2022 Inaugural Remarks – Diane Freeman

I was raised in Woodstock on Treaty #29 Lands that were a part of the Huron Tract Purchase.  In 1986, I moved to Treaty #4 lands the Haldimand Tract where I have stayed and chosen to live and raise a family.

Thank you to the citizens of Ward 4; they have once again shown their confidence in me and I am humbled to have their support.  This job is about serving the community and it is with this heart of service that I look forward to working together with my Council colleagues.

As a part-time, 24/7 Councillor, I could never serve this community without the continued love and patience offered willingly by my husband Peter and my children Adam, Scott and his fiancé Alessandra.  I am also thankful for my parents, Fred and Betty Freeman who taught my brothers Jim, Bill and I that volunteering is truly the rent we pay for the privilege of living in such a wonderful Country as Canada.

Lives are full of many firsts: Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s and Father’s Day.  This is my first inauguration with my Parents walking this earth.  They are missed.  I was loved.  I remember them today.

I am grateful for the many communities including friends, work and City that supported me through challenging times such as when my parents passed away – kindness like this changes the dynamic of working relationships, into friendships.

Democracy is about people; and the people who have served with me since 2006 have taught me so much and challenged me to be a better decision maker and a better person.  Knowledge can be empowering when shared and isn’t that want for our community?  I look forward to learning from all of you as we journey together, through these next four years.

I know that we are all aware of the changing nature of politics – so I feel strongly that we as local politicians, who are very much connected to our communities speak out for those who do not have a voice.  We have a responsibility to build consensus and a positive way forward.

We need to be strong for each other as we navigate the new terms and conditions of this provincial government.   We need to fight against the divisiveness of politics.  Waterloo has got it right for so many years, it is worth fighting for.   I remain hopeful, that if we put the people of Waterloo first, in an inclusive manner, we will hold the line on our democracy.

There is a desperate need for compassion these days.   And my intention, is to lead with love and knowledge.  

We will be challenged as a council, like never before to do more with less.  We will need to be courageous and support the values that we all bring to this table.  

I want to ensure that the investments we make in our community impact the people we serve and make a difference. At every turn, we will need to explore the impact on our most vulnerable in our communities – and make sure that their voices are respected and that they are seen as the neighbours that they are.

I have every confidence that if we work together, we can prioritize all voices – if we do so, we will be stronger and more resilient.

In addition, Climate change is our collective challenge as a society – I know we all care about looking at policy and legislation through this lens. 

We are not alone on this journey because we are well supported by staff who care deeply about this work and I believe, there is nothing we can not accomplish together.

Colonial Acres Update – August 2022

In response to a Facebook Question related to road resurfacing and preservation of tree canopy in the area, the following information was provided:

The City of Waterloo standards and policies for roads across the City requires roads to be reconstructed with curb, gutters and sidewalks.  I knew the cost to undertake this work in Colonial acres would be extraordinary because the roads are old township roads, made from layers and layers of tar and chip.  There is no traditional “road base” present allowing for the top asphalt to be simply “shaved and paved”.  Further, half the area is still on Septic systems with open channel surface water drainage to Colonial Creek.  I also knew that people valued the rural cross-section of the road (no curb gutter and sidewalk) and that preserving it was important to the neighborhood.

In 2018, the Province of Ontario amended the Heritage Resources to allow for the uniqueness of a neighbourhood to be captured within a Cultural Heritage Landscape designation.  A group of neighbours including myself attended open houses with City Staff and spent many hours at the Kitchener Public Library researching Colonial Acres all in support of securing a designation for the area.  The key things included in the designation are the low lighting standards, the road cross sections, the lot “fabric” (setbacks from the road and adjoining neighbours), and some unique architecture.  While the diversity of trees in the neighborhood is also mentioned, the designation does not limit tree removal. 

With regard to trees.  I have raised the desire mentioned in this Facebook page for a tree bylaw a number of times, most recently in questions to staff at the May 30th Council meeting and staff have taken away the comment to see what can be done.  Here are some important things I have learned over time that I share with you for consideration:

  • One of the most significant challenges is that trees are “chattels” and under the ownership of the homeowner, not the public at large.  It has been explained to me, a number of times, by staff and legal council that tree by-laws cannot be upheld in court.  Under real estate law(s), people have rights to manage their property and associated chattels as they see fit.  Therefore, they have the right to remove anything from the property (such as a tree) without permission, unless of course, it is a City owned tree.  There are few if any City owned trees in Colonial Acres.   
  • In recent years, I know of citizens in Colonial acres removing large trees for other reasons: Fear of damage resulting from the age of the tree combined with the ever-increasing fierce storms (believe it or not, this is a significant concern for many), aging homeowners who are no longer able to maintain/pay to maintain tree canopy and associated leaf management, desire to pursue different landscaping options.  On my street in Colonial Acres (Normandy Avenue) many removed the old growth trees to make way for younger, easier to manage trees. 
  • Conditions placed on the sale of homes related to preventing tree removal could (and many will email to tell me will) reduce home values.
  • Through the current process trees  are typically required to be replaced at a rate of two trees for every one removed.  I think there is a minimum trunk size that is required to be maintained as well. 
  • The provincial planning act governs the type of conditions that can be placed on a planning approval document such as consent and minor variance applications.  Further, there is an appeal process so if the conditions rendered the property “unusable” in the eyes of the landowner, they could appeal the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  In the end, land ownership has rights and the lawyers know those rights very well.  
  • The truth is even a permit process may allow what is going on in Colonial Acres.  Many of the trees are very old and when looked at with a lens of tree health and the roots (drip line), most of the trees would be irrevocably damaged through the new construction works, especially the new septic systems required for a new home build.  This reality would result in a tree removal permit being issued.

With regard to road works.  With the Cultural Heritage designation finally in place staff could look towards resurfacing without having to find millions of dollars related to reconstruction to an urban cross-section.  Prior to the finalization of the designation in 2021, I set up meetings with Staff and the University of Waterloo Centre for Pavement and Transportation Technology group.  A study was undertaken to evaluate the types of resurfacing that might work in the neighbourhood.  We started with Sugarbush, a small road, for a pilot.  Drilling and core samples were collected to better understand the soils and subsurface base under the tar and chip road.  Based on the information gathered, staff advanced application of a traditional asphalt layer in 2019 and are monitoring the road for signs of failure. 

Subsequent to the Sugarbush application and the finalization of the heritage designation, staff are advancing resurfacing efforts throughout the neighbourhood as observed on Grant Crescent this summer.  I do not know the full schedule for resurfacing but have asked staff.  It is my expectation that every year will result in more and more of the neighbourhood roads being resurfaced.  I know the investment is very much needed. 

Waterloo City Councillor will be criss-crossing the country sharing ways municipalities can fight climate change – Record Article, January 29, 2019

City of Waterloo Coun. Diane Freeman has been named one of four municipal “climate champions” by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. – Peter Lee , Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — As municipalities across Canada work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, a local politician will help guide those discussions.

City of Waterloo Coun. Diane Freeman has been named one of four municipal “climate champions” by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She plans to highlight local actions to demonstrate ways cities and towns can contribute in the fight against a warming planet.

“I’m very excited. I see a real opportunity for the Region of Waterloo to be showcased across Canada with regard to our climate change efforts as a city and a region,” said Freeman. “And I look forward to working with the stakeholders in our region to be a messenger of their great work.”

That includes local projects like the conversion of tens of thousands of local street lights to more efficient LED technology, the construction of Evolv1 (Canada’s first net-positive, zero-carbon office building) and grassroots organizations such as Sustainable Waterloo Region and the environmental charity Reep Green Solutions.

According to the federation, Freeman and the other three climate champions will “share knowledge and expertise with fellow elected officials in communities of all sizes and speak at events across the country.” They will “aim to inspire and support peers taking climate action in communities from coast to coast to coast.”

Last year, the Region of Waterloo and the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge unanimously endorsed a target of reducing greenhouse gas reduction by 80 per cent by 2050. According to Climate Action WR, the region reduced emissions by 5.2 per cent between 2010 and 2015 — the equivalent of taking nearly 60,000 cars off the road.

UN report released in October found global emissions must drop by 45 per cent before 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2075 to avoid surpassing the 1.5 C increase in global temperatures now considered the “safe” upper limit of global warming.

The problem is more complicated than simply reducing emissions, though, as some climate change impacts, such as more intense storms, are already occurring. A study released in November found that Canadian municipalities need to do a better job developing climate change adaptation strategies.

The three other municipal leaders are Taylor Bachrach, mayor of Smithers, B.C., former City of Ottawa councillor David Chernushenko, and Laval Coun. Virginie Dufour.

Freeman had to apply to the position and submit a resume, and was also interviewed. She won’t be paid for the role but will be reimbursed for her expenses.

First elected to city council in 2006, representing Ward 4, Freeman has been on the board of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Share the Road cycling coalition, where she helped deliver Ontario’s first bike summit. That summit led to the creation of the Bicycle Friendly Community Awards in Ontario in 2010, and the first provincial cycling strategy.

The City of Waterloo is one of three gold ranked cycling communities in the province, along with Ottawa and Toronto. Kitchener is ranked silver and Cambridge is bronze.

Freeman said she has been a champion for building accessible communities by planning, funding and installing sidewalks, trails and dedicated bicycle infrastructure, all of which reduces the municipal reliance on cars or trucks.

She is also a professional engineer and was president of Professional Engineers Ontario in 2010-201

jjackson@therecord.com

jjackson@therecord.com

The on-line article can be found at: https://www.therecord.com/news-story/9148470-waterloo-city-councillor-will-be-criss-crosing-the-country-sharing-ways-municipalities-can-fight-climate-change/