Environmental Groups Feel Left Out of Northumberland County’s Strategic Plan

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Though literally thousands of people were consulted in the process leading up to the presentation of strategic pillars for the Northumberland County Community Strategic Plan 2023-2027 at the August meeting of county council’s Economic Development, Tourism and Land Use Planning Committee, several local environmentally focused delegations came forward to say they were left out.

The committee heard from Sustainable Cobourg and Blue Dot Northumberland representatives about their concerns following a presentation on the plan by Director of Communications Kate Campbell.

The plan anticipates what she termed transformational change ahead, as the population is slated to reach 122,000 within 30 years and critical requirements are expected to emerge in such areas as workforce development, housing, transportation, health and broadband connectivity.

Campbell referred to “growth with intention” to achieve a vibrant, connected 21st-century county that embraces innovation, respects natural environment, celebrates diversity and cares for one another.

The five strategic pillars identified were:

Embracing innovation for service excellence

Igniting economic opportunity for resilience and prosperity

Fostering thriving communities that are both healthy and inclusive

Propelling sustainable growth that balances the benefits of development with the preservation of our natural heritage

Championing a vibrant future through such measures as proactively building strong relationships with key partners

Under these headings, she added, 40 actions have been put forward.

Campbell reviewed the road that led to this document – which, if approved by county council at its Aug. 16 meeting, can be finalized in September.

The process was launched at the end of March with three initial areas of focus (shared services with municipal partners, affordable and workforce housing, and economic-development opportunities). Consultations with staff and members of the community followed, with more than 915 people contacted directly, 50,000 through various other means of communications, and still more through consultations with Alderville First Nation and a long list of community stakeholders.

Judy Smith of Sustainable Cobourg said that neither her group, nor any other environmental group she is aware of, was contacted, though many members added their own individual thoughts through the survey that was conducted.

Still, she added, these people were told “they were supposed to be contacted if there was any news, but we didn’t receive that. We found out Friday accidentally about this meeting today.”

Smith, Sustainable Cobourg President Gudrun Ludorf-Weaver and young member Tovan Lew (as well as a member of Blue Dot Northumberland) did receive the opportunity to address the committee directly at the meeting.

Lew urged the use of a climate lens as the county shapes its future, adding that – though it is a moral responsibility – it could be an economic opportunity as well.

The youth of this community look to our decision makers to make urgent changes,” he said.

“This strategic plan should be informed in all its parts by climate change, instead of being almost an afterthought,” Smith said.

“The vagueness of this strategic plan has us very concerned.”

Smith set out the group’s own priorities:

Increase community awareness of climate change and its projected impact

Apply climate-change initiatives and funding and legislation to local use

Co-ordinate with other municipalities and organizations to develop policy and actions to forestall climate-change impact on a proactive basis

“The County of Northumberland had been complacent. This has to change,” she stated.

“A climate lens needs to be prepared for all issues coming before council.”

Warden Mandy Martin said both reports – the one presented by Sustainable Cobourg and Campbell’s report – would be forwarded to county council later this month for consideration.

“County staff will be responding and outlining some of the green initiatives we are doing,” Martin added.

“We are not sitting under a mushroom here. We have real goals and real action plans going. I think all of us have a deep commitment.”

As an example, she cited the farmland forum plenary session that had taken place just a few days earlier.

“What is absolutely vital – no one person, no one agency – we have to do it collaboratively, and I think that is very much what we are working towards.”

Addressing the group’s perceived omission, committee chair Brian Ostrander said, “We certainly down want anyone to feel they were left out of the process. That is absolutely the opposite of our intent. We apologize if your group or team felt excluded in any way, shape of form. That was not the intention of the county.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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