Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Waiting for a Pardigm Shift?

Last December Gord Miller, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, released his annual report. Entitled Reconciling our Priorities, it called for a “paradigm shift” in how we do planning in Ontario.

For those of you not inclined to do much shifting or have simply forgotten what a paradigm shift is, well it is a pretty big deal - a change from one way of thinking to another, a revolution, a transformation. Ptolemy’s view that everything orbited around the earth changing to Copernicus revelation that we orbited the sun is a good example.

When the report came out I was going to comment on it. With nothing encouraging to say, I thought I give it a few months and wait for the “paradigm shifters” to wade in.

Today I did an internet search (reconciling our priorities and gord miller) and, to my surprise, found my Feb 16th posting (observing that the report was too depressing, so I wasn’t commenting) near the top of the hit list.

Miller has been travelling the province but I wonder if any real dialogue is occurring.

Some Excerpts from the Report

*The Provincial strategy to manage growth (the GGH) actually “reverses the sustainable development process.” (p 26)

*“The lack of progress to date in shifting away from a car culture calls into question the efficacy of GGH Plan ‘s density targets in promoting the hoped for mobility changes in the future.” (p 32)

*There is no effective regulatory protection for wetlands and the province has actually “retreated” from earlier prohibitions on development by “changing the definition of ‘“development.’” (p 39)

*Significant changes have occurred in land use policies which mean that aggregate extraction is considered an interim land use. (p 45)

(See the full report at http://www.eco.on.ca/english/newsrel/2007/annual/)

Conflicts Everywhere

We have significant conflicts all over the place.

Provincial policy as reflected in the 2005 Provincial Policy statements (PPS) says “preserving wetlands, woodlands and agricultural lands are priorities but it also asserts that the construction of highways, the removal of aggregates, and the building of pipelines for water supply are priorities.”

There is nothing in place to “reconcile these conflicting land uses.”

Miller goes on to say that municipalities are required to dedicate increasing resources to resolve these irreconcilable priorities. His analysis notes that planning processes are now “weighted in favour of extractive and destructive uses of the land over those that conserve natural or agricultural use.”

These processes have become “intellectually dishonest” because no upfront “a priori” discussion of the real need for any project can happen.


I am waiting for that paradigm shift. Some think such shifts in thinking are advanced by agents of change. We wonder if any such agents are out there?