2000 Planning — Co-winner 1
Air Quality Advisory Committee
Mississauga, with a population of 588,500, is Canada's sixth largest city and one of its fastest growing. It lies directly west of Toronto and includes within its boundaries Pearson International Airport. Frequent air quality alerts were a wake-up call for the community located in the middle of southern Ontario's industrial and commuter belt. "Over the last several years, the Greater Toronto Area has earned the dubious reputation of being the smoggiest metropolitan area in Canada," noted Transportation and Works Commissioner Angus McDonald in 1998.
The City of Mississauga joined other Greater Toronto Area (GTA) councils in a 1996 Municipal Clean Air Summit and was an early participant in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Partners for Climate Protection program and the Municipalities Table of the National Climate Change Implementation Strategy. One of 10 vision statements in the city's strategic plan was that "Mississauga will be an environmentally responsible community."
At a time when the issues of climate change and local air quality were becoming increasingly visible, the city had already committed to being a responsible environmental citizen for many years. An interdepartmental management team was in place to look at issues of risk and stewardship. The existing corporate mechanism and the annual report to council were a springboard to allow the city to examine air quality issues.
To bring together a co-ordinated response on both greenhouse gas and smog-producing emissions, the city established its Mississauga Air Quality Advisory (MAQA) Committee in February of 1998. Membership included staff from all four city departments and the Region of Peel Health Department as well as environmentally active councillors Pat Mullin and David Culham. Mississauga's Environmental Co-ordinator, already on staff within the Transportation and Works Department, became the committee chair.
With such a comprehensive mandate, the results were correspondingly wide-ranging. "This was a multi-departmental effort and reflects a council and senior management team already committed to environmental management," remarked Environmental Co-ordinator Brenda Sakauye. Although many commitments were already on staff work plans, "Overall, there was an increase in the number of corporate environmental initiatives in 1999 and more are planned in 2000," she added.
Utility savings in community centres and the transit garage amounted to $75,000 in 1999. With technical assistance from the federal On-Site job placement program, the city was able to calculate a baseline measurement of its carbon dioxide emissions in its corporate operations for energy, waste, fleet and street lighting. Between 1997 and 1998, building managers were able to reduce energy consumption from 517 to 468 kWh per square metre. The challenge remaining was to achieve an overall reduction in a building portfolio that had grown considerably since the baseline year of 1990.
On each of the nine days in 1999 when the Ontario Ministry of the Environment issued smog alerts, the city notified all staff by e-mail to modify operations to minimize emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic chemicals and particulates. For example, parks staff would switch from using gas or diesel tools to tasks that could be done manually, the fire department would cancel live-fire training and air-conditioning thermostats would be set slightly higher to save energy. These corporation-wide measures sharply increased staff awareness of air quality issues.
Ice re-surfacing equipment at Mississauga's arenas is now powered by natural gas and there are new solar-powered traffic control signs and battery powered mowers at the municipal golf course. In its transit and fleet operations, the city improved maintenance, certified mechanics as heavy-duty vehicle emissions testers and impressed on all staff the need to turn off idling vehicles. A new registration page on the employee Intranet facilitates ride-sharing. The city also sponsored an application to the federal Climate Change Action Fund for a pilot project to determine the best ways to encourage car drivers to keep their tires properly inflated for fuel efficiency.
A Go Green 3Rs program reduced waste at the Civic Centre and other city facilities by 65 per cent. The city also recycled road and sidewalk waste materials, reused road asphalt, recycled concrete in low-traffic areas and continued to experiment with waste "chipped" stone as pipe bedding and backfill.
In November 1998 the city adopted a transit plan mandating a major service expansion, the first in ten years. Besides adding 15 more kilometres of bicycle trails, the city also updated its bicycle and pedestrian route maps.
Central control of traffic signals reduced pollution from stop-and-start traffic; other direct energy savings resulted from new high-pressure sodium streetlights and experiments with light-emitting diodes for traffic signals.
The official plan encourages higher density, less isolation between residential and commercial uses and more infill. Journeys to Work, a report on the sources and impact of traffic congestion, was mailed to over 90 ratepayers' associations.
Having planted over 7,000 street trees a year since 1997, the city has also drafted a tree preservation by-law. In 1999 volunteers planted over 8,000 tree seedlings and shrubs in parks as part of a long-term naturalization program that eliminates the use of pesticides and increases the local carbon sink.
Mississauga is particularly proud of its integrated turf management programme, which has reduced pesticide use areas to less than five per cent of all city property. In 1999, parks staff tested a new "aquacide" method — high pressure steam — for weed control.
With so many successes in improving its own operations, the City of Mississauga is now well positioned as an environmental steward to educate and persuade schools, businesses, the public, neighbouring communities and other orders of government to do their part for clean air. Commitment from council, senior management and staff made it possible to plan and implement an integrated strategy.
It might have been easier to set priorities for energy-efficiency measures if the city had begun with its greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Nonetheless, the Committee is now reviewing priority strategies in light of the completed inventory.