An equity and environment lens for decision-making

A photo showing the difference between equality and equity.  Source link.

A photo showing the difference between equality and equity. Source link.

Councillor Tenille Bonoguore and I shared this input at Waterloo city council’s strategic planning workshop on Wednesday April 10, 2019. Thank you to the Waterloo Region Record for posting this as an opinion piece.

With this input, we are asking council to entrench into its work, through the strategic plan, an overarching and pervasive dual-principle of equity and environment.

Both of these principles are interlinked, and each is rooted in the fundamental need to create – now – the foundation for a healthy and inclusive future for all.

Equity is about treating people differently in the pursuit of fairness, so that everyone can more fully participate in democracy, in the economy, and in their communities in ways that are meaningful to them.

Environment is making sustainable choices – choosing to change how we move, live, work and play in order to take real and substantive action on climate change.

Both of these principles are foundational to our future health as a city. 

By embedding equity as a guiding principle, we can act on accessibility, community and neighbourhoods, housing affordability, access to vibrant public space, transportation, newcomer services, neighbourhood resilience, growth and development, and more.

By embedding environment as a guiding principle, we can create sustainability in growth and development, create safe streets, support strong community and quality of place, invest in our infrastructure, and, work alongside Indigenous peoples and nations to identify and act on our responsibilities to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action.

In some ways, these principles already exist. We already do treat people differently: Those with access to the time, networks, and financial and other resources can already advocate more often, thereby meaning they can more effectively get the City’s attention. 

The aim of this input is the broaden that advocacy.

The matters being raised are helping me to better understand how a city runs, where we can make improvements through city-building, and how to ultimately make this community an even better place to live for everyone. 

This proposal is about what is at the core of city-building: people and place. 

Equity, as a practice, will create the conditions for inclusion and that is something that we are all striving for in this welcoming and loving community. Environment, as a principle, will make bold steps now to effect change in behaviour, city-building, investment and neighbourhoods, in order to nurture, protect and support future generations.

Moving forward with an equity-and-environment lens will help the city put into place the mechanisms that will:

  • Identify who is and who is not represented at all levels of city-building – on council, staff, program participants, on committees of council

  • Actively increase representation of people of different genders, races, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, age and more

  • Identify policy frameworks that codify sustainable practice, both within the City bureaucracy and across the city itself 

  • Create a framework to help the City consider how decisions from snow removal, to new buildings, to economic development will impact those who are most marginalized in our community 

  • Adopt a triple-bottom-line that uses social, environmental, and economic indicators to truly assess our success as a City

We know there are many who are being left out and who are not able to meet their full potential. We know that the future health of our city relies on the future health of our environment.

This is our opportunity to set a new course, and to show the world that Waterloo is a leader… with heart.

Jen Vasic