Meed Ward sets out her plans for managing future floods - will put the Waterfront Advisory Committee back in business.

background 100By Staff

August 3rd, 2018




Data from radar tells the story of where the rain fell and how extensive it was.

It was this weekend four years ago that the rain began in the early mid-afternoon – and just didn’t stop.

Mayoralty candidate Marianne Meed Ward sums up her view of one of the most expensive natural disasters to hit the city.

As we approach the four-year anniversary of the Burlington flood on August 4, 2014, it’s an appropriate time to take stock of what’s been done, and how far we still need to go.

What’s happened so far:
The city increased spending on Stormwater infrastructure by $20 million over 10 years to reduce water flow blockages, for example larger creek culverts and creek channel improvements. That only slightly accelerates what we would have been doing, and primarily addresses flood effects, not root causes.

The post-flood report released in phases in 2015 and 2017 contained fifteen key recommendations, most of which are ongoing or just started.

Basement flooded BSB Coalition

Hundreds of basements were flooding – damage was in the millions.

A grant program was established to assist homeowners with disconnection of foundation drains from the sewer system, and installation of back flow valves and sump pumps. While helpful, this addresses leaves flood mitigation to the individual homeowner.

The home inspection program to identify flood entry areas offered in partnership with University of Waterloo and the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation has seen only 92 participants. This also leaves responsibility for flooding on the homeowner.

Go trains flooded

Extensive rain is going to be part of the new climate. These are not one offs.

We must do better. We can’t assume severe weather is a “one-off.”
According to a Globe and Mail editorial in May 2017, “Flooding is the most costly hazard in terms of urban property damage, and has surpassed fire and theft as the principle source of property insurance claims.”
Insured damages associated with the Burlington flood alone are estimated to be in excess of $90 million with many people under- or un-insured.

A plan that addresses root causes
We need a plan to be prepared for flooding that deals with root causes, more than effects. We also need to treat our trees, greenspace, creeks and waterfront as valuable resources that have a role to play in Stormwater management and reducing flood risk.

We must take a more integrated, city-wide (not individual homeowner) approach to managing storm water and reducing flood risk. The current approach that’s largely focused on increasing the capacity of Stormwater systems is limited – and this runoff goes directly into our creeks and lake, a prime source of drinking water. We need to adopt new tools and approaches.

Responsible growth, retaining water at source, restoring a citizen’s voice on the waterfront:

There are two key actions we can take: approve responsible growth, not over-development; and retain water at source through low-impact development.

We also need to restore a citizen’s voice on waterfront issues, and expand the mandate to include Stormwater runoff into our lake.

Flood - Meed Ward with Peter Hodgeson + T shirt

Meed Ward out doing her bit for those hammered by the storm Here she talks with Peter Hodgeson, the retired police officer who headed up the Red Cross work in the community.

As your mayor I will support measures to reduce flooding causes, and effects at the city level by:
Advocating responsible growth, not over-development.

The 2018 Conservation Halton Watershed Report Card grades Burlington an F for “poor” or “very poor” for its surface water quality, forest conditions (our tree canopy) and the amount of our paved and hard surfaces.

Hard surfaces increase the amount of water run-off and flooding. These ratings are exactly the same as the Watershed Report Card published in 2013.

We can reduce runoff by reducing hard surfaces and adding greespace through measures to:

Create more building setbacks, ending lot-line to lot-line hard surface coverage

Set minimum parkland access standards, which don’t currently exist

Set tree canopy targets, which don’t currently exist

Trees, parkland and greenspace around buildings provide natural ways to absorb stormwater before it ends up in creeks and Stormwater pipes.

Keeping water at source through low-impact development

Flood Fairview plaza

A strip mall parking lot on Fairview.

The city’s Sustainable Development guidelines on low impact development are voluntary, with the incentive of an award. We need stronger incentives, in partnership with grant programs at other levels of government. And we need to lead in terms of our own infrastructure. Leading low-impact development includes measures like:

Naturalized area in parking lots
Water absorbing sidewalks and traffic medians
Larger courtyards in new developments
Effectively treating run-off that goes into our lakes to reduce pollution entering our waterfront
Reasonable incentives for the private sector to reconfigure the paved footprint of developments to allow more water to either be stored or go directly into the ground

Restore Waterfront Advisory Committee
Finally, we need to restore a citizen’s voice on issues that affect our waterfront and watershed. Stormwater not contained at source through low-impact development currently flows with all its potential pollutants into our waterfront, including beside public areas such as Spencer Smith Park’s sand beach.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city last December. Scobie went on to sit on the Ad Hoc Waterfront Committee.

Gary Scobie, far right, was a member of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee which was sunset by the city.  Nick Leblovic, chair of the committee is on the left.

This mayor and council promised the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee in the 2010 election, then quietly axed the committee in a 6-1 vote two years later.

That isn’t entirely true.  The Waterfront Advisory Committer was a Cam Jackson committee.  The chair of the committee was quite ineffective and the city decided to bring it to an end,

I will reinstate the citizen’s Waterfront Advisory Committee, and expand the mandate to include water quality, creeks and Stormwater runoff into lakes. I will also restore the city’s relationship with the Waterfront Trail organization and oppose any sale of city-owned waterfront property (this mayor and council voted 6-1 to sell waterfront property between Market and St. Paul St to private homeowners).

FLOOD man walking in water Harvester Road sign

False modesty and a flooded car

Action on flood risk
As your mayor, I will ensure that we prepare for the future with a comprehensive plan for storm water management, in partnership with residents, other levels of government, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the McMaster Centre for Climate Change and the development industry. We’ll develop a city-wide approach that addresses causes, not just effects at the home-owner level.

We need to treat our trees, parks, greenspaces, creeks and Lake Ontario as invaluable green infrastructure, and protect and increase these resources. We need to restore a citizen’s voice on our waterfront.

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5 comments to Meed Ward sets out her plans for managing future floods – will put the Waterfront Advisory Committee back in business.

  • Alfred

    Stu: I find it fascinating that you were able to conclude incorrectly that I was a scary guy, disliked Marianne and take issue with everything she has to offer. This is 1 item in hundreds city wide. My wife and I don’t agree on everything. I also think most people would deem it prudent to build house basement floors 2 or 3 feet higher than what we allow in the city to protect them from rising flood waters or rising water tables. Many of the houses that flooded would have been protected from flash flooding. We know a lot more now that we did 40 or 50 years ago. (sump pumps, weeping tiles, backflow valves etc.) The province agrees that this is a devil that must be dealt with. Any councilor that wants to bring this up would get the same response. In my respectful opinion, were I do find fault with this article is Marianne trying to make herself look good at the expense of the mayor and other councilors. By bringing up the 6 to 1 vote scenario over and over again on everything. I have yet to see any articles here disrespecting her voting patterns by any of the other councilors or mayor. On a quick note most of the decisions that Marianne voted against. Were in complete contrast to all the other elected officials. The Planning staff and many of the other city departments supported the other councilors and mayor. While this may be a popular position in the downtown core. City wide it is hard to believe that she was right and all these intelligent folks were wrong.

  • Alfred

    Did Marianne Meed Ward not vote to put a very restrictive height restriction on new houses Maximum height 10 meters. Today’s housing dynamics have changed many people have beautiful basement units or bedrooms in their homes where their children or in-laws live because Burlington is no longer affordable. As we are becoming aware immigration from various parts of the world encourage families to live together. To keep the Nimby’s happy and to stop Monster homes and to fight against Global warming. Some foolish decisions were made. It appeared that the term Global warming was soon pushed aside. By a more catch all phrase. Climate change. The house building industry warned that lake Ontario’s level goes down and up. As we saw these past years. Raising the level of the ground water in some cases higher than peoples basements. Forcing people to build their houses deeper into the ground (or Water) was not a well thought out idea. After all, given the choice of letting people have dry basements or keeping the Nimby”s happy it appears the Nimby’s won. It appears that the Provincial government has stepped in and mandated the Municipalities to make new developments Climate change proof.

    • Stu Parr


      At the risk of incurring the Editor’s wrath, if this comment is an example of your thought processes, then you are a seriously scary individual. I read and reread it five times and still can not uncover a cohesive thought pattern. And your punctuation is a true work of art – abstract I think. We get it that you don’t like Marianne and will take issue with anything she has to offer. That sort of position can be tedious and harmful because it doesn’t inform the dialogue. It smothers it.

  • Stephen White

    Finally…some thoughtful insights and original policy options on how to deal with the very real impact of flooding. Thank you Marianne!

    Lost amidst the hyperbole and rhetoric in the debate around intensification are the very real problems created by climate change. These problems will only be exacerbated by increased density. Flooding is no longer an isolated incident. It is real, and its impact is significant. I live on a street in east Burlington where 36 out of 43 homes were hit. Four years later I have neighbours who are still battling with insurance companies and restoration firms on damage claims, and even undertaking restoration work themselves to repair damage caused by the August 2014 flood. While many have installed backflow valves and sump pumps this alone isn’t enough.

    Like so many issues the City and the Region needs to take some real leadership and stop downloading accountability to residents. instead of stop-gap measures we actually need a comprehensive strategy that is a combination of sensible low to mid-rise developments, upgrades to wastewater infrastructure and a renewed focus on landscaping and greenspace.

  • Marshall

    I agree with Marianne but suggest that the mayor can only direct, advise, prod, suggest. The present council incumbents if re-elected will oppose any change that might impede a developer from minimizing green space and maximizing concrete. The city planning office has to be directed by the council not directing it. Respect must be shown again to homeowners.
    Therefore, a complete change of council must occur in October and under Marianne’s direction, a Waterfront Advisory Committee will be possible.