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CBC Ottawa

Voting Green

I had originally planned to cover this Friday morning, but a series of unfortunate events on Thursday evening took precedence (a fatal bike accident in New Brunswick, followed by that horrific car crash at a bus stop on Albert Street). Anyway, better late than never.

Ecology Ottawa and EnviroCentre have released the results of what it's calling "the city's first green poll" to coincide with the election. The poll offers an interesting look at where voters stand on environmental issues. Among the key findings:

  • Sixty-nine per cent of Ottawa residents would support charging lower fees for greener buildings, and higher fees for those that fall below industry standards.
  • Four out of every five residents believe the City of Ottawa should implement a more aggressive energy efficiency program for its buildings and services, and use more green energy and fuel.
  • Almost two-thirds of residents think the City of Ottawa should invest its annual dividends from Hydro Ottawa in energy efficiency programs instead of parking the money in general revenues.
  • More than half believe the City should provide interest-free loans to residents and businesses for energy-efficiency and renewable upgrades.

On the surface, it's probably not very surprising that residents support the notion of greener buildings, energy efficiency and help for green businesses. What is significant is that they're also willing to make the financial commitment that goes along with it. However when asked whether the city should "spend less on new roads and instead spend more on improving public transportation, cycling infrastructure and other ways ro reduce traffic," 52 per cent said no. Barely one third said yes. That means that as much as folks say they want to go green, they're not ready to cut spending on roads.

So far the environment hasn't figured very prominently in the mayoral campaign. Yes, public transit has been front and centre at all the debates, but it's usually framed as a city-building initiative rather than an environmental solution. Clive Doucet is so far the only front-runner who's making the environment a focus of his campaign. We've yet to see Jim Watson's environmental platform, and Larry O'Brien -- while he has been a constant champion of the current light rail plan -- is also pushing for a ring road, and is careful in debates to avoid alienating the car-commuting voter.

Ecology Ottawa is also organizing a mayoral debate next Sunday.

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