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Realtiy Check

The fact that an EAC exists in a municipality may not ensure that environmental concerns are well in hand. Some key ingredients for success are:

  • The willingness of Council members to appoint suitable EAC members and be open to independent advice
  • The willingness of EAC members to make a substantial volunteer commitment to a largely advisory role
  • The development of a supportive working relationship among the EAC and its members, municipal staff and Council
  • The acknowledgement by the EAC, Council, staff, and others that community issues need to be approached with an open mind and good faith, and in a conciliatory manner; each party may need to "give" a little

     The responsibility of concerned citizens is to help elect municipal councilors who recognize the value of environmental protection and our natural heritage. Such councilors can help create an interest on Council in establishing an EAC. This is especially the case in municipalities faced with numerous development decisions and wanting independent expert advice to assist them in assessing the environmental and community implications of their decisions.

     If a municipal Council prefers to keep environmentally concerned citizens on the outside of the development approvals process, it is not likely fertile ground on which citizens should sow the seeds for growth of an EAC. Similarly, a Council would not be showing good faith if it set up an EAC primarily for appearance's sake but had no intention of using the expert advice present.

     One way to establish an EAC is to have  the official plan require it. For example, Durham Region's Official Plan states that "Regional Council shall investigate the establishment of an advisory body on the environment to assist with environmental planning matters." The Town of Caledon's states that " the Town shall establish a Terms of Reference for a Caledon Environmental Advisory Committee."

     In some municipalities, a formal EAC that is established by Council may not be considered the appropriate approach. In some of these situations, and independent citizens' group, rate payer association or naturalists' club may take on similar roles and make regular presentations to Council on matters of environmental concern in the community. Even where there is an EAC, there is almost always a role for citizens who prefer to work outside "the system" on particular concerns or issues. In other municipalities not choosing to form an EAC, a citizen with environmental expertise and concern may want to seek a seat on the municipal committee of adjustment or its planning advisory committee.

     Even where there is a well-functioning EAC with generally supportive municipal Council, compromises must be expected. An EAC cannot expect Council to take all its advice, and on the other hand, Council must commit to considering EAC advice seriously.