The title from a May 14, 2009 press release from the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba (PCWM) says it all: "Manitoba’s Proposed Land Use Policies Encourage Urban Sprawl".
(I highly recommend that readers check of the PCWM response at: http://www.mts.net/~pcwm/plup_response.pdf)
In the PCWM response to the PLUP consultation, they quip that "...the March 2009 draft should more accurately be entitled, 'Provincial Infrastructure, Servicing and Land Use Policies' as it moves away from the focus of sustainable land use planning and concentrates more on providing infrastructure and services to low density, scattered 'urban centres', rural residential and cottage development. This will promote urban sprawl, particularly in Winnipeg’s commuter-shed. This direction is unsustainable both environmentally and economically."
Having attended the Provincial Land Use Policies (PLUP) consultation process, held at the Norwood Hotel in Winnipeg, MB on April 27th, my observations were concurrent with those of the PCWM.
In short, these regulations are pure "greenwash". Many green buzz-words are incorporated throughout the 63 page draft, but words do not give this document the strength to promote sustainable land use. It is disingenuous for the NDP to cast about carelessly these buzz-terms, while at the same time promoting the continuation of our car-dependent, water- and energy-intensive infrastructure systems.
First off, the draft regulations are nearly toothless. They are not binding laws but are merely advisory in nature. According to the section entitled "Scope and Application": "The Policies are to be read as a whole and ...are to be applied to the circumstance or consideration." (pg 8).
The only problem is PLUP are so contradictory, however, that they cannot be read as a whole.
Too elaborate I provide two examples: Infrastructure Development and The Mid-Continent Trade Corridor Concept.
The PLUP on "Infrastructure" delineates that "alternative solutions" rather than extending or expanding existing infrastructure should be considered and in particular "demand side management techniques and low impact development" should be utilized (pg 48; PA:6.6 b.).
These policies are then utterly undermined by the mandate to connect both new developments and existing self-sufficient developments to centralized pipe-based wastewater facilities (pg 49; PA6:8).
On one page the PLUP outline that we should not extend or expand our current infrastructure, and on then on the next page they instruct the extension of the same old piped wastewater infrastructure -- which is dependent on continuous quantities of water to maintain the flow and therefore wholly incompatible with demand management techniques.
How are these policy interests to be reconciled with each other?
"The pressure to extend water, sewer, roads, transit and other services and infrastructure will tax these services to an unsustainable degree. It could lead to the demand for major infrastructure expansion such as twinning the aqueduct from Shoal Lake that has a finite water supply. Winnipeg currently has a massive infrastructure deficit. To ask the city to spread its services and infrastructure throughout the region is simply not sustainable nor is it fair to the citizens..." elaborates the PCWM.
MID-CONTINENT TRADE CORRIDOR
The Development Plan By-Laws require various appropriate studies be undertaken and made public before the approval of any new development, including among them studies on "greenhouse gas emissions inventories and forecasts" as well as "climate change vulnerability/risk assessments" (pg. 20; BL: 3. f, g).
Yet the Capital Region is ensured of the 'protection to capitalize upon any identified economic development advantages' including an expanded 24-hour airport and the concept of a Mid-Continent Trade Corridor. (pg 62; PA 9: 2).
Yet going back to the By-Laws where are the public studies for the greenhouse gas/climate change impacts of the Mid-Continent Trade Corridor? Clearly the construction alone, let alone the increased air, freight, and rail traffic will caused an increase in emissions.
In the PLUP section on "Agriculture" the preamble states:
"It is expected that rising fuel costs and climate change may place an increased demand on the production and protection of local food sources. Producing food for local consumption reduces food miles traveled and consequently greenhouse gases;" (pg. 31; PA 3).
Given that nearly all goods are transported by our fossil-fuel based transportation system it generally holds true that reducing the miles traveled of all goods in general will consequently reduce greenhouse gases, dependent of course on the method of transportation used.
The concept of a Mid-Continent Trade Corridor however is entirely dependent on the notion of transporting goods across the globe. It is also heavily dependent on air travel, which has the heaviest footprint of any form of fossil-fuel based transportation.
So which policy directive is to prevail? The one that calls for planning to reduce greenhouse gases, or the plan to build a Mid-Continent Trade Corridor which is wholly dependent on unsustainable greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuel based transportation infrastructure?
Further to this, Downtown Winnipeg stands to lose the Greyhound Bus Depot and the Post Office Headquarters to the proposed Mid-Continent Trade Corridor. How does this fit in line the PLUP "Settlement Areas" which make a commitment to maximize investment in the downtown (PA 2: 8., 9.)
This is just two examples of how the PLUP often contradict themselves, but how can conflicting policy directives constitute a land use plan. Ultimately political considerations will prevail in the planning process. What is needed, perhaps even more than better planning policies themselves, is the political will from our politicians to commit themselves to a sincere rather than a face-value commitment to sustainable land use planning.
[Note: Draft PLUP can be read at http://www.gov.mb.ca/ia/plups/draft.html or in pdf form at http://www.gov.mb.ca/ia/plups/pdf/draft.pdf. Referenced by page number and policy. -- Eg. (pg 42; PA5: 3.a.) refers to page 42 pdf version; Policy Area 5: directive 3.a.]