis of what our future needs. We need fewer cars, not more, and our concept of transportation must change so that we reduce emissions, not increase them.

This “expressway to nowhere” will cost our town more than we can afford (as much as $30 million); damage wildlife habitats; and generate excessive car emission for everyone living within 250 metres of it. We already have a high level of respiratory disease in our town and this will only make it worse in both healthcare and environmental costs. Expressways are old, don’t-give-a-damn about the environment thinking. That has to change. Unless we change our ways, we will become climate change refugees.

  • A number of years ago, I led a group of citizens who were instrumental in getting a by-law passed that prevents any generation of waste in Cobourg. And I am the only mayoral candidate that has continually spoken out against the mega-garbage incinerator being proposed in Port Hope. It does not take a climate change scientist to know that our town is directly downwind from Port Hope and that ash from such an incinerator could travel hundreds of miles, dropping its pollutants as it goes. I will continue to support Port Hope citizens in their fight against this proposal because it is something that will affect all of us in Northumberland.
  • There are numerous organizations in our community working hard to protect and sustain our environment and as mayor, I plan to provide the leadership required to create a community-wide environmental effort. It will take considerable initiative, from many segments of our community, and it is the responsibility of elected officials to ensure that we develop a strong, community-wide stewardship.

I will propose establishing an advisory group to determine how we can bring all the environmental groups and interests into a more collaborative and effective forum. In this way we can determine how we might better co-ordinate all our efforts and work in unison toward our common goals of increasing the use of renewable energy, decreasing pollution, improving waste management and expanding the protection of agricultural lands and natural habitats.

SC: What is the first thing that should be done and what priority among your other responsibilities would you give it?

DK: As I have mentioned, among my first priorities will be the stopping of the proposed marina expansion and the cross-town expressway. Both are major invasive projects that will damage our environment – and our financial stability – and they are a threat to improving and sustaining our environmental future.

Looking forward, as mayor, one of the first things I will begin to build is an environmental-centric economy, one that creates jobs and attracts companies that are in the environmental and healthcare business. I believe if our future is to be healthy, we must have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and they go hand-in-hand. There are many new, “clean” businesses in technology, the health sciences and R & D that will come here and not only provide jobs but help us fulfill my vision for Cobourg as the healthcare centre of Ontario – and be one of the top, environmentally friendly small towns in Canada.

SC: Would you be prepared to sign a pledge to support active transportation within Cobourg?

DK: Yes, I have already signed the pledge. And I might add that I am an avid bicycle rider and if elected mayor, I will ride my bicycle to work and change the mayor’s private parking spot into parking for the disabled. And I would like to see the active communities pledge promoted even more throughout Cobourg and help transform Cobourg into a leading active transportation community.

Thank you for this opportunity to express my views on the environment because it must be a critical part of rebuilding our communities in the 21st century.

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