Barbetta: 'There are people who poison their trees in order to weaken them so that they have to be taken down'

By Staff

February 4th, 2020



Leslie Barbetta is part of the Active Community Teamwork (ACT) neighbourhood association. Her current focus is the Forestry Department Policy and the Private Tree By-law.

She lives in the Shoreacres neighbourhood in large part because of the mature trees. “They are a source of pride and joy, and as their “caretakers”, we have been rewarded in return by their beauty.

These trees will come down to allow high rise towers. It will take decades to replace them.

“There are occasions” she said, “when these pillars of the community create challenges and over the last few years, we’ve called on our Councillor and the Forestry department for assistance in addressing some of those concerns.

“We have learned a great deal as a result of these interactions and our own research. Today I’d like to speak to the Policy’s four categories of activities for a healthy urban forest, and highlight the partnership role that a community group can play in supporting this Policy by identifying some successes and areas of concern:

Barbetta set out the four categories and added comments on what the ACT people would like to see done.

Preserve and Protect
The City shall support the preservation of trees by:
‣ exploring all feasible options for retaining a viable tree before deciding to remove it;
‣ requiring that opportunities to preserve trees are considered through the development process for public and private lands;
‣ requiring special consideration for significant trees;
‣ generally refusing requests for tree removal based solely on reasons related to aesthetics or other similar factors;

– Please identify when permission has been granted to remove a tree! It’s no exaggeration to state that the sound of a chainsaw sends a shiver up our backs and a flurry of texts or emails between neighbours about why a tree is coming down.
– What is the level of concern in Forestry that Arborists’ Reports may sometimes be “skewed” in favour of development plans? It is thought that some experts will support whichever narrative they are being paid to support.
– Within the significant tree description, would also like to see the inclusion of unique or underrepresented or endangered species (including non-native varieties)

Maintain and Monitor
The City shall:
‣ provide guidance to private property owners with respect to current trends in urban forest health and best management practices;

– Please elaborate on what this guidance would entail. We have witnessed homeowners take “maintenance” of mature trees into their own hands, impacting the tree’s aesthetics, and comprising its health & safety, as well as their own personal safety. We often hear rumblings that some property owners have taken to “poisoning” their trees, in an effort to weaken them and ultimately circumvent some of the time and expense involved with the Private Tree By-law.
– In supporting all efforts to protect our tree canopy, we recognize that there are occasional unique circumstances where City trees cause unintentional problems for homeowners, particularly with mature trees in established neighbourhood. When these situations arise, we would like to ensure there is an opportunity to work with Staff towards a solution or reasonable compromise because complicated situations cannot always be resolved over email or by citing Policy & By-law.

Establish, Replace and Enhance
The City shall support proper tree establishment by:

‣ supporting tree planting initiatives of all scales on public and private properties with volunteers and partners as opportunities arise;
The City shall work to ensure the urban forest and tree canopy are sustained and enhanced by:

‣ implementing a plan for replacement where trees are removed on public and private lands;
‣ encouraging tree replacement on-site but evaluating the possibilities for off-site tree replacements, in part or in whole, where the compensation cannot be accommodated
on site and where feasible alternative locations are identified.

– Within our community group, there are individuals who have volunteered to not only help identify private lands that would benefit from new or restorative planting, but assist with the physical planting effort as well. Sometimes the only thing that prevents these opportunities on private lands is lack of awareness of the issue.
– Where new development results in loss of trees and ultimately loss of privacy on adjacent lands, allow for replacement plantings on those properties.

Engage and Collaborate
• The City shall actively pursue opportunities to engage with members of the community and external partners to promote proper tree establishment and care, including use of incentives as appropriate.

• The City shall collaborate with existing and new partners to increase its capacity to establish and enhance the urban forest on public and private lands.

• The City is committed to employing communication methods and tools that are transparent, and to providing accurate information in a clear and concise manner that is also accessible.

– We support any effort to work with community groups to assist with tree canopy goals.
As a result of establishing connections with the Forestry Dept, we have been able to achieve the following: share details about the City’s Tree Planting Program; answer our members’ questions about Forestry practices, saving staff time; when we don’t have the answer, we will forward those queries, which has a twofold benefit: helps to streamline the communication process and then share the response with a wider audience, and helps foster relationships between Forestry staff and one or two primary neighbourhood contacts.
– To share a recent success story, our community was recently given the opportunity to select a new tree for the neighbourhood that will symbolically honour several community-minded residents who are no longer with us. I cannot express how much this meant to some people. Such a simple example of the good that can happen when a City and its residents work together.
– Speaking to the communication & transparency component, a recent inquiry through the CRM platform informed us that the City does not bear responsibility for a particular tree matter. A By-law was cited, however this information does not appear to be available on the City’s website without doing a records request.
– ACT can arrange engagement opportunities between Forestry and our community to assist in the educational component of our By-laws and Protection Policy,

“With common goals, shared resources, and an open line of communication, there are many opportunities for ACT to work in partnership with Forestry – and any City department for that matter.”

Council liked what they heard, going forward the challenge will be to turn intentions into decisions that can keep the tree canopy we have and grow what is going to be needed in the future.


Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

21 comments to Barbetta: ‘There are people who poison their trees in order to weaken them so that they have to be taken down’

  • Robert Thibeau ( Bob )

    Just what we need more government overreach. Although I understand that City Hall would like to leave the impression that they are doing something in light of the fact this Mayor and council are the worse this city has ever seen

  • Mitch

    To Mr Turner. We have lived in the area for forty years and the trees on Shoreacres Road are not being pruned on any regular basis. Only when a branch breaks.

  • Mister Peter

    How about no tree bylaw and leave people alone to behave responsibly without being over governed and penalized. This council is drunk on enforcing every aspect of everybody’s lives; they can’t even get this issue sorted; there are more tree enforcement officers than poisoned trees in this city. Solution; a tree gets pruned or cut down and new ones get planted, at the desire of whomever owns that tree (a logical and fair and reasonable proverb). What a bunch of bylaw junkies.

  • Sunalwaysshines

    And when you call the City multiple times about the same dead branch near the Village Square area…Noone comes…then all of a sudden
    ..there it is…the large broken branch on the sidewalk. Thank God noone was hurt…that time!!!
    But hey, this municipal government likes to dictate what goes on in our own backyards!!!

    • Mary Hill

      Last summer, as in 2020, I noticed bus stops and medians at street intersections around ward 2 were being overgrown by weeds. I reported it to the City using photographs as supporting evidence. All were attended to within a week. I believevthecsqueaky wheel principle took effect in directing its very limited resources. Staff told me part of the problem is a lack of financial resources. Maybe if we taxayers stepped up and paid slightly higher taxes, the services we all want can be fully delivered. Residents want the Cadillac of services but only want to pay a Ford Focus price.

  • Leslie

    I expected there to be some comments on this so I’ll do my best to respond…

    Firstly, I was not aware The Gazette was going to publish my delegation. I realize it’s available to the public on the City’s website, and while this is not the headline I would have chosen, I understand it’s probably attention-grabbing.

    To Peter and Denise – I appreciate hearing multiple perspectives on an issue, but “boring” is an odd choice of words. If it bores you, why pay it any attention in the first place? The Policy and By-law are not perfect, and I do try to look at this subject from different angles; as I noted in my delegation, there are complex circumstances that need more discussion than just citing a Policy or By-law. I’d like the City to take that into consideration.

    Alex – I also believe we have a responsibility to do our part in protecting the planet – this is but one small act. Grateful to know other others who feel the same.

    Mitch – if you are referring to City-owned trees with breaking limbs, hopefully they’ve since been tended to by the City’s tree pruning program (or if near Hydro lines, pruned in the fall as part of their pruning cycle). If they still pose a danger, be sure to follow up with the appropriate office. I witnessed two similar incidents last year, involving a City tree and one over Hydro lines – both matters were quickly looked after. Good luck!

    “Alfred” – In the interest of transparency, I can confirm your presumption… feel free to share your identity as well! As for our difference of opinion, if nothing else, I hope it shows that the issues we care about have a lot of sides to them. Cheers.

    Perryb – I believe you might be reading the entire delegation as my words. The City’s Policy is comprised of the 4 categories that are noted in bold typeface, and all those “The City shall…” statements are their own words. My responses to each of those are noted under Questions/Comments, none of which are assumptions. Maybe the “poisoning” comment comes off that way a little, however, as noted in my delegation, there are others who believe this is happening (to provide supportive facts would require trespassing and surveillance). I hope I cleared that up but let me know if I’ve misinterpreted your comment.

    Will leave you with one of my favourite sayings: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” (Greek proverb)

  • perryb

    A lot of assumptions here. Any facts to support them?

  • Alfred

    Just curious?

    Is Leslie and Leslie Barbetta who post on the Gazette the same person. It’s nice to know who you are talking to. I enjoy the conversations even though we are not always on the same side of the fence on some issues. Regards.

  • Mitch

    The Oaks and Maples on Shoreacres Road are dangerous with many weak extended limbs. Every year one or two break off. Last year a major limb fortunately fell between two homes narrowly missing their roofs. They need major pruning before some one is hurt.

    • Dave Turner

      Is this your opinion expressed as an arborist or as a Joe Blow citizen. Tree limbs do break due to winds, snow/ice storms etc. Hopefully the City’s arborist are professionally managing the canopy.

      • Bob

        The city Arborists do not, nor do they have the authority to prune trees on private property.
        They maintain the trees on city owned right of ways. Why does Mitch’s opinion matter if he is an arborist or not? You have no qualms about voicing your own, perhaps you should include your credentials along with your opinion.

    • Denise W.

      I agree, though my observation is that the pruning always leaves future work; as in next year. When crews are on site, things should be pruned for 5 or more properly, 10 years of safety. It is a “no brainer” to look around at the trees in Shoreacres or Lakeshore Road to see they are an accident waiting to happen. Smart money would clean things up for a secure future. Something homeowners are now prevented from doing. The liability should fall to the city, yes?

      • Dave Turner

        I shall ask you the same question I asked Mitch (unanswered). Are you an accredited arborist? The City has on staff a number of arborist whose education and training, and the natural disposition is to ensure the welfare of the trees under their care. I am confident they prune the trees to the degree that does not negatively affect the health of the tree. If you confirm you are an accreditations arborist I will give your opinion equal weight.

        You have implied property owners are not allowed to prune trees they own. You are completely incorrect. No permit, no fee, no approval is needed for pruning and maintenance of a privately owned tree. A permit and fee is only required under certain circumstances when removing a tree completely. The following Q&A provided by the City is clear and concise..

        Your uninformed misinformation is damaging.

        1. When do I NEED a permit and OWE fees/compensation?

        (PLEASE NOTE the following condition below that are denoted with a single asterisk — *Additional permits and regulations apply)

        Property owners will need to apply for a Tree Removal Permit when removing:

        •A tree greater than 20 cm diameter measured at 1.4 m from the ground;
        •More than five trees between 10 and 20 cm measured at 1.4 m from the ground;
        •Any size of tree that is a designated Heritage Tree*; and
        •Any size of endangered, at risk, or threatened tree species*;

        2. When do I NEED a permit and DON’T OWE fees/compensation?

        (PLEASE NOTE the following condition below that are denoted with a double asterisk — **Permit is still required; but fees and compensation are waived.)

        Property owners will need to apply for a Tree Removal Permit when removing:

        •If the tree is dead**;
        •If the tree is diseased with no chance of recovery**; and
        •If the tree is within 2 m of an occupied dwelling**.

        3. When do I NOT NEED a permit?

        •Removing trees of less than 20 cm in diameter measured at 1.4 m above the ground (no more than four per year);
        •Tree maintenance (pruning);
        •For emergency work, such as utility repairs;
        •Trees at high-risk of injuring a person or damaging property;
        •If the tree is located in a nursery or orchard; and
        •If the tree is an invasive species* (please see above for single asterisk condition).

        Please get the facts before spouting forth

        • Bob

          You are quoting the existing legislation. This story is about proposed legislation.
          Unless you wish to include your qualifications as a politician, using your own criteria, you shouldn’t be commenting.

          • Dave Turner

            Well, Bob. My understanding having spoken with my ward Councilor is the review is focused upon possibly reducing the permit fees a d making the permit process less arduous, and (2) making the penalties more appropriate and more of a deterrent.

            As to your suggestion that I need to be qualified as a politician to give an opinion, I would as have said previously, I am not providing any opinion one way or another. Just putting facts out there so for example those out there that say one has to get a permit to prune a private tree can see by reading the bylaw that position is misguided & incorrect. Or that a permit is only needed for tree removal and then only when the tree’s trunk diameter is 20cm or greater (e.g. a maple tree greater than 20 years of age). Or correcting mis-statements such as yours that City staff arborist cannot go onto private property at any time.

          • Bob

            they cannot trespass on private property.
            If I am mistaken then please provide me with the appropriate legislation permitting someone to trespass.

        • Bruce Leigh

          Well, Bob. Sorry to burst your balloon:- check out and read the Private Tree Bylaw (which I woukd have thought you would have done before making your statements). Specifically the Enforcement section which reads:-


          For the purposes of conducting an inspection to determine compliance with this by-law, an order, a permit, or any condition of a permit, any person authorized to enforce this by-law may, upon producing the appropriate identification, at any reasonable time, enter and inspect any lands or property to determine whether the provisions of this By-law, an order issued under this by-law or a permit or a condition of a permit issued under this by-law have been complied with.

          “any person authorized” means a City employee whose duties include the enforcement of this by-law, including but not limited to those persons holding the positions of Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry, Manager of Urban Forestry, Supervisor of Forestry Planning and Health, Supervisor of Forestry, City Forester, Forestry Technician, and Arborist;

          There you go, Bob. I’ve done your homework for you.

  • Alex Brooks-Joiner

    There are many things that area municipalities can do to protect earth from ongoing destruction by humans. Tree preservation should not be that hard to do. Rules are placed to collectively help get that done. Value trees so that they protect us.

  • Mister Peter

    Boring. This overgoverned city creates situations that make people manage their own affairs regardless of stupid rules and regulations. The current disaster of a tree bylaw probably resulted in the net loss of tree canopy.

    • Denise W.

      Agreed. Nobody (I know) will plant a tree now, nor let one mature in size such that the bylaw will apply. A better use of resource would be repealing the unreasonable bylaw or amend it such that the system is friendly to the homeowner. As it is now, it is over arching, burdensome and compliance is so expensive as to be a deterrent.

      • Mary Hill

        My understanding is that the bylaw only applies to trees with a trunk diameter greater than 20cm (approx 8 inches). Depending upon the type of maple it takes between 20 years to 40 years to reach an 8 inch diameter. So your point that people will be put off planting new trees is absurd. The homeowner is likely either to have moved away or moved on to celestial duties before the tree reached 20cm diameter.

        The bylaw is designed to protect mature trees