Peter Wynnyczuk – Ontario Representative, CUFN Steering Committee, and Executive Director, Ontario Urban Forest Council

My how things have changed in the past couple of years within Ontario’s urban forest realm.

The previous provincial government had embraced the carbon pricing programs of other jurisdictions and had supported green initiatives for residents and businesses to utilize in reducing our carbon footprint. As this newly elected provincial government is moving in a different direction than we previously experienced related to climate change and adaptability, this has led to some challenges for the green and climate adaptability sectors, which include the urban forest.

Some past events and future opportunities include:

  • • Bill 66 Schedule 10 was introduced in the Legislature earlier this year, which would have allowed municipalities to bypass Official Plans for development, provided that the new development created employment opportunities. Previously, development activities were subject to review if they occurred on lands potentially deemed protected, under various Provincial Acts, Official Plans and Zoning Bylaws. A great deal of time and energy by ENGOs, residents, municipal staff and Councils was expended to pass motions by many municipalities that stated that the Province was not considerate of municipal Official Plans. The government rescinded this Schedule 10 of the Bill after the people had spoken.
  • • The provincial carbon reduction and carbon tax programs were removed; these were in place to help fund retrofit for schools and aid in funding programs to move our communities away from oil dependency. The environmental sector is now in a position to gather support for environmental initiatives at the grassroots level to build momentum and develop green policies for future implementation.
  • • In November, the Ontario Urban Forest Council (OUFC) will be holding its annual conference in collaboration with Tree Canada’s CUFN Ontario regional workshop on both local and national urban forestry topics.
  • • The OUFC is still supporting one of our advisors Edith George, who, for the last decade has been presenting around the province the significance of a Red Oak, which has been associated with the “Carrying Place trail” predating Confederation in Weston, a suburb of Toronto. The City of Toronto is partnering with private interests in obtaining the lands, on which this remarkable Oak sits, for a potential future parkette. This can ensure community access to view this significant tree that was saved by the original owner when he bought the house in the 1960’s. Hopefully a positive announcement on the purchase will be made in late April.
  • • Over the past year, there has been a greater trend of municipalities taking positive action to address their community trees. For municipal trees, more bylaws are being passed to enhance and protect street trees. An example is the City of St. Catharines. Addressing private trees, either through municipal planning policy or provincial Municipal Act bylaws mirrored in the planning policy, enables municipal and community discussion on tree impacts related to development both on and off site.

In summary the CUFN Ontario Region looks forward to opportunities of greater collaboration of urban forestry and related groups in sharing information and building the conversation of the urban forest, potentially one day with provincial recognition.

Your CUFN Steering Committee Ontario Representative,
Peter Wynnyczuk, Executive Director, Ontario Urban Forest Council
info@oufc.org