Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Municipal report unleashes green power to the people

Sierra Legal released a report today that highlights the extraordinary legal power Canada’s towns and cities can harness to combat global warming and protect the health of their communities. The Municipal Powers Report offers a primer on the legal clout our cities possess and provides examples of innovative tools being developed across the country – tackling issues ranging from climate change and traffic congestion to sustainable building and neighbourhood design.

“While our federal and provincial leaders are delivering green rhetoric, our municipalities are delivering green solutions,” Sierra Legal lawyer Justin Duncan, the author of the report. “Although our communities and climate are under threat, we are also in the midst of an unprecedented explosion of interest in green issues and solutions. This report provides municipalities with a roadmap to unleash their potent powers to protect the health of their community.”

The report examines numerous case studies that demonstrate how local governments have been successfully using their legal powers to make their communities greener.

“From idling bylaws in Toronto to sustainable community planning in the Town of Okotoks, communities large and small are starting to use these powerful tools from their legal toolkit to make their communities greener,” continued Duncan.

Sierra Legal helped secure a huge victory for municipal powers in 2001 with the landmark “Hudson” decision at the Supreme Court of Canada. The precedent-setting ruling upheld a municipal ban on pesticide use and fortified the ability of municipalities to pass bylaws aimed at protecting the health of their citizenry and environment. Since the decision, more than 125 municipalities across Canada have passed similar pesticide bylaws, which have been hugely successful at reducing the use of these toxic chemicals up to 90%.

The report includes helpful information on funding options for municipal programs, as well as examples of by-law templates, campaign and planning tools to help facilitate environmental program proposals instigated by local leaders and activists.

The report also provides an analysis of the provincial and territorial legislation that govern municipalities. The analysis reveals that all jurisdictions except New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec possess provisions enabling broad municipal action. The report recommends that these three jurisdictions pass amendments to their legislative schemes to ensure that all municipalities in Canada are clearly empowered to take progressive action to protect their environments.

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