County questions its role in UN designation

Councillors seek clarity on touted achievement

By Chad Ingram

Published May 30 2017

Earlier this year Haliburton County was designated as an exceptional area for environmental education by the United Nations.

The UN chose Peterborough and its surrounding area including Haliburton County the City of Kawartha Lakes four First Nations communities and Peterborough County as a Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.

During a May 24 county council meeting Jane Gray policy and education advisor for the Regional Centre of Expertise was in council chambers to talk about the project.

“These centres are networks of formal education institutions and community institutions” Gray said explaining centres are located in areas that have embedded sustainability into education.

In Haliburton County this includes places and organizations such as Abbey Gardens the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust the Haliburton Forest and the Haliburton School of Art and Design which offers a sustainable building program.

Gray said the presence of Trent University in Peterborough and especially Fleming College which has campuses in Peterborough Lindsay and Haliburton was also integral to the region receiving the declaration.

Gray said part of the idea is to increase the area’s profile as a place dedicated to sustainable practices in a time of changing climate.

“People don’t recognize the whole of the region . . . and it’s going to be in huge demand.”

Councillors were uncertain about what role they had to play in the project.
“How does this plug into where we are as county and municipal politicians?” asked Minden Hills Reeve and Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin. “I don’t understand how this plugs into us.”

“One of the key objectives is for graduates to graduate into green jobs” Gray said adding that a greening of the local job market could assist with economic development as well as keep local youth in the area.

Devolin also wondered how the network would be funded.
“The designation does not come with any funding” said Brianna Salmon executive director of environment education organization GreenUp adding that the network will require continual resourcing. Salmon said the centre has a diversity of partners many of them in the county and that funding would be part of conversations moving forward.

Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt wondered what the objective of integrating and supporting youth meant exactly.
“I understand those words” Moffatt said. “I don’t understand what they mean in the context of this community. How will you support youth? What are you going to do?”

Gray said that steering youth toward green educational programs could help with the sustainability of the community.

“It will be very focused on education” she said.

There will be a Centre for Expertise event at the great hall at Haliburton Fleming College campus on June 7 at 10 a.m. that will allow community members to learn more about the project and do some networking.