Photo: Green infrastructure protects communities against future storms

(Credit: Andrew Badgley via Flickr)

By Faisal Moola, Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada

Ontario has faced some seriously wacky weather this past year. The never-ending polar vortex, dramatic ice storms and flash flooding have left many of us with busted pipes, soggy basements and frayed nerves.

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Ice storms and floods are unsettling reminders that our communities are vulnerable to Mother Nature's whims. As our climate changes, extreme storms formerly referred to as "once in a century" are becoming disturbingly common.

In response to the December ice storm that downed thousands of trees and left millions of residents without power for days, the Government of Ontario announced a plan to spend $190 million to help municipalities recover. It's expected this money will cover some of the costs related to disaster relief centers, hydro crew overtime and the massive cleanup.

While municipalities welcomed the province picking up a portion of the tab, the funds will not pay to replace trees or to prepare us for future extreme weather events.

As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ontario communities can be safeguarded from future storms by taking a page from Mother Nature—literally, bringing nature home to the city.

Planting trees and shrubs makes neighbourhoods cooler during summer heat waves. Turning concrete and asphalt into absorptive green space slows storm surges. And adding green infrastructure—like green roofs, bioswales and engineered wetland—helps absorb water and reduce flooding during heavy rainfall.

Bringing nature home to our communities is also good for the health and well-being of local residents—especially birds, bees and butterflies.

Unfortunately, Ontario has few policies that promote green infrastructure.

The Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition, which includes the David Suzuki Foundation, local businesses, NGOs and conservation authorities, recently asked the Ontario government to create a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to review and make recommendations on how Ontario can bring its infrastructure policies in line with the new climate reality we're facing.

But we haven't heard back.

That's why we're asking you to send an email to Ontario's new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Bill Mauro. Let her know you want the province to support efforts to spur the creation of living, green infrastructure in our cities. Ask her to get ahead of the storm by bringing nature home to your community.

March 18, 2014

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