TED Talk: The Antidote to Apathy

A few years ago someone sent me the link to a TED Talk video that Dave Meslin, a local organizer based in Toronto, presented in 2010. It is still incredibly valid today.

“Apathy as we think we know it doesn’t actually exist,” said Meslin. “People do care, but we live in a world that actively discourages engagement by constantly putting obstacles and barriers in the way.”

Barriers such as the ones below:

At a short seven minutes, I encourage you to watch this video and to share it widely.

Comments are always welcome!

UPDATE (3): St Peters Rd/Angus Dr

This is the final instalment. Phew!

With Councillor Coady ineligible to vote (having declared a conflict of interest), the remaining City Councillors voted to reject the resolution on this rezoning application.

The discussion, which lasts nearly one hour, starts at minute 25:00 in the video-recording of the meeting.

Hear what your councillor said

Coun. Tweel (27:42) “Angus Drive has been a neighbourhood street for the past 50 years.”
Coun. Bernard (33:43) States reasons he’s against the application.
Coun. McCabe (35:40) States reasons she’s against the application.
Coun. Rivard (38:03) Not in favour of application, but presents a motion to defer the decision. Seconded by Coun. Jankov. Offers possible solutions (interrupted by annoying coughing – Coun. Duffy?).
Coun. Jankov (39:30) Supports deferral, stating it’s an opportunity to have a win for everybody.
Coun. Rivard (41:00) Refers to a past [similar?] rezoning application [Needs Convenience Store at Robin Avenue]
Coun. McCabe (41:38) Reminds everyone that the decision cannot be deferred, because the roundabout is on the verge of being built by the province. Manager of Planning Alex Forbes stated the tender is out for the roundabout.
Coun. Tweel (43:20) Reminds everyone the topic is the rezoning application, and residents want an answer.
Coun. Ramsay (45:15) “We have to start looking after residents.”
Coun. Rivard (46:30) Still in favour of deferring a decision.
Coun. Duffy (47:18) [I hear a lecture coming] “It’s a safety concern all around. I fail to see how this would increase traffic on Angus Drive.” He has the gall to disparage the six individuals from five households who spoke up at the March 23 public meeting, and the writers of 3 or 4 letters not in support, presuming that the remaining 1495 households in Ward 9 “are all for it, or just didn’t have the time to tell us their thoughts.”
Coun. Bernard (52:30) “How much commercial do we want on St Peters?”
Coun. Jankov (55:35) Deferral will allow for further discussion so the application is not quashed.
Coun. MacLeod (56:38) States reasons he’s against the application. Asks “What about MacRae Drive?” [intersects St Peters west of Angus Dr]
57:45–1:04:40 Discussion among several councillors and Mr Forbes ensues about the deferral motion.
Mayor Brown (1:04:40) After some confusion, the vote on the resolution is held. The result: 8–1 against, with Coun. Duffy the only one in favour of the rezoning application.

In the media

The Guardian: Charlottetown council throws up road block on proposed new road in East Royalty

CBC: Controversial road proposal shut down by Charlottetown council

Read my first post on the topic: March 23, 2021: Public Meeting

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The Great Societal Equalizer

Original text published as a Guest Opinion on November 9, 2020, in The Guardian and Journal Pioneer.

Public transportation is the most sustainable and equitable form of transportation that exists. Richard A. White, President and CEO of American Public Transportation Association, observed that public transportation is the original “shared-economy” form of transportation.

The advantages of riding a bus are many. It provides independence to people of all ages and mobility to people living with a disability, it is inexpensive (or free in many cities nowadays), it is healthy because the user walks or cycles to/from the bus stop and it is less stressful than driving.

A lack of public transportation can have a disproportionate impact on working and low-income individuals and immigrants. According to an article in The Atlantic, “Access to just about everything associated with upward mobility and economic progress—jobs, quality food, and goods (at reasonable prices), healthcare, and schooling—relies on the ability to get around in an efficient way, and for an affordable price.” Education and jobs are often cited as the key to overcoming income inequality, while the means to achieving either of these goods remains overlooked.

The automobile’s pervasive presence has been normalised so much that we now find ourselves living and working in places that do more to serve the needs of cars than of people. A well planned public transportation system serves as an effective way to combat automobile dependency. Over-reliance on cars takes a toll on humanity: their emissions increase the likelihood that a healthy person will develop serious diseases, including heart disease or lung cancer, later in life, causing a similar number of premature deaths as traffic collisions. Public transit tends to produce less pollution per passenger-kilometre compared to personal motor vehicles. It is a climate change mitigation opportunity that has been shown to decrease air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Using public transportation is far more affordable that owning and operating a vehicle. A car costs between $8,600 and $13,000 a year, including insurance, gas, maintenance, tires, and depreciation. A T3 Transit monthly pass currently costs $58.50, or $702 a year (Greater Charlottetown Area). Who wouldn’t want to save at least $8,000 a year, or put that money towards better housing, healthier food choices, or education?

A publicly owned, managed, and operated transit system is usually cheaper, more likely to provide good service, and is more accountable to riders than privately run transit*. It is the great societal equalizer, granting everyone universal access to transportation. It’s a known fact that mass transportation makes cities more just, environmentally sustainable, and economically vibrant. On PEI, a public transit system would have to include the unique needs of rural and small-town residents. They, just as much as urban residents, have a right to mobility and a “right to the city” (slogan coined by Henri Lefebvre).

It is time for PEI’s political leaders to make a commitment to create car-free streets and spaces in our cities and towns, to de-prioritize the automobile in their transportation funding allocations, to charge drivers the full cost of their bad habit, and to use the revenue to fund not only a public transit system, but also infrastructure improvements for walking and cycling.

Barbara Dylla of Charlottetown has submitted this article through the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the 10 Days for Transit initiative.

*Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? ©2020 James Wilt, pp 189–191

UPDATE (2): St Peters Road/Angus Dr

On April 5, I wrote a post explaining the Planning Board’s role in the planning and development process; and that the Board’s meeting agenda on April 6 would include the St Peters Road rezoning application.

Citizens may appreciate the fact that the meetings are live-streamed and archived. The major drawback is that viewers are unable to see the presentations (except when Cisco Webex is used), leaving them in the dark as to what those in the room are seeing. What is the City waiting for to upgrade its video technology?

Planning Board meeting: April 6

Despite that drawback, the Planning Board video-recording (go to minute 35:20) is well worth listening to, if only because it demonstrates once again that residents’ comments are trivialized. In a presentation and discussion that lasts 23 minutes, a scant minute (37:15–37:58) is devoted to listing the objections of “mainly area residents”. No mention is made of their suggestions, however.

So when the entire discussion is focussed on traffic, when the concluding sentence by the planner is “we feel that in the interest of the public, this is the best option” (40:55), when the objective is clearly to accommodate a retail business’s expansion (letʼs call it what it is), when public money is being used to construct a vehicle-only-friendly roundabout to enable that expansion, it is clear that both the Province and the City are less than willing to consider viable alternatives in favour of the people living in the community.

Call to action

If you want the City of Charlottetown and the Provincial Government to start thinking about the people who live here instead of the vehicles driving through, please write to your councillor, the mayor, your MLA, and Premier King (see Links for contact information).

Regular Meeting of Council: April 12

The Planning Board’s recommendation to proceed with the rezoning application will be discussed at the Regular Meeting of Council on Monday, April 12 (starts at 5 p.m.). At time of writing, the Monthly Council Meeting package has not been made public.


Meeting moments of interest
→ 39:00 : Planner describing “mitigative measures” and “safety issue”
→ 43:35 : Exchange between Councillor McCabe and Planning Board Chair Duffy
→ 50:20 : Exchange between Coun. McCabe and Planner about Mel’s further expansion in future
→ 51:18 : Manager of Planning Mr Forbes on provincial control of St Peters Road
→ 52:10 : Coun. McCabe question “How many times has this application been before Council?”
→ 53:22 : Planning Board Chair Duffy and the “Fairness Factor”
→ 55:20 : Manager of Planning Mr Forbes and the “complicated traffic-related issue”

P.S. Heavens to Betsy, if I had a dollar for every time someone in Planning or Council said: “I’m not a traffic engineer” !

Creating complete streets

Urban highways are tied to low-occupancy vehicles, high-stress travel, reduced walkability, erased communities, segregation, and climate change. Building complete streets instead of urban highways leads to healthier, more economically productive, and more sociable cities.  Learn more.

BRT: Bus Rapid Transit
Source: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)

UDPATE (1): St Peters Rd/Angus Dr

Planning Board Meeting: April 6, 2021

On March 22, I wrote a post about the rezoning applications in the Angus Drive, St Peters Road, and Hanmac Drive area of East Royalty.

The City’s Planning Board meeting is the next step in the rezoning process. One of the Board’s responsibilities is “to consult with the community and interest groups in matters relating to land use, planning and heritage.” The Mayor, four Councillors, and five Resident members sit on the Board.

The monthly meeting is held the first Monday of the month (or Tuesday following a holiday), usually starts at 4:30 PM, and is streamed live on the City of Charlottetown Web site. Video-recordings are archived on the City’s YouTube channel (select VIDEO for most recent meetings).

Details of the Public Meeting: March 23, 2021

I’m worried we will be bombarded with air pollutants, noise pollutants and light pollutants.

Laura Morgan (pp 73–74)

Details of the St Peters Rd/Angus Drive portion of the Public Meeting are found on pages 14 to 22 of the April 6, 2021, Planning Board Meeting Package (16.7MB). The package also contains the rezoning application with historical information, the City planner’s analysis, copies of citizen letters, and more (pages 51 to 88). If you want to watch the video-recording of the presentation, go to minute 17:00 (ends at 1:28:40).

This isn’t about traffic flow, this is about Steven Yeo helping Dan MacIsaac get what he wanted for Mel’s 7 years ago …

Patty and Randy Good (page 71)
Where is the human scale?

“As the world looks to recover and rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities have the opportunity to curb the growing demand for driving by prioritizing street space and even generating revenue that can support public transport, walking, cycling, and other sustainable modes.”
— Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

GUEST OPINION: Mayor of Charlottetown has too much influence, not enough leadership

Posted with author’s permission.
Originally published in The Guardian on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

At the municipal level, the buck stops at the mayor’s desk. He or she is expected to lead and provide wise direction, especially in a place like Charlottetown, our capital city, Birthplace of Confederation, and one of the finest and most beautiful cities anywhere. However, our current mayor seems missing in action on the leadership side.

Examples of his unacceptable leadership as mayor include the following:

It is unacceptable when a highly respected Charlottetown architect’s firm places first in the competition to design a third city fire station, but instead, the city awards the tender to a lower-placed firm. It is even more concerning when other leading architectural firms courageously speak out against the inappropriate City Hall decision and say they are losing faith in the city’s tendering process, and go on to say “it’s an embarrassment throughout the Atlantic region for our city hall.” And the Mayor’s pathetic response: “Anytime you do something and issue an RFP, you’ll get feedback.” If Mayor Brown is still around for the 2023 Canada Games, will he want to award the gold to the third-place finishers?

It is unacceptable recently when the city’s proposed 2021 budget seemed to be off by about $2.5 million in the calculations, that Mayor Brown proposed that council approve the budget anyway and hopefully find the missing money later. How can citizens/taxpayers have confidence in such judgment and leadership when he is so cavalier about millions of taxpayer’s dollars?

It is unacceptable that the mayor is a member of every city committee and has input and voting rights on every committee. He has far too much influence on every matter proceeding through committee stages, and he has shown no hesitation to use that influence to advance or thwart various matters involving the city. In a December 2019 City Remuneration Report, the authors (Gerard Mitchell, retired Supreme Court judge; George MacDonald, former Charlottetown mayor; and Stan MacPherson, accounting firm principal) expressed a number of concerns regarding city operations, and they suggested consideration of “revising the Municipal Government Act so that the mayor of Charlottetown is not a voting member of council committees. The mayor’s vote should be reserved for breaking ties at council meetings.” Needless to say, Mayor Brown has not advanced that proposal which would greatly roll back his powers.

It is unacceptable that the mayor does not excuse himself, at the committee and council level, from city development decisions, given that his bio states that he “works with the family business (EB Brown’s Transport and Crane Service) as a business accountant and public relations officer.” His firm is also a member of the Construction Association of P.E.I. and Philip Brown is listed there as the contact. We have seen in the examples above that Mayor Brown seems to play fast and loose with city tendering processes and city budgeting, but he is also in the construction business at a time when the city is allowing and enabling approval of some weakly scrutinized construction projects city-wide, sometimes with little or no regard for neighbourhood impacts or bylaw provisions.

It is unacceptable that the Mayor Brown administration frequently calls special meetings of council (which are for the purpose of dealing with urgent matters that cannot wait until the next regularly scheduled council meeting) and also frequently goes into closed sessions with no public access. For example, during the previous administration from 2015-2018, there was an average of six special meetings of council (urgent meetings) per year. With the Brown administration, there have been 38 in 2019, and a further 38 such meetings of council in 2020. Why?

Special Council Meetings 2019-2020 (source: City of Charlottetown)

Finally, it is unacceptable that since Mayor Brown came to power, almost every neighbourhood in the city has had to defend itself from questionable city hall decisions. The result has been IRAC appeals, neighbourhood campaigns like Save Simmons, Save Sherwood, Save Our Waterfront, and it gets worse by the day. There is little or no respect shown by the mayor for our bylaws, our neighbourhoods, our tendering processes, our tax money, and on and on. We are too good a city and a province to continue putting up with this nonsense. I hope Mayor Brown will either quickly get his act together or recognize that the position of mayor may be too much for him.

Doug MacArthur is co-ordinator of Future of Charlottetown.

Why does a person run for municipal office?

The Samara Centre for Democracy is a non-partisan charity dedicated to strengthening Canada’s democracy. In 2020, it conducted its first Canadian Municipal Barometer survey, which was sent to mayors and councillors in the more than 400 municipalities across Canada.

Divided into five specific sections, the 26-page report uses plain language and well designed infographics.

In the section entitled “Where do local leaders come from?”, we learn that most local politicians surveyed suggest that their path to politics began, or was aided by, experience in community associations.

What motivates a person to enter local politics?

An overriding theme of responses was that politics was simply a way to give back to a community in which representatives were already heavily engaged. The majority of answers (58%) mention the importance of public service, community involvement, or making changes generally, on specific issues, or in leadership.

The next municipal election is in 2022. Let us raise our voices, let’s connect with each other and be instrumental in inspiring and encouraging progressive and civil society leaders from all walks of life to consider running for mayor or councillor.

Many respondents were recruited, or received encouragement to run. Overwhelmingly, local politicians themselves cite their interest in public service and the well-being of their communities as the key motivators for seeking office at the municipal level.

2020 Locally Grown: A survey of municipal politicians in Canada

“When citizens understand they have a voice …”

“I have experienced the changes that can happen in my own hometown when citizens understand they have a voice, and use it determinedly and collectively to improve the lot of their community.

“For generations, acts of selfless courage and commitment to the greater whole have moved societies forward towards racial integration, voting rights for women, and legal recognition of rights for our natural environment.

“When we shift our focus away from individual and material success, and begin to participate in the collective care of our communities, our lives become more meaningful and more potent.”

Sarah Harmer, musician, citizen

Extract 29 March from Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet
edited by Todd E. MacLean ©2014
http://globalchorus.ca