Peace and Eco Briefs, March–April 2011

Peace and Environment News — Insider, March–April 2011
by Mike Buckthought

Cycling Lanes for Centretown

On February 23, Ottawa City Council approved a pilot project to construct separated bike lanes in Centretown. The cycling lanes will run along Laurier Avenue from Elgin to Bronson. Some residents and business owners had voiced their concerns about reduced access to parking. However, many people had expressed their support. (24 Hours, February 24, 2011)

Solar Panels for City Buildings

On January 26, Ottawa City Council approved the Large Rooftop Solar Energy Program, a plan to install solar panels on the roofs of up to twenty municipal buildings. Energy Ottawa will lease space on the rooftops of buildings. The city will collect up to $5 million from lease agreements over twenty years. Electricity generated by the solar panels will be fed into the power grid, supplying enough power for 300 homes. Earlier in January, the city unveiled solar panels on the rooftops of City Hall and the Transit Services building at 875 Belfast Road. (City of Ottawa, January 11 and 26, 2011)

Canadian Cities Go Solar

Halifax, Kingston and Vancouver are investing in solar energy. On January 18, Kingston City Council awarded a contract to install solar panels on ten municipal buildings. Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Council voted to move forward with the Community Solar Project. This program will help 1000 homeowners finance the installation of solar panels to heat hot water. They will repay the costs through charges added to their tax bills. Vancouver has announced a similar retrofit program, allowing homeowners to pay for solar panels and energy-efficient appliances through their property taxes. (Halifax Regional Municipality, February 8, 2011; Vancouver Sun, December 8, 2010; Kingston Whig Standard, January 12, 2011; City of Kingston, January 18, 2011)

Shipping Nuclear Waste to Sweden

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has given Bruce Power permission to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence, past Canada’s most populous cities. Bruce Power plans to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to Sweden, where they will be recycled into consumer products. A total of 116 municipalities are opposed to the plan. During public consultations, people expressed concerns about the potential for an accident affecting the drinking water of millions of people. (Le Soleil, February 8, 2011; Ottawa Citizen, February 15, 2011; Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, February 4, 2011)

Canada Exports Repression

Canadian politicians and diplomats often highlight the importance of human rights. At the same time, Canadian corporations are exporting weapons, tear gas and armoured vehicles to repressive, undemocratic regimes. The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) has tracked military exports to 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Governments of these countries are often responsible for human rights abuses, making use of “security” products to entrench their rule. The federal government allowed $1.8 billion of military exports to these countries between 1990 and 2006. COAT has compiled a list of resources detailing how military exports are used as tools of oppression. (Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT), February 17, 2011

People Power Saves UK Forests

Britain’s coalition government has backed down from plans to sell off 258,000 hectares of forests. Over half a million people signed petitions expressing their opposition. The British government was looking for ways to raise funds, and a forest sell-off was one such scheme. However, there was a public outcry. According to an opinion poll, 84% of people support protecting the forests as publicly owned lands. Britain’s environment secretary Caroline Spelman apologized for presenting the plan. “I am sorry, we got this one wrong, but we have listened to people’s concerns,” she said, acknowledging the widespread public opposition. (The Guardian, February 17, 2011)

Mike Buckthought writes about environmental and human rights issues.

Published in the Peace and Environment News — Insider, Volume 26, Number 2, March–April 2011, page 7.