Mississauga proposes 57% of 2023 capital budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation
For almost two weeks, heavy rainfall has tormented California in a series of storms starting in the south before ravaging areas farther north. As of Tuesday morning, almost 100,000 residents were under evacuation orders, about 220,000 residential units were without power and 17 people were dead, while the severe weather system shows no sign of breaking up.
The tragedy is a critical warning for municipalities: if climate change mitigation and adaptation measures are not immediately implemented, more citizens will be at the mercy of deadly weather events.
The once-in-a-century floods submerging entire areas of California were foreshadowed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2022, when the collection of the world’s leading environmental scientists highlighted the crucial role cities play in the fight to safeguard the population from the increasing impacts of global temperature increase. Developing initiatives to support climate change mitigation, and dealing with the ecological, social and economic consequences of climate change should be the top priority of local governments, the IPCC stated. Cities are uniquely positioned, as the most “on the ground” level of government, to protect residents who will otherwise face increasing threats due to climate catastrophes that are becoming more common.
In early December, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk issued a similar warning to Ontarians. She published a heavily critical audit of the provincial government’s lack of response to increased flooding and other weather related risks. Queen’s Park’s failures to safeguard against widespread flooding place even more responsibility on municipalities, which own the vast majority of our critical public infrastructure.
Mississauga’s municipal infrastructure was overwhelmed during widespread flooding in 2013 that swamped basements across numerous neighbourhoods. Since then, the City has been lauded for its efforts to create a sustainable community. During the COP 15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December, the City of Mississauga signed onto the Montreal Pledge, promising to take action on the municipal level to support biodiversity. As one of the ten Canadian cities that signed onto the pledge, Mississauga has made further commitments to protect the environment.
This is being enhanced by the City’s 2023 budget which allots almost $225 million toward initiatives related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, accounting for 57 percent of the capital budget.
Even after deep revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City is committing to reduce its carbon output while maintaining vital greenspace. Mississauga declared a climate emergency in 2019, which led to the adoption of its Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP). The CCAP outlines 89 actions in the realm of clean energy systems, green infrastructure, innovation, engagement and partnerships and lowering emissions that will help reach an emissions reduction of 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
Progress on the Plan was interrupted by pandemic emergency measures throughout 2020 and 2021. In 2021, the City published an update on the CCAP stating that two actions had been completed, 27 were underway, 29 were ongoing, 6 had been paused and 25 were not yet started. The funding proposed in the 2023 budget will help Mississauga move closer to these goals.
An analysis of the 2023 capital budget by The Pointer found the City is proposing $222.9 million toward initiatives that support climate mitigation and adaptation, 57 percent of the budget. This is an increase from the $197.9 million, or 41 percent, of the budget invested for similar initiatives in 2022.
Approximately $170.3 million, or 76 percent of the $222.9 million, is for mitigation while the remaining $52.6 million, or 24 percent is going to initiatives related to adaptation.
Transit initiatives make up half of the money proposed for investment in green projects.
(Rachel Morgan/The Pointer)
Transit initiatives make up the largest portion (43 percent) of proposed capital budget funding. Analysis shows $111.9 million is proposed for green transit initiatives which includes the transition to zero-emissions vehicles and the related transit infrastructure, the adoption of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and work on the Hurontario Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. It does not include regular maintenance. Transit is the number one emitter making up almost 70 percent of the City’s corporate emissions, meaning these green investments could significantly help the City reach its ambitious emissions reductions targets.
The most costly transit initiative is an $83.8 million investment to transition the MiWay transit fleet from diesel to hybrid or battery electric buses (BEB) and hydrogen fuel vehicles. In June, the City received $500 million from the federal and provincial governments through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) to purchase 314 new hybrid electric buses, replace 44 diesel buses and conduct two studies on the feasibility of zero emissions transit and on demand transit. The City has included the critical need for a rapid transition to a greener transit fleet in its budget submissions to the federal and provincial governments.
MiWay ridership took a hit during the pandemic, but as residents continue to return to their normal daily routines, the need for sustainable transit options is an opportunity. The City is investing nearly $18 million for the design and construction of two new BRT lines, one that runs east and west along Dundas Street and one that runs east and west along Lakeshore Road. The development of these two lines could increase reliance on transit, ultimately decreasing reliance on individual vehicles. The City is also investing $6.5 million into the continued construction of the LRT that runs north and south down Hurontario from Lakeshore to Steeles Avenue.
The City is also looking to increase active transportation such as cycling by investing $9.4 million into programs that include the construction of bike path networks across the city.
Corporate emissions decreased in both 2020 and 2021. The 2021 update on the CCAP notes the decrease seen in 2020 was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic measures are also likely to have contributed to further decreases in 2021; however, it also suggests that climate actions were working.
(Rachel Morgan/The Pointer)
Greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations have been steadily increasing over the past few years largely attributed to an increase in the number of people making carbon-based lifestyle choices. The 2021 assessment of the CCAP noted in 2020 there was a dramatic decrease in emissions as a result of people staying home due to the pandemic. Many buildings were partially or fully shut down and City services were limited. However, emissions in 2020 were still greater than those in the base year (1990) as a result of increased individual and commercial carbon footprints even when people were stuck at home.
The City of Mississauga is investing significant funds into the development of new parks and trailways, with the proposed 2023 budget outlining 22 initiatives focussed on the development of new parks and trails or the redevelopment of existing ones for a total of $46 million.
Financial impacts of the controversial Bill 23, also known as the More Homes Built Faster Act, are not accounted for in the proposed 2023 Budget. Shari Lichterman, the Commissioner of Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer at the City of Mississauga, said in a press briefing that the majority of the proposed 2023 budget had been completed before the passing of Bill 23 and that its impacts would be accounted for in subsequent years.
One of the effects of Bill 23 is changes to parkland acquisition. The Bill reduces parkland dedication requirements by developers from one hectare of land per 300 units to one hectare of land per 600 units. It also makes changes to the dedication of cash-in-lieu payments for parkland. These changes effectively make it more difficult for cities to acquire land to use for parks which could have an impact on Mississauga’s plans for 2023.
According to Mississauga’s Parks Plan, the city is in a parkland deficit meaning more greenspaces are needed for the betterment of a sustainable community.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
While the vast majority of proposed capital funding supports climate change mitigation, $56.2 million is set aside for climate adaptation initiatives, including the management of invasive species, spraying for Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) moths and cankerworm, and Emerald Ash Borer management. Most of the funding related to climate change adaptation is for stormwater infrastructure.
When heavy rains and massive storms like the one currently ravaging California occur (which we are seeing more frequently now), stormwater and sewer systems need to handle the pressure. A significant portion of funds will support construction or improvement of storm drains while $11.5 million is dedicated to mitigate erosion to prevent the flooding of local creeks.
Grassy areas take eight hours for rainwater to reach the water table, whereas on concrete surfaces it takes eight minutes. As cities become concrete jungles, there is a greater need for effective and efficient stormwater systems.
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