Nobody wants to talk about the rats.



A few years ago, when they tore down the old Tom Patterson Theatre, we began to have…visitors.

Our first reaction was to call someone to remove them, but I soon learned that this was not going to be possible. All I found were people who wanted to charge me a prince’s ransom to spread poison around my yard, and they refused to tell me what kind of poison it was, for professional reasons. Not that I would ever use poison, of course, as we all know that poison kills animals higher up on the food chain, like owls, foxes, and possibly your neigbour’s dog. Or worse.

So we decided to do it ourselves. And we found a wonderful tool to discourage impertinent freeloaders. We call it ‘The Rat Whacker.” It is certain, fast, and deadly. It has been used in New Zealand to stop invasive species dead in their tracks. In New Zealand, they don’t even have to pick up the evidence, as it apparently provides a tasty organic snack for native wildlife.

Fortunately for our family, though, the problem is now solved, because in a completely unconnected decision, we got a puppy. He turned out to be part border collie, part labrador, and part assassin. He can go from zero to 100 in six seconds, and we haven’t seen a whisker since he was a year old. (He doesn’t eat them, though, they have just found more congenial accommodations.)

But that makes me think…

Why is there no one in Stratford who makes a living with a dog and a ferret? Rat catchers are mentioned in Shakespeare; it’s perfect for us. And when you consider what it costs to discourage or remove unwelcome guests, that person would make a fine living.

Perhaps we could talk to the man who harasses the geese in the park. He only makes about $30,000 a year doing that. High time he made a change of profession; the City seriously needs to save money. And he already has a dog. He just needs a ferret. If you wanted to get touristy about it, he could even get himself a pair of baggy pants and a really cool hat.

How Stratford is that???

E&E March meeting: climate action plan

Stratford’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency, you’ll remember, was made in February 2020. Very little has been accomplished since then. Two climate coordinators have collaborated on a climate action plan, But both have now left, and the City voted in January to budget for a third. We should hear more about this in June.

At the March meeting, Councillor Burbach noted that the Climate Action Workiing Group has now met twice, and has set up a schedule of goals. She has forwarded this information to committee members. When I learn what these are, I will post them here.

The Official Plan review is underway, but there seems to be no attention paid to Secondary Plans. The committtee  made a motion to recommend to Council to conduct a formal review of the Secondary Plans and make recommendations for revisions.

Councillor Burbach also noted that Council has discussed the 5-year update to City development standards, and she hopes that will include an update of development charges. She has also asked about adding incentives for greener standards, but apparently has not made a formal motion to Council.

The committee agreed to put together a list of possible amendments for Council that will be compatible with the Ontario Building code, and also make a presentation to the Stratford and Area Builder’s Association. E&E could also hold a special meeting for the Climate Action Plan internal working group to discuss the information put forward by Chris Higgins earlier in the meeting. No motions were made on these suggestions.

E&E March meeting; how are other cities dealing with home heating retrofits?

E&E March meeting; how are other cities dealing with home heating retrofits?

Part II of the meeting

The meeting began with an invited speaker, Chris Higgins, who is Senior Green Building Planner for the City of Vancouver. He discussed Vancouver’s low-rise residential building projects, which makes up 60% of Vancouver’s zoning. The committee was interested in how Vancouver is eliminating fossil fuels from both new builds and existing buildings. There was a lot of interest in Vancouver’s “floor area bonus,” which allows a slightly bigger building footprint for developers who construct fossil free low-rise buildings. The bonuses are 15 – 18%, and they are a persuasive tool, with no cost to the City.

Vancouver also has cash incentive programmes. Mr Higgins gave the example of the Near Zero programme, which offers up to $25,000 per participant, the Heritage Energy Retrofit Grant, with awards between $4,500 – $14,000 on work done on pre-1940’s homes, and a provincial/BC Hydro rebate for moving from fossil fueled heating to an electric heat pump (with a contribution from the City, this rebate can be as much as $11,000).

Although this was not mentioned at the meeting, homeowners may also be eligible for up to $5,000 in additional rebates from the federal government’s Canada Greener Homes Grant. (Registration and a home evaluation required).

City officials are now pressing developers who wish to rezone to build to a higher standard. Their research shows that the increase in costs is modest. Mr. Higgins reported a positive reception from developpers, and he believes they are encouraged by the City setting an example in fire halls, day care centres, and other City buildings.

In May the City of Vancouver will consider a proposal requiring all homes over 3,000 square feet to switch from fossil fuels by January 1, 2024.

The committee showed a lot of interest in the presentation. There was concern over the possibility that incentives may be accompanied by an escalation in price. Members seemed impressed by Higgins’ description of the “Builder’s Breakfast,” a good way to open dialogue with developers and get them on board.

One problem for Stratford is that, unlike Vancouver, we have to deal with appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal, which all to often rules in favour of the developer. This can derail efforts by Council to encourage developers to be more environmentally conscious. Ontario’s recent decision to rely on the much weaker federal building code may also make matters worse.

Councillor Burbach expressed interest in allowing a zone change as an incentive, rather than fiscal incentives.


We receive an embarrassing award

We receive an embarrassing award

It was bound to happen. A Council who brought us the chaos of the RNG Plant, who worked behind closed doors to annex 175 acres of farmland in pretty dodgy circumstances, and who privately negotiated a polluting deal with a glass factory while publicly signing a declaration of climate emergency has finally received the national attention it deserves.

Our Coucil has been recognized by Ryerson University as the nation’s “most secretive” municipal body. How can they top this?

Stratford’s climate coordinator packs her bags

There has been much delay and indecision in hiring climate coordinators in Stratford. The last coordinator, Rebecca Garlick, was unsure of her position during much of her tenure, and finally left. The contract renewal of our present coordinator, Amara Kartick, was left hanging until a motion was put forward in early January. She has decided to join the private sector. Good luck, Amara.