Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who Grows Up Happier?

The kids in suburbs or the kids in the slums of Dhaka?

[photos from Adbusters magazine]

Wealth is not nearly as important as social networks. Children in the suburbs are losing the freedom to explore their world due to protective parents who are fearful of traffic, strangers, and other worries.

Happiness and economic growth are independent. Perhaps we should invest more in relationships than growing our portfolios. After all, what would you rather have on your tombstone: successful businessman, or beloved father and cherished friend?

I learned this phrase from the relatively poor people of Costa Rica: Pura Vida (pure life)!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Seven Generations

Many of us will have the opportunity to meet our great-grandparents and great-grandchildren, a timespan of seven generations in our lifespan. All of our decisions should be based on the impact of the seventh generation into the future. This is our legacy.

"What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?"
[photo taken at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor's Centre]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Time for a change in Vaughan

I am dismayed and bewildered at Vaughan Council’s historic decision to approve the urban boundary expansion and remove any timing restrictions for developers. From the polarized views of Council, it is evident that there is a lack of shared vision for the future of our City. The priorities of Mayor Linda Jackson, Regional Councillors Joyce Frustaglio, Gino Rosati, Mario Ferri, and the Chair of the Official Plan Review, Peter Meffe, are out of touch with the needs of our City. It is time to draw the line in the sand when it comes to more unsustainable sprawling development, and rather, focus on intensification. Vaughan is well below Provincial density targets as it is. Imagine our City with dedicated lanes for buses and light rail that come every five minutes, so people would choose not to drive. Imagine a network of bikeways throughout the City that would take you anywhere you want to go, with vibrant public spaces to walk and socialize in the absence of noisy traffic. What a wonderful place it would be. We need decision-makers with guts to champion a transformative and compact City of Vaughan that all of us can be proud of.

Mayor Jackson says “we’ve had planned, controlled growth for 25 years and we are known for that”. Far from it. We’re one of the cities in Canada most frequently criticized. Take a look at a map of Vaughan from 1984 and you’ll see how much has changed. Huge swaths of agricultural land have been converted to low-density housing. Development brings a great deal of money to Vaughan, but at what cost? Cars make low density development possible, and low-density development requires cars. Distances between destinations are too far to walk and public transit systems can't operate efficiently.

The 886 hectare expansion has been cleverly marketed as the smallest urban boundary expansion in the history of Vaughan. Maybe, if you ignore the rules of exponential growth. A 3% expansion now is much bigger than a 3% expansion years ago. It should be looked at in terms of land area. 886 hectares is more than double the size of Maple’s urban area in 1984, and it had taken Maple a century and a half to get there. The entire island of Venice is 517 hectares. But we’re not looking at building another Venice. It’s same old, same old in Vaughan, plus more traffic.

It’s been said that “we will never know the worth of water ‘til the well is dry”. Please vote wisely. Vaughan Council has been plagued with controversy and scandal for the past decade. It's time for a change! The future of our city is at stake.