Cities must lead fight against climate change: David Miller

Municipal water infrastructure at risk from more frequent severe storms

Mayors of cities and towns around the Great Lakes have compelling reasons of self-interest to tackle climate change issues, aside from any moral or ethical reasons. Otherwise, aging municipal infrastructure is at risk of being overwhelmed from increasingly frequent severe storms. Former mayor of Toronto David Miller made that point during an address at the annual Lowes Fund Breakfast, hosted by the Insurance Institute of Canada on October 26 at the National Club in Toronto.

In the last three years, there have been five 50-year storms in and around Toronto, said Miller, arguing that the impact of severe storms on Toronto’s water infrastructure is having the same transformative effect on city planning that Hurricane Hazel did in 1954. After several people were killed and homes were washed away in the Humber River and Don River valleys during that storm, Toronto planning codes were changed to prohibit building in ravines, creating the lush green spaces in the centre of the city it has today.

To deal with the strain on sewers and storm drains, the City of Toronto has developed a Wet Weather Flow Master Plan to rebuild and redirect sewers and use natural systems to redirect and clean floodwaters. The plan will cost $1 billion over 25 years and is self funded through city water rates.

“Many cities and towns around the Great Lakes don’t have the money to do this,” said Miller. “They’re going to have extremely serious problems with flooding and water quality unless they do.”

The theme of Miller’s talk was that cities have the power to fight climate change and create good jobs in the local economy at the same time. He pointed to examples in several cities around the world, including Sao Paulo, Brazil, which has the largest landfill in South America. The mayor of the city led the charge to capture the methane from the landfill, which now powers 8% of the city’s electricity supply. Moreover, the initiative created new jobs for power plant technicians for people who in previous years would have survived by picking garbage from the landfill.

Similarly, Miller noted that in Ontario, the waste heat generated from the methane capture at the Green Lane landfill where Toronto`s garbage is shipped is used to heat local green houses where food is grown.

Also at the breakfast, the Insurance Institute of Ontario handed out four John E. Lowes Insurance Education Fund Scholarships for 2011. The Education Fund is charitable trust dedicated to assisting Ontario students to complete full-time, post-secondary education, which includes the study of property/casualty insurance. The fund annually offers financial assistance in the form of two scholarships of $2000 and up to two scholarships of $1,000.

This year’s scholarship recipients were:

Melissa Monaghan, Conestoga College, Business – Insurance

Stacey O’Brien, Conestoga College, Business-Insurance

Patricia E. Edwards, Mohawk College, Insurance

Steven Masse, Wilfrid Laurier BBA, Insurance & Risk Management



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