Imagine: “Except Waterloo Region”

Just imagine what would be possible if we went beyond simply keeping up with the good practices of other municipalities. I believe we have the capacity to become an exemplary community that will inspire leaders throughout Ontario and across Canada. Wouldn’t it be great to force people distraught with the general state of our health, wealth, and ecology to add “except Waterloo Region” to the end of their exasperation?

“Ontario has terrible air quality in the summer, except Waterloo Region.”
“No major Canadian city has been able to eat mostly local foods in season, except Waterloo Region.”
“North Americans are so darned addicted to their cars, except Waterloo Region.”
“If Ontario gets another recession soon, it’s going to hit employment very hard across the province, except Waterloo Region.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? What can we expect if we stand out among other municipalities? We’ll be able to attract even more highly talented neighbours, and their employers. The value of living here will be reflected in the value of our homes, and in the increased capacity for quality municipal services. In all the many ways we can measure quality of life, we can imagine improvements that are possible when we have the proof of living in the finest community around.

More importantly, the allure of these benefits will engender a spirit of friendly competition among our peers, and bring other governments to follow our lead. We can leverage our own success in becoming a green, healthy, and comfortable community, and bring our province and country along for the ride.

That’s the kind of community where I want to live.

Garden Party a success

Enjoying a beautiful day on the patio

Thanks to the group of volunteers that came out to the Garden Party on Sunday. It was beautiful weather, and we had standing room only beyond the patio. Thanks also to those volunteers who had a busy elsewhere, but sent best wishes and affirmed their commitment to help out over the next few weeks of the campaign.

Discussing municipal issues and our platform

We had a chance to review the platform with new volunteers, discuss the issues that matter in the variety of neighbourhoods represented by the group, and (of course) enjoy some harvest from the garden! I deeply appreciate the input that each of you have passed on from your friends, colleagues, neighbours, and personal experience, and I know we have a platform we can all stand proudly behind. Let’s harness our ambitions for the Region and continue to work hard and have fun over the next five weeks to Election Day.

Eating our way out of sprawl

The Fertile Ground team
This is Andrew and Angie, just two of my farmers; and it’s good to know your farmers.
Perhaps the most powerful focus for the local consumption movement is what we really do consume: our food. Many of us are familiar with various arguments in favour of local food. It can taste better and be more nutritious. There are three other primary benefits that I’d like to highlight today. My vision is that we can develop strong relationships between farmers and eaters and create a Waterloo Region where four townships feed three cities. Tasty, tasty policy.

Local food is a sustainable transportation choice, just as much as carpooling to work, or cycling to a friend’s place on a weekend afternoon. Did you know that our very own Regional staff at Public Health have done important research into food miles? Kudos to Marc Xuereb, also a founding member of Grand River CarShare! Food represents an enormous portion of the world’s “stuff” that we burn through every day. However, much of this resource use is unnecessary when we eat local organic foods.
When we grow certain crops for bulk markets far away, on land that is less than ideally suited, it requires chemical support. Monocultures are also a pest’s dream (they have an endless supply of their favourite victim plant, with no pesky interruptions). There’s also the packaging, the extra water for irrigation, and so on. All of this must be shipped and pumped. Then, the product itself is shipped through the whole value chain, processed, packed, distributed, retailed… and then it finally comes home to your table. The 100 Mile Diet was Waterloo Region’s “One Book, One Community” selection in 2008, so I’ll presume that I can move on.

The second important factor is that this represents an enormous opportunity for more local green jobs. Waterloo Region Record reporter Terry Pender recently noted that some local farmers are already converting their land to locally destined produce, to support our growing urban farmers’ markets.
When we keep our diet local, we will also keep our food budget local. This means more stable and lasting income for our local farm families, giving them a brighter future and a deeper connection to each of their urban neighbours across the region. Perhaps the best way to provide real resilience for our farmers, and share what Angie calls the “inherent risk of farming,” is Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). There are many CSA operations locally (Fertile Ground, reroot, Transpire Organic, Garden Party, etc.), where you pay the farmer at the start of the season, and enjoy your share of the bounty.
Picking up local veggies by bike.
So, here’s the big deal that is discussed most rarely. I am a firm believer that Community Supported Agriculture can finally put a halt to our sprawling ways. By eating locally, we begin to truly value and respect the farms that surround us. That’s not a subdivision waiting to happen; that’s dinner. Working in partnership with programs to inspire developers to invest in existing urban spaces (light rail transit, brownfield incentives), and restrict them (strict countryside line for planning regulations), the ultimate backstop for sprawl prevention is thousands of local food eaters declaring their support for our farmers. This also addresses the need of farmers to retire securely, knowing that their land is more valuable growing three square meals, not three car garages.