Municipal elections are fast approaching and many Ontarians feel pessimistic about their future. Residents of Ward 1 in Burlington, Ontario, have a good reason to be optimistic. Recently, I sat down with Vince Fiorito, who is running for councillor in the established neighbourhood of Aldershot, to discuss his view on the issues facing Burlington.
A respected environmentalist, green energy actionist, and former provincial Green Party candidate, Fiorito is running a comprehensive, thoughtful campaign outlined in his People, Planet, Prosperity Platform. He has thoroughly addressed issues all municipal Mayoral, City, and Regional councillor candidates should be discussing with voters before October 22.
Let's start with an area of great importance to the City of Burlington -- intelligent urban intensification. According to Fiorito, we're at a critical point in Burlington's urban development. The city must significantly increase affordable, accessible housing stock to meet the needs of future generations.
Fiorito recognizes, that if Burlington's urban areas expand outwards, we lose valuable Green Belt lands that feed us, purify our drinking water and refresh the air we breathe. Fiorito will, "Work with residents, businesses and developers to manage urban intensification across Ward 1, Burlington and the Region of Halton. Urban intensification projects must improve our quality of life and solve existing problems -- not create new ones."
Fiorito supporter, Marianne Workman, believes, "Vince will bring a lot to the table - new ideas, new energy, and a driven desire and ability to serve the citizens of Burlington. I appreciate how Vince considers all stakeholders and then draws on his diverse knowledge and experience to offer creative and advantageous solutions."
When it comes to public transit, Fiorito acknowledges that after years of underfunding and neglect ridership has declined even as Burlington's population is growing. According to Fiorito, "Current intensification plans for Brant Street must include new public transit infrastructure to decrease congestion and grid lock. Working with the local citizen group, Burlington For Accessible Sustainable Transit (BFAST) and ensuring Burlington receives its share of federal and provincial funding for new public transit infrastructure, City Council could create an efficient public transit system so good that everyone will be eager to use."
Burlington is one of the wealthiest cities in Canada, but poverty continues to be a problem. The 2015 census revealed 7.3 per cent of Burlington residents live in poverty, and according to Halton Poverty Roundtable, over 13,500 children within Halton region live in low-income households.
Fiorito believes that "everyone must be able to live with dignity. No one should have to choose between paying rent, buying fresh food for their children, or a necessary medication."
To make this change possible, Fiorito says Burlington policy should help local organizations collect and distribute used clothing, furniture, and appliances to those who need them. If elected, Fiorito pledges to donate 50 per cent of his net income as City and Regional Councillor to local anti-poverty organizations and he challenges other Ward 1 candidates to make a similar pledge.
Fiorito is a passionate environmentalist who envisions Burlington doubling its green space with urban Greenbelt land designations for publicly-owned urban ravine floodplains and wetlands across the city.
As a homeowner backing onto Sheldon creek, Fiorito has experienced the abuse of green spaces, rivers, and streams. He has seen firsthand how Burlington's City Council and urban planners have ignored these valuable ecological systems, only mentioning them in the City Official Plan as storm sewers.
Fiorito speaks out about how Burlington's urban ravines are filled with decades of accumulated trash and are contaminated with industrial effluent, which gets into our drinking water. Fiorito backs up these claims in a 15-minute video from November 2017, when he delegated before Burlington City Council to report on the state of the city's neglected urban ravines and wetlands.
Fiorito envisions Burlington rewarding volunteer watershed stewardship with Urban River Valley Greenbelt land designations that increase property values. He knows our urban wetlands should clean and purify our air and water, and should not be sources of pollution.
According to Ward 1 (Aldershot) resident Marcia Sweet, "Vince has energetically collected knowledge and developed skills to expand his effectiveness beyond his own neighbourhood. He has become familiar with city planning and government procedures, regulations, and protocol. He supports the case for improving the environment with science-based and ethically grounded research."
Many cancers and other health problems are a result of exposure to toxins in our air, water, and food. Burlington needs a "Right to Know" by‐law, that requires local sources of pollution to monitor and report their toxic emissions to the City of Burlington. Toxic emission reports should be made public, so that residents are aware of neighborhood pollution problems. This by-law can be modeled after programs already working in other cities, including Toronto.
Fiorito has been actively involved in opposing the Aldershot Quarry expansion. Since the issue first came to the public's attention, Fiorito has attended all the public meetings to ask the hard questions. He would like to see a negotiated outcome where everyone wins, including the Quarry Operator. Given the context of a biodiversity crisis, Fiorito believes, "We have a responsibility to future generations to protect this pristine forest and endangered species from destruction."
In 2015, Burlington City Council endorsed the Blue Dot Declaration, affirming the right to a healthy environment, which involves clean air and water, safe food, a stable climate, and a say in decisions affecting their health and well-being. But Fiorito says that past and present elected representatives at all levels of government have failed to act to protect our Blue Dot rights. He is confident that, "If we value community health and safety above corporate profits, then we should be rewarding builders for sustainably built, low carbon, energy efficient homes and businesses. Those that adopt Low Impact Development (LID) practices -- permeable pavement parking lots, perforated pipe storm sewers, bio-swales and other set standards -- should get tax breaks."
Another big issue in Ontario is affordable electricity. Fiorito sees the city working to lower electricity rates with Smart Grid infrastructure. Infrastructure change would allow Burlington Hydro to sell discounted surplus electricity to customers. But it doesn't end there. Fiorito envisions funding this electricity transformation with community managed bonds.
Workman finds, "Vince's enthusiasm for creating win-win solutions is contagious. He'll bring confidence for positive change to the citizens of Burlington."
Fiorito is a visionary with grounded, achievable goals that would help make Ward 1 and the entire City of Burlington a cleaner, more energy efficient, sustainable place to call home. Fiorito is clear that he, "Will say no to changes to Burlington's Official Plan and Zoning until affected residents and businesses say yes! Stakeholder consultation must be more than a check box that imposes unwanted change though. I will follow a consensus-based decision making process at city hall where 2/3 majority stake holder support will determine my vote. I will be honest about my opinions and will never tell people what they want to hear just to get their vote."
An amateur wildlife photographer, Fiorito designed a unique campaign sign that transforms into lawn art. There's either a hawk, dove, cardinal or blue jay on one side and his photo on the other. After the election, the slogan "running for the right reasons" can be trimmed, leaving just the beautiful photo of a local bird in flight.
Ward 1 (Tyandaga) resident Fran Fendelet says, "Vince is clearly a unique person with commitment who would bring effective community representation and hope to Burlington City Council."
To order your sign click here.
To donate to Vince Fiorito's campaign click here.
Image: Vince Fiorito
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