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Vancouver's Greenest City Planner tells all

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People really respected that. We’ve heard a few different times that even if what people suggested didn’t end up in the plan then they understood and appreciated that because they understood the process and can see that they were listened to. Other people said that the on-line forum was really great, and that staff were responding to them, and that it isn’t just a bunch of robots that work at City Hall. It was nice to get some of that reinforcement back from the community that they knew we were appreciating what they were contributing to the process.

 Engaging the community

ND: How important will community engagement be, and what role will it take on as the plan moves into the next phase?

LC: There are a couple of people that will still be working on Greenest City engagement. They’re still figuring out what the strategy will be for the next 9 years. We know that one of the things we’re going to do is focus on engagement and also other infrastructural programs and staff and resources in one specific neighbourhood. We will through a lot of energy attention on this one neighbourhood to see if we can move the dial in some of our targets in a meaningful way, and if that works, roll that out to other neighbourhoods across the city. That’s going to be the main focus of the engagement work over the next six months.

 ND: Overall, when you look back on the plan, what do you think its greatest strength is?

LC: I think the plans’ greatest strength is that it is so comprehensive and it crosses so many departments. People have really integrated the strategies into their work plans and budgets, so it is a plan that will last, it won’t be shelved. It will change, obviously, because the world is rapidly changing, but the essence of it should persist which is one of the things I worried about not happening at the beginning. I wanted to ensure that we worked through the development of this plan to make sure it didn’t end up on a shelf, but that it lasted and it meant something for a long time and I think that’s going to matter.

Other cities are constantly in touch with Vancouver both in terms of our public engagement process and what we did and what we learned through that, and through the complexity and comprehensiveness of the plan. I mean, it doesn’t mean much if Vancouver becomes the greenest city in the world and other cities aren’t vying for that space because we need all cities to be moving in that direction. I hope that’s one of the legacies of this plan – that it continues to inspire and motivate other cities and that Vancouver continues to be inspired and motivated by other cities so that together cities are moving quickly in these directions.

Economic and social justice lens

The other thing that’s really interesting about it and some of the criticism that we received early on is that it is a greenest city plan and not a sustainability plan for Vancouver. But if you dive into it you’ll see that there’s a whole section on the green economy and a lot of the goals and strategies have been looked at with an economic and social justice lens. You’ll see that in the water plan – one of the highest priority actions is to increase access to drinking water throughout the city for vulnerable populations in particular. You’ll see in food, buildings, waste, and climate we’ve looked at assessing the new green job potential for some of the jobs that will be needed to deliver those actions and strategies and which ones might be available for people that have a lot of barriers to employment.

Even though it’s a greenest city plan, we’ve really looked at other factors, and I think it was good to do that because it kept us focused and we were able to make it tangible and practical.

Lighter footprint target difficult to achieve

ND: What goal do you think will be the most challenging to achieve out of the ten?

LC: Oh – it really depends who you ask [laughs]. I think that the lighter footprint target will be difficult to achieve, and both of the buildings targets as well. And I think the jobs targets are pretty ambitious and will require a lot of work to achieve.

Others will be difficult for other reasons, some of the transportation targets will be difficult, but it’s because many of the significant actions are out of our jurisdiction. Some of the big moves required in clean air will depend on other levels of government or other partners coming on board in a big way so there are things that because they are out of our jurisdiction we can’t control them. So they are difficult for different reasons.

I don’t know if we see any of them as really easy, but the one that might be the least challenging is the water quality target because Metro Vancouver has a new treatment plant coming on line for the whole region, shortly, so that one we suspect will take care of the water quality. We’ve already got pretty high water quality for the region and that will make it even better. But the rest are really challenging in their own ways for sure.

 Advice to students

ND: How exciting. Well congratulations on all the work you have done. It has been exciting to watch it all unfold, and I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of some of the engagement events along the way. I’m in admiration of what you all have been doing. It’s great to have Vancouver leading by example.

Now that you have had these experiences, do you have any advice for current students who are thinking of doing similar things?

LC: Yeah, I think I’m actually not the best person to give career advice [laughs] because I don’t plan very far in advance. What works for me is to hold true to your values and go where you feel like you can manifest your values and feel like you are doing work that’s important to you are contributing in a positive way. I think that’s what characterizes most of my decisions.

Also – I would say plan, but also don’t be afraid to go where the energy is sometimes. I fell into that work with the developer by coincidence and that was great. So you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you, and if it is not part of your plan maybe just think about it because it might be an interesting route to go for a while.

Time to chill out

ND: What’s next for you?

LC: I am not sure. [Laughs]. It’s been a busy year, so I need just a little bit of time to chill out and hang out with my family, and enjoy summer if it ever comes, and see what comes next.

 ND: Thanks very much Lindsay. I wish you great success in the future, and I look forward to seeing what you do next.

LC: Thanks Naomi. That was fun.

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