Zero Waste October

At the September 23 Township of Wilmot council meeting, October was designated “Zero Waste Month”, so I decided to take the Mason Jar Challenge. Fitting a month’s worth of my personal garbage into a mason jar didn’t seem unattainable for me.  After all, I pride myself on being environmentally conscious and don’t think I do a lot of the things that create waste.  

In my home, we have separate streams of compost to make the most of food scraps.  Coffee grounds, some vegetable scraps and eggshells go to a worm composter that produces the best houseplant fertiliser ever! Most veggie scraps, such as peels and trimmings, go to feed our small flock of chickens.  The rest – bones, meat scraps, tissues, bits of paper – goes into the green bin. We have a wood furnace for heat, so any wood bits or waxed cardboard helps to provide heat.  We always rinse and carefully sort our blue box items.

For me, this was a lesson in how recycling soothes my conscience about consumption and helps me gloss over things I know I should do better on. 

In my jar at the end of October, there was

  • an old credit card
  • a quarter of a Styrofoam tray from frozen chicken thighs
  • a coffee bag – layers of foil and plastic welded together may keep the coffee fresh, but are a terrible waste as they can’t be recycled
  • a sock with a hole in it – the polyester makes the sock garbage, cotton would be compostable
  • tags and stickers from produce – plastic stickers stay looking clean on the produce, but they’re making a mess for our world
  • plastic bits from clothing tags – at least the cardstock tags are recyclable
  • the foil-lined plastic back of a cookie bag
  • a plastic mesh onion bag

All told, my personal consumption for the month fit into the jar, as I found myself thinking harder about choices.  I postponed getting meat from the butcher shop because I forgot my own containers at home while running errands in town, for example, thus avoiding the plastic-coated paper meat is wrapped in.

As I was preparing meals and going about my routine, I had a sharper lens on the ways my choices generate garbage. I have cracker bags and meat wrappers from a friend’s birthday party that I hosted. I suffered a moment of horror and panic seeing the garbage created from just one small event. It couldn’t fit in my jar!

So, what did I learn, other than making friends have their parties in their own homes?

From now on I’ll be choosing snacks that are packaged in something recyclable. Bread is a good alternative. Home baked vegetable crisps are easy to make and completely waste free.  Meat is easy to buy waste-free by going to the local butcher shop and asking them to use my own containers.  Wine presents a challenge: corks are recyclable, and you can drop them off at an appropriate recycler, but the foil or plastic wrapped on it is not. Choose bottles that are screw top as those caps are usually recyclable.

Even though the Mason Jar Challenge has ended, I’ll continue to reduce my household’s waste by making better choices.

Townhall Meeting Notes

What an engaged crowd at the “Let’s Get Creative” townhall last week! Thank you to everyone who attended and to those who couldn’t attend that sent me their thoughts by email. This is a great beginning.

I wanted to hear from you about what is important to you in our downtowns. We have seven of them: New Hamburg, Baden, Haysville, New Dundee, Petersburg, St Agatha, and Mannheim. Some of them may be quite small now, but we have to plan for the future and build on what we have.

Just before 7:00 people began arriving. They signed in if they wished to be contacted, and had a few minutes to chat and check out the Climate Action Waterloo Region booth.

After talking about the basic type of ideas I wanted to discuss and giving some background, hands started going up and the floor was given to the audience.

We talked about shade, traffic calming, parking, natural spaces, play areas, sidewalks, and much more.

So what am I going to DO with the ideas and inspiration we shared? Well, I am working on a plan to begin building a unified concept to enhance, support and improve the downtowns of all Wilmot towns.

If you weren’t able to attend, I will be hosting more of meetings on this topic in the near future. Stay tuned!

Let’s Get Creative, Wilmot!

On July 25th, I’m hosting a Townhall meeting and you’re invited!

What is important to you in a town? Independent stores and businesses offering local goods and services? A vibrant food scene? Creative spaces to host performance arts? Do you want lots of parking? Streetscapes that invite you to walk? Visual appeal that inspires artistic recreation? Gardens with trees and benches? Active transportation routes and bike racks? Charging stations for e-vehicles? What about shade structures that hold solar panels?

On May 28, the Regional Planning and Works Committee voted to proceed with placing a Level 2 Pedestrian Crossover on Huron St. at the location I proposed as an alternate to the original site (which would have removed 9 spaces).  As conceived now, the crossover will require the removal of 6 parking spaces. There may be some minor changes before the work is actually completed, but this will change the way our New Hamburg downtown looks a little.

With parking no longer allowed on the north side of the road in that area, it will open up the roadway.  The empty pavement will serve no useful purpose.

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During the discussion with Regional staff, the idea of curb-bumpouts was suggested.  There was also talk of a raised crossing which would create a gentle bump encouraging motorists to slow down as well as raising the pedestrians to increase their visibility.

This is the perfect opportunity to begin a conversation about how we want our town to look and feel. The New Hamburg Board of Trade has already been working on some great ideas for a while.

We need to create a vision that supports local businesses so they stay financially viable and able to serve the community.

Let’s get engaged as a community and imagine what could be.

Join me on Thursday, July 25th, 7-9:00pm at the New Hamburg Community Centre (251 Jacob St) to share your ideas and hear what your neighbours think.

Be part of building a vision!

 

 

Councillor Life

As of Tuesday, April 2nd, it has been 120 days since I was sworn in as a Councillor for Wilmot Township.  Shortly after the swearing-in, people began asking me what being a Councillor is like.  They want to know if it’s what I expected, if I am still happy to have been elected and if I am enjoying it.

My answer to all of those questions is an unequivocal YES!  How could I not love serving this community that I love so much?

Being a Councillor is a lot of work. It isn’t all the cliche “kissing babies and shaking hands”. It is enjoyable work though. Everything from learning more about how our waste is dealt with and the challenges our region faces with waste stream management, to reviewing the entire zoning bylaw (a huge binder!) is interesting to me.

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The Blue Box Bloopers aisle at the landfill site was very funny! FYI, birdcages are NOT recyclable!

So here’s what I’ve been up to.

We have had:

  • 5 regular Council Meetings (plus the inaugural meeting)
  • 4 Budget Committee Meetings
  • Multiple orientation and training sessions to familiarise ourselves with staff, specific Wilmot Township procedures and legislated responsibilities

I have answered emails, phone calls and met with residents to address concerns they have about a variety of topics some of them personal and some of them community issues such as invasive species of plants threatening our local ecosystem.

With the support of Council and staff I have started the Wilmot Trails Committee and revised the formerly staff-only Sustainability Working Group to include a member of Council (lucky me to be that member!) and two Waterloo Region residents with expertise in the field. We had our first meeting on March 27th! Watch for social media posts from all of us about trails we already have and plans for new projects as they develop.  Follow the official twitter account @wilmottrails to get even more updates.

I was appointed to the Heritage Wilmot Committee and Healthy Wilmot.

It was my pleasure to be part of the Heritage Day event as a member of the Heritage Committee. History has always been an interest for me and I am looking forward to the involvement with this committee as an opportunity to learn more about our local history.

Nith River Flooding
The annual flooding of some sections of road along the banks of the Nith is an inconvenience for some of our neighbourhoods but they handle it with grace.

Our Township has had the usual level of late-winter thawing resulting in flooding of low-lying areas.  The Nith River running through our township is an untamed reminder of how much we are dependent on weather and climate.  It has been gratifying to be part of supporting and communicating with residents through these disruptions.  Our township staff have done their jobs well in managing and communicating through it all.

Wilmot Township staff organised a great openhouse to talk with residents about flooding concerns and a variety of solutions to consider that can mitigate the damage caused by the annual floods.  We had insurance, personal emergency preparedness displays, the GRCA and all  the relevant Township departments on hand to talk about ideas and answer questions from residents.

IMG_20190317_1417093My own bridge on my driveway floods as part of this annual cycle and the ice chunks often get stuck on the deck as the water recedes.  I don’t mind too much when it gives me the chance to drive my tractor on a beautiful sunny day to clear it!

This is just one example of how my personal life intersects with the issues that matter to Wilmot residents.  Living on the river means I am always watching the flow rates to know when it will flood.

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Multitasking is the way my brain works best. I keep a notebook handy to jot down thoughts, questions and ideas that are triggered to follow up on later.

My daily work on my family farm is not completely unlike the job of Councillor.  My day starts between 7-8:00am depending on the particular items on my agenda. At my desk I review policies that enable our business to be compliant with various regulations governing employment, food safety and farming. I read legislation that pertains to our business and prepare responses to federal and provincial government requests for feedback. I respond to questions from people who buy our produce and want to know how we grow it or why something is packaged a certain way or many other questions about food and farming. When there’s a problem with quality, a process or difficulty between two co-workers, I help solve the problem. You can find me working on the farm till around 5:30 or 6:00 most days unless I have a business meeting offsite or for Council.

For my job as Councillor, my day starts when I wake up. I check my phone, read emails and check social media. If there’s a quick response possible to a question, I reply right away.  Through the day at the farm, I periodically check emails and other messages and respond as I can depending on my other work. If staff have questions or I want to ask something of township staff, I try to keep it to the business hours to respect their work life balance. On weekends and evenings I spend hours  reading documents to prepare for meetings. When the Council Meeting Agenda package arrives in my inbox, I read it through quickly.  Then I reread it more slowly to absorb the content better.  I read it a third time to make notes and prepare questions.  If my questions require a lengthier response, I generally let staff know ahead of time so they can prepare the information.  That enables them to have a good answer in the meeting.

Before I was on Council, I was busy with my farm, family and various community events. Now, I am still busy working on the farm, spending time with family and friends and doing a lot more around the community.  It’s busy and sometimes intense, but it’s rewarding and it is my honour to serve you.

 

 

Bill 66

Update: I have now received over 200 emails asking me to reject this bill. Please check out this legal analysis from the Canadian Environmental Law Association

I have the 35 page document on my desk. In my inbox there are over 100 emails from concerned people asking me to protest this legislation and carry their voices to the provincial government.

This bill impacts 17 Acts. Some of the changes seem reasonable to me. In this digital age for example, allowing a driver to present their permits as a digital copy on their phone instead of rummaging through the glove box for a little piece of paper seems like a logical evolution. I will leave the verdict on that to law enforcement however, as I may not be thinking of all the ways it could lead to problems.

Of particular concern for all of you who have written to me and other members of council, is Schedule 10 which adds section 34.1 to the Planning Act.

…which allows local municipalities to pass open-for-business planning by-laws. These by-laws involve the exercise of a municipality’s powers under section 34 of the Act and allow municipalities to impose one or more specified conditions. A municipality may pass an open-for-business planning by-law only if it has received approval to do so in writing by the Minister and if criteria as may be prescribed are satisfied. Certain provisions of the Act and other Acts that would ordinarily apply to a by-law passed under section 34 do not apply to an open-for-business planning by-law.

If approved, this would allow particular types of development to be unilaterally approved by a municipality without regard for environmental impacts or impacts to a neighbouring municipality.

This is a tool that creates division and reduces transparency of governance.

While passing of this legislation does not automatically mean development will start springing up in sensitive wetlands and threatened species habitat tomorrow, it represents an erosion of protections. It removes a set of tools we have to ensure that we leave keep the long term health of our environment ahead of corporate interest.

As an example of worst case scenario: this legislation could create a situation where a project such as the Mega Quarry that was proposed in Melancthon Township would be able to be approved with no opportunity for appeal and without any public or resident input. The project could be approved and finalised before anyone knew it was even proposed.

I strongly urge the Ontario Government to reconsider.

Thank You!

This has been a wonderfully enriching experience. From the very beginning, the campaign was full of great conversations about our community and how to make it even better!

We are lucky to have had so many qualified, caring and engaged people who were willing to put forward their names to serve. Those who will not be serving on council, served the community just by running.  Having a choice provides the opportunity for dialogue in a way that is difficult to create otherwise.

Wilmot Township has inspired all of us to offer our service.  We and all residents can be proud of being part of a community that inspires so much passion and dedication.  To those who put themselves forward and were not elected, thank you. You gave of yourself to our community in this race and our dialogue was strengthened by it. Thank you to all the candidates and to this amazing community. Thank you to Marie for giving me that final push to run! I owe a huge thank you for support; to the people who signed my nomination papers, the people who made financial contributions and gave me moral support. Thank you to Megan, Dave, Stacey, Markus, Catherine, Diljot and Sandy for all your time door knocking.  Meredith, you are the best! Thank you for volunteering (not waiting to be asked) to be my campaign manager! And the biggest thank you to my husband, Ekk, who has supported me and believed in me always.  I am truly blessed.

I am humbled by all the support I have received and take this election as a trust that I will spend my next four years working to honour and fulfill. I’m thrilled to be one of three women joining Wilmot Council this year.  Being a woman isn’t what will make me a good councillor, but neither does it hurt.  As we move forward with the new Council, I am excited to begin working on the many projects and ideas that this community is asking for. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve.

Persons Day

As I sit on the train and watch the fall colours roll by outside the window, I think about tomorrow.  October 18th is Persons Day in Canada.  It’s not a national holiday and I didn’t really become aware of it till recently.

Yesterday I was privileged to be part of a group of business people, academics and advocates meeting with MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill to bring our concerns and ideas to the table.  Between meetings I slipped over to visit the Famous Five whose footsteps on those very same stones and halls and down the road at the Supreme Court are the reason I am legally called a person in Canada.  There was a tourist with her young daughter visiting the ladies too. I was reminded of the New Hamburg woman whose words of encouragement on my campaign were offered with a thanks to me for showing her daughters that women can be leaders in our community.  She said, “If we don’t show them, how will they believe they can do it?” I sat a moment and offered my thanks to Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards for their tenacity, strength and passion.

As I prepare for the final few days of campaigning in this election, their example stands as an inspiration for working to make a difference in the world around us.