Cobourg’s Actions on Sustainability Criticized by Committee

In a report to go to council on May 14, the Planning & Sustainability Advisory Committee are criticizing the Town for failing to follow through or act upon several initiatives.  These include action on Climate Change, Corporate Energy Conservation and Community Energy Planning.  They point to a lack of reports as well as the resulting economic risk.  The report lists other municipalities that have been taking action on sustainability.  But like all good criticism, they also suggest solutions – that is, actions that could be taken.  As an advisory committee, all they can do is make recommendations to Council and in this case they want the C.A.O. to “consider and report back on the extension of staff resources to ensure integrated action on the many sustainability issues presenting challenges for the Town; and Council receive the report in time for consideration during the current Council mandate, including investigating grant applications and any necessary referrals to a new Council”.

Terry Stopps
Terry Stopps

The comprehensive and detailed report by chair Terry Stopps is attached to a motion from the committee and is available via a link below but I have summarized the highlights. (Terry also recently reported to Council on the results of the Remuneration Ad Hoc Committee’s work). The following is an edited version mostly using original wording although some detail has been omitted (see full original in the Links below).

Key Cobourg Sustainability Issues

  • Climate Change;
  • Public Works (including storm water management);
  • Urban Forest Management;
  • Comprehensive Energy Management;
  • Full Implementation of the Official Plan;

and development of the

  • Community Sustainability Plan.

Past and Present Impacts

Despite taking many significant actions over the past decade, the Town has also missed opportunities to complete plans, deliver and communicate. Examples include:

  • Cobourg’s 2010 Climate Action Plan — a draft plan was prepared and accepted by Council and activities implemented. Yet, the plan was never registered as a ‘final plan’ and was not well communicated nor were additional actions/ongoing needs considered in an updated plan.
  • Cobourg’s Corporate Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan — was prepared by Public Works in 2014. The Plan called for the town to produce an annual report yet to date, we’ve not been able to find a single report published for Cobourg.
  • Community Energy Planning — Cobourg has been a leader in community energy. Many past examples exist, perhaps starting with LED traffic lights a couple of decades ago; and more recently, renewable energy implementation at our waste water treatment plant, public, commercial and residential buildings.  However, to date, Cobourg has not completed – or even started – Municipal Energy Planning, a value added activity supported by both federal and provincial governments.

Economic Implications

Economic risks include the risk of:

  • lost or reduced operational cost savings (particularly energy costs);
  • inadvertent misdirection of public (and private) capital investments;
  • increased potential for future stranded assets (i.e. capital investments that fail to meet the planned lifetime of the investment).

What Are Leading Sustainable Municipalities Doing?

  • Activities in Larger Municipalities (Kingston and Burlington) and smaller municipalities (Halton Hills, Caledon, Collingwood) are listed (see full report).

What Staffing Needs/Options Does Cobourg Have?


  • Coordinate/integrate actions across organizations (e.g. between town departments, with the County, with local utilities and other community partners);
  • Seek funding (e.g. provincial and federal government. FCM, AMO, GreenOn);
  • Lead communications and public reporting;
  • Engage the public;
  • Initiate/manage/integrate ongoing data collection, reporting and planning cycles.

Staffing Options

  • Broad issues like sustainability are commonly integrated into all staff job descriptions;
  • Staff leadership/coordination — use of an organizational ‘point resource’ is also common. Such a resource could strengthen cross-department and cross-partner (e.g. County) integration activities. Options include:
    • staff member (e.g. Sustainability Coordinator or Senior Sustainability Coordinator);
    • mid-management (e.g. Sustainability Manager);
    • Senior Management (e.g. Chief Sustainability Officer; Directo. Sustainability).

Timing Considerations

Immediate Action — adding staff resources now would entail funded from within (e.g. savings from staff vacancies). Such resourcing would enable immediate work on current issues without prejudice to a future Council. For example the Town could:

  • Seek funding — for initial staffing, baseline studies and option assessment for early opportunities;
  • Get a head start on current policy work — e.g. draft guidelines on sustainability references in Cobourg’s Official Plan (e.g. reference to `sustainability strategy’ and updated site design guidelines); and
  • Immediately work to engage internal partners — over recent or past decisions (e.g. sustainable forest management activities; collection of existing data for Cobourg’s internal use or future reporting).

Future Decisions — any new (or temporary) staff would need to be ‘regularized’ into Town staffing and salary allocations (and passed with the Town Budget). This stage presents a new Council with an opportunity to ‘put their stamp’ on new initiatives and make decisions on funding for staff resources. Such resourcing could enable:

  • Community Sustainability Planning. Climate Change Adaptation. updates to Park Planning, Integrated Delivery of Urban Forest Plans and other Sustainability Projects — that Council wants to endorse.

Salary Funding Strategies

  • Mature salary justification — should be based on the value added (e.g. return on investment — ROI) from initiated projects
  • Initial salary could be funded from one or more of: town resources; and/or grant-funding (e.g. Ontario Municipal Energy Plan Program; FCM Green Municipal Fund).

The overall message seems to be that planning is good but plans need to be implemented – that would include any future “Sustainability Plan”. The Committee wants a report to be generated before the election although staffing may have to wait for the new council in 2019.


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Old Sailor
5 years ago

Let’s hear from the 2018 Council candidates on the above recommendations of the Planning & Sustainability Advisory Committee and let all the voters cast their votes on the recommendations. It is the majority support of tax paying voters that counts.

Every new initiative has a cost benefit factor which needs to be proven over time. Implementation in moderation is often the best route for new initiatives.

Reply to  Old Sailor
5 years ago

Old Sailor – good idea. We will not get any commitments on the recommendations themselves but seems to me that the recommendations could/should be phrased as questions to the next group of councilors – at say an all candidates meeting. That way there is some potential of understanding the candidates position on the recommendations prior to the election.

Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

This changes everything!
A group of Cobourg taxpayers who offer constructive criticism and SOLUTIONS.
And a forward-looking group at that, prepared to deal with the important challenges of the 21st century, rather than turning back the town clock to the Golden Age of the 50s.

Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

That is what the TOWN’s ADVISORY committees are supposed to do:
advise council, present alternatives.
I agree with advisory committee that lives up to the name.
An example for other advisory committees to emulate

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Walter L. Luedtke
5 years ago

SOLUTIONS! Sorry Walter, but the CTA offers solutions also, such as, WE DON’T WANT NO WATERPARK PLAYGROUND SPOILING THE MOST NATURAL BEAUTY OF THE BEACH. It doesn’t matter that it will earn $27K per year for the Town, or hire students to earn their tuition costs, it spoils the sightline of the beach, blocking out the view of sailboats, yachts, wind serfers, paddle boaters, etc etc etc. That is a CTA SOLUTION.

Cobourg Person
Reply to  Wally Keeler
5 years ago

It’s difficult to believe that the CTA cannot provide solutions. They have 108 members and the CTA representatives have excellent research and analysis skills in addition to considerable senior management experience with specific expertise in finance, treasury, and banking.

If they are unable to provide solutions then we are surely without hope.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
5 years ago

I’m confused. Why is cancelling the waterpark not a solution to issues such as spoiling the sightline of the beach, blocking the view of sailboats, yachts, wind surfers, paddle boaters, etc?

It seems to me that $27K (half what we pay our Mayor, a third of the cost of a useless Cultural Masterplan and less than a fifth of the cost of the failed Waterfront Masterplan) is not sufficient to spoil the beach views and perhaps result in additional unwanted tourists.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Dubious
5 years ago

Dubious, “I’m confused.


Reply to  Dubious
5 years ago

Additional unwanted tourists.
Just think Dubious, the next time you want to go to Toronto or another city, town and they say you aren’t wanted as a visitor/tourist, how would you feel.

Fact Checker
Reply to  Pierre
5 years ago

I doubt that Dubious goes to TO or elsewhere to sit on the beach and leave behind a pile of garbage. He goes there to shop, meet with learned professional associates and generally enjoy some of the fine offerings that are available.
By most standards, Dubious is a “good” tourist and would be welcome in most places including Cobourg

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Fact Checker
5 years ago

meet with learned professional associates…

I did that all my adult life. But I don’t hate tourists to Cobourg. I welcome them and sometimes meet learned professional individuals when they visit Cobourg, and I even have some of those learned professional associates come to visit Cobourg and I take them to the waterfront to share what we have in Cobourg. Dubious espouses a selfish self-centred perception. The best part, is that Cobourg welcomes tourists, always has and will continue to do so. No cares if Dubious gets used to it or not. Cobourg is a sharing community not a selfish community.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
5 years ago

Meeting with “learned professional associates” is a little pretentious for what I do when visiting Toronto! I often make significant purchases in the GTA and never take a cooler of drinks and food in order to spend nothing while using taxpayer funded attractions.