Responses from Jason Blokhuis, Mayoral Candidate

  1. GUFF is very happy that our new Forestry Manager is hired and running his department. But, the department does not have the full complement of staff. Our forest is both growing and ageing at a greater pace, placing more demands on the department. Will you support full funding for the Urban Forest Management Plan and the Arborist Crew in the next budget cycle? Why or why not.

In the first plank of my 7-part platform as posted on my website on August 5, 2014, I make the following observations:

The more money Guelph spends on its administration, the less there will be for the people who actually deliver the kinds of services that enhance our property values and contribute our quality of life – the city workers who maintain our parks and trees and gardens, drive our buses, keep our streets safe, and support our children, our seniors, and people with special needs. 

In my view, if we had a smaller and more efficient administration and if we stopped routinely hiring outside consultants, we would surely have more money to devote to furthering the aims of the Urban Forest Management Plan, among other things.

  1. Shade is important for reducing the heat island effect and for reducing the risk of skin cancer. Will you support and advocate for establishing a shade policy which would set goals for shade coverage along streets/sidewalks, in parking lots and in parks? Why or why not.

In the fifth plank of my 7-part platform as posted on my website on August 5, 2014, I make the following observations:

When people start moving into their new condos downtown – after the election – they will surely begin to wonder why there are so many dead trees…  We should all demand better city services, for these services help to enhance our property values and our quality of life.

I was thinking of the services of landscapers and gardeners and arborists when I wrote that, but I failed take into account the services provided by healthy trees themselves.  Shade and other arboreal services contribute to our quality of life and add to our property values, as you have shown on your website.  So yes, I would support and advocate for a shade policy in public spaces, including sidewalks, parking lots, and parks.

  1. There is currently no recognition or protection of trees that are exceptionally large, old or have a significant history in the City. Will you support and advocate designating and protecting Heritage Trees? Why or why not.

I would support a mechanism for designating and protecting healthy ‘Heritage Trees’ on public land.  As for healthy mature trees on private land, please see my response to Question 5.

  1. The City has begun an inventory of trees in our urban forest (species, size, health, etc.), but trees are not given value as “assets” or “green infrastructure.” Will you support and advocate for a comprehensive inventory of trees in the City that assigns a dollar value to the trees (using currently available computer programs that compute the dollar value of ecological services provided by trees)? This value would then be used in the assessment of the cost of proposed city projects. Why or why not.

I would support a mechanism for assigning a dollar value to our “green infrastructure” for a number of purposes, including the calculation of development charges that take into account the value of the services trees provide.

There’s a plaque on the bridge at the corner of Macdonell and Wellington commemorating the founding of Guelph by John Galt in 1827.  What did John Galt do on that day?  He cut down a tree!  Thankfully, development is no longer synonymous with tree loss.

You know, a developer on my street has to plant 24 trees to replace the eight trees that were cut down as part of a building renovation project several months ago (a 3-for-1 requirement).  My neighbours and I offered to let him plant a dozen trees on each of our properties to help him achieve 5-for-1.  He wanted to do it.  But by his account, the City said all the new trees had to be planted on his lot.

If the goal is to increase our canopy, it shouldn’t matter where a developer plants forty or fifty or a hundred trees, so long as they are planted in Guelph.  We need to reduce the number of trees that are lost each year, but we also need to increase the number of trees that are planted if we are going to achieve and sustain our canopy goals.  It’s not just a matter of minimizing the number of healthy trees lost to development.  As you’ve noted, our canopy is ageing, and we have to replace the trees that are nearing the end of their life cycle.

  1. City Council passed a tree by-law in 2010 which requires permits for removing large trees on properties over half an acre in size (.2 ha). This tree by-law only covers about 6% of privately owned properties within the City. It does not cover city trees, institutional trees or the trees on small private properties where the majority of our urban forest exists. Will you support and advocate for expanding the existing tree by-law to cover all private properties in Guelph? Why or why not

Yes.  The existing by-law permits landowners to remove dead or dying trees.  So expanding the existing by-law would help protect healthy, mature trees (including ‘Heritage Trees’) without imposing much of a burden on property owners.  A permit would be required to cut down a healthy tree over a certain size.  Most property owners do not want to cut down healthy trees, especially large trees, because they add value to their property and provide shade and privacy and curb appeal and other benefits.  Where such permits are granted, perhaps in lieu of a fee the City could require landowners to plant a number of new trees somewhere in Guelph (including their own property).  Money alone cannot replace trees or the services they provide.  Only trees can replace trees.

  1. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) infestation is now eating its way through our ash trees.  The ash inventory is almost complete and an EAB plan has been adopted by council.   Do you support full flexible funding for this initiative so the amount of money needed for injecting, removing and replanting is available as needed in a timely manner?  Why or why not.

My understanding is that injecting is expensive and often ineffective.  In my view, we need to focus our efforts and resources on planting new, native tree species, preferably on a 3-for-1 basis.  Native trees support a variety birds and insects; gingko trees do not.  I am not sure why the City has been distributing so many gingko trees…