Q&A With Your Ward 1 Candidates – Part 3 of 4

Good evening,

Green spaces provide a multitude of benefits for Markham and its residents. It is also a vital habitat for wildlife. Tonight’s question focuses on strategies to balance future development with green space preservation.  All responses were limited to 250 words.

Question 3:
Thornhill is blessed with natural green spaces, mature trees, and diverse wildlife. But these elements are at risk. How do you propose to balance future development with ecological and environmental concerns?

Peter Wong:
While we all agree that our green spaces must be protected, we should not ignore the fact that change is the only constant in life. What we need for Thornhill is a balanced and sustainable developmental change which could be achieved by adopting an experienced common sense approach. Thornhill needs a representative who has the real knowledge, expertise or direct experience to actually make sound judgments.

Howard Shore:
Sustainability is about leaving our planet better than we found it for our children and our children’s children. Markham’s GreenPrint Plan for Sustainability is based on a triple bottom line, comprised of social (people), economic (financial), and environment (planet).

I was very proud to be a member of Markham’s GreenPrint Steering Committee. For Markham to really thrive, all three pillars need to be strong. The sustainable Markham I envision integrates all three elements and becomes the lens through which all decisions at the municipality – from budget items to new development applications, are viewed.

If returned as Councillor I would advocate for the elevating the status of ‘sustainability’ in Markham by re-designating the planning Commission into the Development and Sustainability Commission. This would not merely be a matter of optics, rather, create a fundamental shift of priorities in how we examine and judge future development and growth within our City.

Hilary Neubauer:
Where there is a will, there is a way. The green spaces of Thornhill are a major reason for our high quality of life. The financial value of our properties is tied to the environment in which they exist. Development is coming. I will be working very hard to encourage relationships between new developments and green industries. I will oppose any bylaw amendment that reduces protection of our green spaces and trees. There are opportunities in green industries and innovations that need to be explored. Markham can be the tech capital of Canada, and protective of our natural environment as well. It takes will and determination. I have both.

Barry Nelson:
We need to measure developments against what we claim to protect within the Markham Strategic Plan – we link these vital assets to the fabric of our society, and therefore development must be adapted to the natural environment vs. the other way around. I’ll use logical arguments toward asset protection that link to Markham’s strategic plan. The existing one works and we need to follow through on our commitments.

Ricardo Mashregi:
I already have a track record in working to protect our natural heritage. In 2014 I founded “TRUE”, Trees and Residents for Urban Environments. TRUE is made up of a cross-Markham group of residents, representing 7 different ratepayer associations. One of our initiatives was to fight for the preservation and compensation of 3,900 trees that are endangered by the redevelopment of the York Downs golf course. TRUE works to enhance understanding at Council, and with developers, of the economic, environmental and social benefits of a healthy and robust tree canopy and eco-system. The preservation of green space and wildlife must become more of a priority in Markham. Once they are gone there is no getting them back.

Keith Irish:
There’s no question this is a difficult balance. Intensification – the development of a property, site or area at a higher density than currently exists – and gridlock are related.

While I contend that intensification causes gridlock, I do not believe all intensification is bad. Building up versus out has allowed us to protect the Greenbelt from construction. Higher densities encourage business and cultural investment that grows the city’s tax base and enriches our lives. A lot of what we take for granted would not be possible if fewer people lived here. It’s also a positive reflection on Thornhill that so many want to call it home.

However, we also like our neighbourhoods the way they are. That’s why we chose to live in Ward 1. I especially enjoy walking my two Labrador Retrievers in Pomona Mills Park. I am grateful, as I am sure all residents are, for the work previous community builders did to preserve, protect and improve the park.

However, there’s bound to be trouble when high-density development outpaces the ability of our local infrastructure – roads, schools, public transit, water, stormwater and sewer capacity – to cope and encroaches upon our green spaces.

I believe this is the predicament we now find ourselves in. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will be a strong defender of our natural environment, mature trees and natural habitat not just here in Ward 1 but across our city.

Caryn Bergmann:
As I stated previously, environmental protection is an integral part of my values. I believe that it is crucial we do the most we can to perserve our ecosystem. We cannot create more of our green spaces once they have been paved over.

As councillor, I intend to make decisions with a Green lens, ensuring we are always placing environmental considerations at the top of our priorities.

If I’m elected, you can be sure that for any proposal that comes to council there will be a strong voice for conservation, sustainability, and environmental protection. I intend to accomplish this by asking the right questions, ensuring checks and balances are in the review process, being thorough and not dismissive, and making decisions based on fact not assumption.

I pledge to always prioritize existing natural resources, over “just replacing them” somewhere else. If trees need to be replaced, I will work to ensure that the replacements will benefit the same ecosystem as the one effected, and not be placed somewhere else.

Stay tuned for our final post of our series where our Ward 1 candidates provide their answers to our final question.


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