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Canada's most sustainable cities revealed

Monday, February 11th 2008 2:56:46pm

Canada's most sustainable cities revealed

Saint John, New Brunswick ranks highest in water use while Iqaluit, Nunavut scores lowest on car use


(Toronto, Canada, February 11, 2008)  Today, Corporate Knights Magazine unveiled the second-annual Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Ranking list. The comprehensive ranking identifies Canadian cities whose practices leave the smallest environmental footprint possible and create a healthy, thriving population.

The top cities in the 2008 Corporate Knights Sustainable Cities Ranking are as follows:

   Large city category:        Ottawa, ON
   Medium city category:        Quebec, QC
   Small city category:         Yellowknife, NT


Corporate Knights examined 18 cities, including Canada's top ten cities by population and the largest city in each province and territory. This year's ranking added more indicators that are under municipal jurisdiction, and grouped the cities into three categories based on population to ensure proper comparison. Corporate Knights also surveyed the cities to give them the opportunity to share their own sustainability initiatives.

Cities were assessed based on five broad equally weighted categories: Ecological Integrity, Green Mobility, Economic Security, Empowerment, and Social Well-Being. Publicly available information, including Statistics Canada data, as well as city surveys, was used to determine city scores out of 10.

Corporate Knights found that Canadian cities have innovative programs in place to reduce their overall footprints from a corporate and a community perspective. Most cities have or are in the process of implementing sustainability plans and almost all of the cities surveyed have targets in place to reduce GHG emissions. Regardless, in every city surveyed, sustainability staff members are employed.

Examples of prominent city practices include installing LED traffic lights to reduce energy consumption, moving towards increased local food procurement, and promoting LEED-standard buildings.

For the first time, progressive practices of small-sized cities were examined and included in the study.

"I was pleased to discover that even with relatively small budgets and fewer resources, smaller Canadian cities are really making sustainability a priority," says Melissa Shin, associate editor and researcher for the Sustainable Cities Ranking. "In some cases, they outperformed their larger peers."

The full results of the Ranking, including the surveys completed by each city, are available on www.corporateknights.ca and are summarized in the Responsible Investing issue (Vol. 6.3) of Corporate Knights, to be distributed in the Globe and Mail on February 15 (Western Canada) and 18 (Eastern Canada).

*Survey portion of Sustainable Cities report was completed by 16 of 18 cities. The two cities that did not respond were St. John's and Saint John. To view the report or download city surveys as completed by each city, visit www.corporateknights.ca/reports/cities/.

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To schedule interviews or to view the city survey results (password required for site access), contact:

Jonathan Laderoute, e|c|o, 416-972-7401, laderoutej(a)huffstrategy.com

About Corporate Knights:
Founded in 2002, Corporate Knights Inc. is an independent Canadian-based media company focused on promoting and reinforcing sustainable development in Canada.

Backgrounder

Large Cities


1.

The corporation of the City of Ottawa (7.70) met its GHG emission reduction target of 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2007, achieving a 24 per cent reduction in 2004. Ottawa had the highest overall score of all our cities and had the highest Empowerment score of all cities.

Opportunity to improve: Despite its excellent GHG reduction progress, Ottawa's Ecological Integrity score was relatively low. It could consider a public ban on insecticide as well as tax incentives for cleantech or green businesses, which combined city's emerging cleantech cluster and proximity to the federal government, could make Ottawa a Silicon Valley of the north.

2.  
  
Toronto (7.50) has a new local food procurement policy for city agencies including minimum local food purchase requirement in all new food-related contracts. It has the highest Social Well-Being Score of the large- and medium-sized cities, and the highest Ecological Integrity score of all our cities. Toronto had the lowest per capita daily water consumption of all cities, and the city is one of only three to have a comprehensive insecticide ban. Toronto has the largest installation in the world of solar-powered parking meters and the first urban wind turbine. As well, Deep Lake Water Cooling cools over 90 buildings in the downtown core.

Opportunity to improve: Toronto spends more on non-core services (which include administration and recreation and culture) than core services (public works, environmental services, transportation, fire and police, planning and development), which explains in part its relatively low Economic Security score. Considering Mississauga and Hamilton both recycle polystyrene, Toronto could also look into adding these materials into its recycling stream. As a world class city, Toronto could find a way to join the ranks of other world class cities like London and Milan by introducing a congestion charge to battle back gridlock. Toronto's City Council does not reflect the diversity of the city with only three out of 44 Councilors being visible minorities.

3.    

This year, Montreal (7.19) is allocating 50.6 per cent more than last year's funding for environmental conservation, which works out to $61 million representing 1.5 per cent of the total budget. It also has 289 sustainable planning staff.

Opportunity to improve: As a major Canadian population centre, Montreal could join Toronto by adding a green bin program to its waste management approach. As well, Montrealers could explore more effective water pricing and conservation programs to tackle its daily water use, which on a per capita level is higher than any other large city surveyed (460.5 litres). Montreal had a voter turnout rate of less than 30 per cent in its last municipal election, which weakened its Empowerment score. As well, the city had a low employment participation rate of 68 per cent.

4.    

Edmonton (7.11) has a Cornerstones Plan, which is City Council's five-year plan to help increase affordable housing and ensure adequate and decent housing for Edmontonians. The city also has a Carbon Dioxide Reduction Edmonton (CO2RE) program that launched in 2002. Through the program, the City provides incentives for homebuilders to build to a Built Green (similar to the LEED process for homes) standard. Builders are provided grants up to $450 for attaining a Built Green Gold certification.

Opportunity to improve: Over 84 per cent of Edmontonians depend on cars. While Edmonton has an integrated pest management plan and reduction program, a full ban on insecticide would help its relatively weak Ecological Integrity score.

5.
    
Calgary (6.90) boasts the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America with 8,000 hectares of parkland and open space. The city has 895 km of bike paths. Calgary is also the first Canadian city to regulate trans fats. Beginning January 1, 2008, city restaurants cannot cook with fats and oils that have more than two per cent trans fats in total fat content. The city has the highest Economic Security score of all our cities.

Opportunity to improve: While Calgary has an integrated pest management plan, a full ban on insecticide would help its relatively weak Ecological Integrity score.

Medium Cities

1.

Quebec (7.41) has 15 carpool lanes to reduce congestion and the number of cars on the road. Its citizens spend only 16.85 per cent of family expenditures on shelter - the lowest of all medium-sized cities and a mere 0.05 per cent above St. John's, which had the lowest percentage.

Opportunity to improve: Quebec could add a green bin program to its waste management approach, and consider augmenting its ambitious policy to ensure 100 per cent of all new municipally built buildings are LEED certified, by offering developer incentives to pursue the same path for the rest of the city's new buildings.

2.

Halifax (7.13) has received provincial funding towards a farmer's market. Halifax has also recently commenced installation of a district seawater cooling and energy efficiency project involving five major municipally owned buildings on the Dartmouth waterfront.

Opportunity to improve: Halifax's insecticide reduction program could be improved to a full ban.

3.
    
Vancouver (7.00) is one of the only municipalities in Canada with its own building by-law that regulates energy and has the     highest ethnic diversity score for its City Council, with 30 per cent of Council members being visible minorities, and 40 per cent being female. The city also has a "2,010 Garden Plots by 2010" initiative to achieve 2,010 new food-producing garden plots in the city by January 1, 2010.

Opportunity to improve: The city could consider a ban on insecticide.

4.  
  
Winnipeg (6.79) is investigating the potential for a landfill gas recapture program in its largest landfill. It also offers property tax credits for retrofits to older homes (including energy retrofits).

Opportunity to improve: Winnipeg's residents can request 100-metre buffer zones around their properties to avoid exposure to insecticides. Why not a comprehensive ban?

5.  
  
Mississauga's (6.37) Development and Design Division has a staff member who is certified LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Accredited Professional). Mississauga also recently installed a 25-kilowatt solar photovoltaic power generation plant on the Hershey Centre, and its River Grove Community Centre is heated with geothermal energy using ground source heat pumps.

Opportunity to improve: We hope that Mississauga's LEED-certified staff member can help increase the number of LEED buildings in the city, which currently stands at one.

6.  
  
Hamilton's (5.84) Public Works Department was recently awarded a Silver Rating for excellence in "greening" its vehicle fleets under a new national program known as E3 Fleet. Hamilton was the first municipality in Canada to receive this honour. Hamilton also accepts the most materials in its recycling program of all our cities.

Opportunity to improve: Creating residential or commercial solar or geothermal retrofit programs as well as banning insecticides would help Hamilton's Ecological Integrity score.

Small Cities

1.    

Yellowknife (6.41) has embarked on a Smart Growth Redevelopment Plan, which promotes compact development, integrated land uses, quality of life, economic revitalization, and environmental protection. It has dedicated $500,000 towards a Community Energy Plan, which will reduce GHGs; $300,000 towards a geothermal feasibility study to determine how to extract heat from an abandoned gold mine; and $175,000 in 2007 towards Smart Growth Initiatives; and $150,000 in 2007 towards conservation, with a further $150,000 allocated for 2008.

Opportunity to improve:  The Yellowknife City Council could improve its ethnic diversity score, as at present no members of Council are visible minorities.

2.    

Saskatoon (6.39) has a year-round farmer's market and had the second-highest employment participation rate and the second highest Economic Security score of all cities, second both times only to Calgary.

Opportunity to improve: Saskatoon has high per capita daily water consumption (501.7 litres) and no LEED buildings.

3.
    
Iqaluit (5.73) is working on a plastic bag ban and will be hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator this year. It has the highest Green Mobility score of all cities.

Opportunity to improve: This small city is making big strides - it is embarking on a study of its GHG emissions and we hope that this leads to a reduction target.

4.
    
Whitehorse (5.45) has its own Sustainability Office and is currently in the process of developing a fifty-year sustainability plan that will include a seven-year strategic plan. Whitehorse's City Council scored perfect on gender diversity with 50 per cent from each gender. The city held a four-day public consultation to gain community input for the plan in October 2007.

Opportunity to improve:  The city could scrap its bulk water pricing to provide large water users more of an incentive to conserve, and in light of the high building heating costs, the city could provide incentives for developers to build LEED certified buildings of which there are currently none.

5.  
  
Saint John (5.32) had the second-highest level of ethnic diversity in its city council, with two of ten Councilors being visible minorities (Carl White and Jay-Young Chang). However, it had the lowest Social Well-Being score of all our cities.

Opportunity to improve: As well, Saint John could explore more effective water pricing and conservation programs to tackle its daily water use, which on a per capita level is higher than any other city surveyed (537.3 litres). The city also had the highest concentration of fast-food outlets, with four "top ten" fast food outlets per 10,000 people.

6.  
  
St. John's (4.69) citizens spend the lowest percentage of family expenditures on shelter. The city also has the lowest Ecological Integrity and Empowerment scores of all our cities.

Opportunity to improve: The city is undergoing a pilot recycling program and we hope that the program rolls out in full force. It also has an unusually high bag limit of 10 for curbside garbage pickup - although any limit is better than none.

7.  
  
Charlottetown  (4.56) recently completed an upgrade to the central municipal wastewater treatment plant and replaced its chlorine disinfection with an ultraviolet system. The city is also developing a sludge management plan. However, it was the lowest-scoring city in our ranking.

Opportunity to improve: Almost 90 per cent of the population is dependent on cars - but Charlottetown says it has "recently completed a master plan that includes the active transportation agenda and specific targeted areas for safe cycling paths." Also, almost 20 per cent of family expenditures are spent on housing. While the city does support Habitat for Humanity, it does not have a comprehensive affordable housing program.

Sources employed for ranking:

   * Statistics Canada
   * Centre for the Study of Living Standards
   * Municipalities' websites
   * Survey conducted by Corporate Knights
   * Evergreen
   * Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)  website
   * Anielski Institute
   * www.csr.org
   * The 2007 Local Government Performance Index - Frontier Centre for
     Public Policy
   * McCormick Rankin Corporation
   * University of Alberta study authored by Prof. Sean Cash, Prof.
     Ellen Goddard, and Ryan Lacanilao
   * Vital Signs
   * International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI)