Ms Adams, Ms Chow;
I grew up in Mississauga, living and voting in Ms Adams' riding; for seven years while attending the University of Toronto, I lived in Ms Chow's. Despite a keen interest in policy and consequent hypersensitivity to politics, this is my first time writing to my Member(s) of Parliament. The occasion is Bill C-38, which may have passed by the time you receive this; nevertheless I want to detail why I find the bill personally offensive.
Ms Adams doubtless knows from her time as a councillor that the City of Mississauga's 2010 strategic plan, Our Future Mississauga, included the following “strategic pillars for change” (goals):
- Developing a transit-oriented city.
- Completing our neighbourhoods.
- Living green.
As a child in Mississauga, I was aware of the need for these changes on a personal but unconscious level. Although I was raised in a comfortable subdivision it was difficult, until I earned my driver's license, for me to get anywhere in the city to shop, to spend time with friends, or to pursue my involvement with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Even once I had my license, I was only able to drive because my family was wealthy enough to own two vehicles—many of my friends weren't so lucky.
It was not until my engineering undergraduate that I realized this situation wasn't merely a fact of life; it was a result _of planning (or inattention to planning) that allowed much of Mississauga to be covered with auto-oriented but transit-, cycling- and walking-unfriendly developments. This process continued even as _Our Future Mississauga was drafted, and now—the science of urban planning and public policy tells us—it will be expensive and contentious to update existing neighbourhoods to be comfortably livable for an aging population, and those who cannot afford cars.
I tell this story because it represents a failure to use existing knowledge and expertise to provide the best possible life for Canadians. By the time my parents' neighbourhood was built in the early 1980s, the study of cities had been established by such intelligent people as Jane Jacobs (whose advocacy against the proposed Spadina Expressway strongly affects the present state of Ms Chow's riding). Yet governments allowed it to be built in an unsustainable form, when they could have done better.
Spurred by this and similar realizations, I now study in the Technology & Policy Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, writing my master's thesis on the future of transportation in China. Doing so, I have learned that China—whatever its democratic deficits—is a nation which does not need to be told that science, engineering, policy analysis and rational decision-making are necessary to achieve economic growth and improved quality of life for its people. Living in the United States, I have also learned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other laws, and how they underpin a long legal and regulatory tradition of which Americans are justifiably proud.
This brings me to Bill C-38, in particular the sections which repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and also those which grant power to Cabinet to override decisions of the National Energy Board with respect to pipeline permitting.
In both China and the U.S., as mentioned, there are considerable political pressures on decision-makers to provide economic growth, and this goal often clashes with that of environmental protection. Canada is no different. This is why processes of assessment and evaluation are put in place; they create a sober forum where rational thought can prevail; where level-headed consideration of alternatives is possible.
Bill C-38 does not emphasize efficiency while maintaining such safeguards; instead, it substantially weakens environmental assessment, allowing the well-being of future Canadians to be very easily sacrificed by the mere invocation (without proof) of “efficiency” or “economic growth.” It would allow existing knowledge and expert input to be discarded in response to short-term political pressure, over the legitimate objections of Canadians.
These changes are wrong, and they would allow Canadians to come to harm. They would create situations where we look back with regret, saying, “We knew better, and could have done better.” Further, I feel it is unconscionable and undemocratic to hide them in an unrelated, omnibus budget bill, when they would be soundly defeated if proposed alone. As my representatives, I ask for an expression of your agreement with the foregoing, and of your intent to vote to remove these provisions from the bill.
Paul Natsuo Kishimoto