September 2021

What did City Council do?

Fireworks Bylaw Update

Council approved changes to the City of Waterloo fireworks bylaw.  This bylaw was last updated in 2006, when restrictions were eased based on community feedback at the time.  The pendulum has swung in the other direction based on a number of complaints Region-wide.  The crux of the changes were to reduce their use to 1 day before and after Victoria Day and Canada Day, as well as during the duration of Chinese New Year and Diwali.  This is a shift from the permission to set them off for 7 days before and after the above holidays.  Additionally, we are setting an explicit curfew of 11pm for fireworks.  Fireworks are already banned on all other days and are also banned in public parks and other public spaces.  Should you wish to set off fireworks in a public park a permit is required.  Additionally, staff are compiling information to share from an education perspective related to the use of fireworks near designated Environmentally Sensitive Protected Areas (Columbia Forest) and Environmentally Sensitive Lands (Laurel Creek).  Due to the nature of fireworks, they are extremely challenging to enforce.  Often the complainant does not know the exact location where fireworks are being set off, all of the calls tend to come in at the same time and the perpetrators are able to easily disperse prior to enforcement arriving.  That said, staff are encouraging folks to report issues to bylaw as they occur as it will help build a list of locations that are best to be proactively enforced.  To read more on my thoughts on fireworks, please check out my Facebook post prior to Canada Day –

Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) – ‘Sulah’

Council received a joint delegation between CJI and the Coalition of Muslim Women (CMW) regarding a community led implementation of restorative justice pertaining to hate incidents in our community.  Although the CMW started this program in response to the rise in Islamophobic hate incidents in our community, they are encourage victims of any racist, Islamophobic or xenophobic encounter to report it using the web-site  The intention of this program is to document hate incidents that may not rise to the ‘official’ level of a hate crime and to offer support and services to those that need it.  The ‘Sulah’ program is a partnership with CJI that involves mediation, proactive community building circles and takes a restorative justice approach to tackling these instances.  I encourage anyone in our community that has experienced these hate incidents to take advantage of the incredible work CMW and CJI have done on this topic.

Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions Road Map (Phase 1)

Council received our first update, providing us a road map to how we are going to achieve our GHG emission reduction goals (50×30 and 80×50).  In addition, Council approved changes to our green building policy that also help set us up to achieve these goals.  This report is our first look at what we need to do ‘in-house’ in order to achieve our goals.  The methods to help us achieve them and the costs associated.  The report studied five municipal buildings (Albert McCormick Arena, Fire Station 2, RIM Park, City Hall and WPL Main Branch), which can extrapolate to buildings representing 90% of our current GHG inventory.  The five key findings/next steps were as follows;

  • Primary GHG savings will be from electrifying our heating systems (from natural gas)
  • Prioritize GHG reductions with low capital investment to start
  • Prioritize projects with positive operating cash returns
  • Although building envelope changes may not save operating costs, they are likely needed to achieve our goals
  • Recreational building changes show positive net present value while others were operating cost neutral.

Although we are in the early stages of our journey and capital budget money has been set aside to help us achieve these goals we are looking at a capital budget shortfall of between $1.3 and $1.6 million per year.  Of course, as noted above there are operating savings that can be used to offset much of that cost.  Prudent planning, prioritizing projects in the best order to maximize the financial return while lowering our GHG’s will be vital.  The second piece is ensuring that any new buildings are not contributing to our GHG inventory.  As a result we have approved the update to our green building policy that ensures that new construction is at net zero, a net zero approach will be taken for any major retrofits and the municipality will establish GHG, energy and financial metrics for all such projects.  I am excited to see us taking the appropriate steps to do this extremely important work.

Speed Limit Reduction – Pilot Results

In 2020 as part of our COVID slow streets initiatives, in recognition of our forthcoming Transportation Master Plan and understanding that a Speed Management Report with recommendations on lowering speed limits was also forthcoming, Council approved a pilot project for a number of neighbourhood streets, zones and school locations with lower speed limits.  Council received data on these initiatives to help guide future decisions.  There were three neighbourhoods that were lowered to 40km/hr, with school zones in those areas lowered to 30km/hr.  Additionally, fourteen individual streets were lowered from 50km/hr to 40km/hr.  In my opinion, the results of this pilot (in conjunction with data from similar initiatives around the world) validate the need to lower neighbourhood speed limits to 30km/hr.

  • Eliminating the major outlier on the 40km/hr streets saw a reduction of 85th percentile speeds of 1.875km/hr.
  • The new 40km/hr zones saw a reduction of 3.42km/hr.
  • The new 30km/hr zones saw a reduction of 5.6km/hr.

This was during COVID times, where we saw a 20% to 70% reduction in traffic volume from normal times, which would typically show higher speeds (less cars = higher speeds).  In short, I think the data shows that putting up a sign, even without any other changes to the engineering of the road has a positive impact.  Certainly, it also exposes the limitations as there were some streets where the data showed small increases.  We can’t simply put up a sign and then wash our hands of the situation.  Many of our streets will require the difficult and costly engineering work needed to improve the situation.  However, we shouldn’t scoff at the reductions we are seeing.  If lowering the limit to 30km/hr can reduce speeds by more than 5km/hr, it is our best bang for the buck in terms of value for money.  From a qualitative perspective, our engagement on the topic showed general support to lower the limits, but there were still comments around the concerns of ‘gridlock’, ‘congestion’ and that it is ‘impossible to maintain such low speeds’.  These comments speak to the culture shift that is needed to really impact behaviour.  I have been travelling between 30 and 40km/hr on neighbourhood streets for months now.  It was difficult to do at the outset and I would periodically find myself going 45km/hr or higher.  Now that I’ve been doing it for months, it has becoming second nature.  It is not ‘impossible’ and I would encourage folks to practice what they preach by taking a similar approach in their own behaviour.  If you’d like to hear me talk about this topic in greater detail, I had the chance to chat with Mike Farwell on his show on Tuesday, September 28th (20:53) –

Additional Council business this month included updates to our outdoor rink policy, COVID-19 financial impact updates, procurement reports for Rink in the Park, Button Factory and Keats Way Storm Bypass, an integrity commissioner report, surplus land declaration and an informal meeting for a future development at 310-316 Erb Street.  If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a chat.

Outside of the Council Chambers

Outside the Council chambers I had the opportunity to meet with Sara and Marshall from the Bonn Park Podcast, in advance of their event celebrating their 100th episode LIVE at Bonn Park.  As part of the Neighbourhood Kindness project, many residents had an opportunity to be part of the podcast to share what makes the Clair Hills community and City of Waterloo so great!  Although I was unable to make it, Mayor Jaworsky stopped by and it was great to finally start seeing people participating in neighbourhood events again.

The Take Back the Night global protest against sexual and gender-based violence took place this month as well.  It was an opportunity to support local organizations that are doing the work to tackle this problem and to hear from extraordinary speakers.  I also had the opportunity to connect with Male Allies and participate in a workshop on bystander intervention.  To learn more about how you can support the Sexual Assault Support Center (SASC), please check out my Facebook post –  I will be participating in the SASC Halloween Fun Run later this month and I am close to my goal of raising $1,000.  Please consider donating to the cause here –

The City of Waterloo recognized the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (NDTR) on September 30th.  The creation of NDTR was the 80th Call to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to coincide with Orange Shirt Day.  Although the City has worked on initiatives such as creating a permanent outdoor space within Waterloo Park and suspending rental fees for Indigenous led organizations, there is still much to do.  There is a Region-wide Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan being developed alongside local Indigenous communities with initial focus areas including; Learning & Development, Honorarium & Compensation, Placekeeping & Land, Communications & Events and Heritage, Cultural Landscapes, Plaques & Commemoration.  It was a privilege and inspiring to participate in the Healing of the 7 Generations walk to Victoria Park, with thousands of residents.  It was also a day to continue to reflect on the impact of ‘Residential Schools’ and Colonialism.  I hope you had a chance to reflect also.

Take care, stay safe and get vaccinated!