January 13, 2004

York Region fighting smog


YORK REGION - The Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville’s measures to control sprawl are among hundreds of cleaner-air initiatives undertaken in York Region since the original Toronto Smog Summit in 2000, according to a new report issued today by the GTA Clean Air Council.


“Today’s report, The Governments’ Actions on Clean Air, shows that the good intentions expressed at the annual Smog Summits have translated into real pollution-reducing actions at street level,” said Eva Ligeti, Executive Director of the Clean Air Partnership.


The Town’s Main Street development policy is designed to encourage people to walk more, while moving cars around back of the streetscape and out of sight. The Town has developed a

$7 million plan to create a more pedestrian friendly Main Street with $375,000 of it being spent on the initial implementation and the rest to be done in stages.


“Good land use planning prevents air pollution from ever being emitted by reducing the need to drive everywhere,” said Ms. Ligeti.


The Town’s initiatives were among several thousand electricity conservation and other programs adopted across the GTA to reduce the pollutant emissions that cause climate change and smog.


Smog pollutants have been shown to trigger asthma attacks and cause asthma in children, and to increase deaths from heart disease. Smog pollutants are responsible for 1,900 premature deaths in Ontario a year, according to the Ontario Medical Association, which has called air pollution in Ontario a “public health crisis”.


The Town of Markham's S-M-A-R-T Movement program includes a carpool ride-matching service for employees, preferred parking at the Civic Centre for carpoolers, and new bike racks for cyclists, all in an effort to reduce the number of single occupant vehicles arriving at Town worksites. An ongoing electricity conservation program has reduced the Town of Markham's consumption by more than two million KwH since the early 1990s through practices including gas conversion, lighting retrofits, modified refrigeration techniques at ice rinks and low-E ceiling installations at arenas.


“The same energy efficiency improvements that reduce pollution also save money on municipal electricity bills,” said Ms. Ligeti.


The Town of Richmond Hill limits activities that can contribute to smog whenever the province issues a smog alert. This means pesticide spreading, oil-based paint use, running small engines, and grading and gravelling roads are reduced or suspended for the duration of the alert. The Town had also adopted a light pollution bylaw in 1995, requiring business to reduce light levels after 11 p.m.


By winning the 2003 Repair Our Air Fleet Challenge for the “Best Results in the Municipal Category” and “Best Going Forward Report,” the Town of Newmarket continues to demonstrate its commitment to meet or exceeding provincial and federal air quality standards. This commitment is also recognized in many of the Town’s ongoing environmental initiatives, which include: developing a comprehensive Green Fleets plan; developing policies for clean air and pesticide use and a Smog Alert Response Plan; exploring alternative energy sources and “green energy” with Newmarket Hydro; establishing the volunteer-based Newmarket Environmental Advisory Committee and creating a tree protection/preservation by-law. 


In 2003 the Town also established a one per cent environmental land reserve fund.  This fund will be set aside year over year to proactively pursue opportunities to preserve environmental lands and help sustain and nurture Newmarket’s natural heritage areas such as wetlands, forests and open space.


The Township of King reduces the use of emission-producing machinery on smog days. King is also considering installing a wind turbine on Township land to demonstrate zero-emission electricity generation.


The Regional Municipality of York formed York Region Transit (YRT) in 2001 and is working on a plan to increase ridership, relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution. YRT has required its bus contractors to limit idling and use only low sulphur diesel fuel. In addition, by the fall of 2005 York Region is expected to shift 7,000 commuter trips per day from the private automobile to public transit through its York Rapid Transit Plan – a 30-year initiative to implement a rapid transit system in York Region with connections to our neighbours in the City of Toronto and the Regions of Durham and Peel.  


In one of the latest federal initiatives, Transport Canada has allocated $2.5 million to the GTA municipalities and Hamilton to encourage "smart commuting" to work and school. The money will fund transportation management groups that include major employers and institutions to develop programs to help their employees and students to carpool and use less congested routes and travel times.


Among the many initiatives undertaken by the Ontario government is a commitment to encourage renewable energy.  The government has established a renewable energy goal in the province of five per cent by 2007 and 10 per cent by 2010.


Copies of “The Governments’ Actions on Clean Air” are available on line at www.cleanairpartnership.org or by request.


For more information about York Region and links to its nine area municipalities, visit www.region.york.on.ca

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For more information, contact:


Clean Air Partnership, Eva Ligeti - (416) 392-1220

Township of King, Sandra Staples – (905) 832-5321 
Town of Markham, Victoria McGrath – (905) 477-7000, Ext. 7516     
Town of Newmarket, Wanda Bennett - (905) 895-5193, Ext. 1241
Town of Richmond Hill, George Flint - (905) 771-8800, Ext. 2455
Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Andrew McNeely – (905) 640-1910, Ext. 270
York Region, Wendy Lewis -   (905) 830-4444 or (416) 297-9696, Ext.1238

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