Rushing to build homes after Ontario election could cause problems for birds, national charity says

A Toronto-based charity says the estimated 25 million bird deaths that occur each year in Ontario due to bird strikes will only increase with promises from all parties in the upcoming election to create more of housing to alleviate the province’s worsening housing crisis.

Birds, like frogs, are widely seen as an environmental indicator, a proverbial canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change – and here in North America, birds are disappearing at an alarming rate.

FLAP Canada said it wants all parties to enshrine bird-friendly design concepts for new buildings in Ontario’s Building Code to minimize the impact millions of new homes would have on the number already impressive number of birds killed by collisions with office towers, apartment buildings and single-family homes. -individual houses.

Michael Mesure, the organization’s executive director, said that despite housing and environmental issues being linked by bird mortality, it has been difficult to gain traction on the issue of bird-friendly design. , which he said would only add “negligible” costs to a developer’s bottom line.

Cost of bird-friendly measures ‘negligible’

“I think there’s this mind’s eye perspective that what we’re asking for is too much or is just going to interfere with the development of new builds, the costs going up, the aesthetics,” Measure said.

“It’s simple, it’s effective and, quite frankly, the cost turned out to be quite negligible.”

The window of a house is covered with anti-bird stickers. FLAP Canada says it wants all political parties to enshrine bird-friendly design concepts for new buildings in Ontario’s Building Code. (Submitted by Angela Mulholland)

The measures vary and the costs range from free to millions of dollars. They can be as simple as adding stickers to windows and moving plants to the center of buildings, but they can also be as complicated as changing the design of an entire building.

Still, advocates say the price is worth it — and big Ontario cities like London, Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto are already doing it. But bird advocates want the standards applied to all new construction province-wide.

It is insane that this message resonated with the Ontario Liberal Party or the business-friendly Progressive Conservative Party, which polls show is seen as the frontrunner in the June 2 election.

PCs have already pledged to build 1.5 million new homes over the next decade while reducing bureaucratic hurdles for developers. Measure said it was essential that bird-friendly measures were adopted before the start of the residential construction blitz.

“People’s homes account for 50% of bird deaths across the country,” Measure said. “People don’t understand the seriousness of it because there’s only one or two birds they see hitting a window.

“We all have a part to play in this.”

Birdwatching, a billion dollar industry

Measure said what is often overlooked is that birding is big business in Ontario. Although there are no official estimates of the economic activity generated by birdwatching, US data suggests it could be a billion dollar industry.

According to a 2016 report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, birdwatching as an industry generated $95 billion in output.

A group of birdwatchers pose at Point Pelee, Ontario. FLAP Canada argues that birdwatching is big business, with the country’s roughly seven million birdwatchers spending just over $1 billion a year on gear, travel, bird feeders and seed. (Josiah Sinanan/CBC)

“People love birds,” said Mesure, noting that Canada’s roughly seven million birdwatchers spend just over $1 billion a year on gear, travel, bird feeders and seed.

So far, only the New Democrats and the Green Party of Ontario have agreed to implement the measures if they take office.

The pledge doubles down on efforts by both parties to have bird-friendly standards recognized in the provincial legislature with a 2019 private member’s bill sponsored by NDP’s Chris Glover, who is running for re-election. in the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort. York.

The issue is gaining little ground on the election campaign

The proposed environmental protection seems to have little resonance with voters, according to Carol Dyck, Green Party candidate for the hotly contested London North Center constituency, despite there being great interest among those who she solicited at the door to reduce the environmental footprint of their homes.

“I will say there’s huge interest across the city in all the different neighborhoods that people want to get involved in having a more eco-friendly home.”

A woman stands on a corner near election signs waiting to cross the street in the hotly contested London North Center constituency. According to the Green Party of Ontario candidate in the riding, enshrining bird-friendly protection in Ontario’s Building Code did not gain much traction during the election campaign. (Colin Butler)

Dyck said that while people are interested in greening their homes with things like pollinator gardens and green roofs, there seems to be little interest in protecting the birds these greening measures would attract.

“Birds in particular? Not so much,” she said.

That might seem like a surprising disconnect, especially when you consider that half of the approximately 25 million bird deaths that occur each year in Ontario from collisions with buildings are the result of banging against a kitchen window or of living room.

Supporters say they will continue to push for the issue to get the attention they think it deserves in an election dominated by housing and the high cost of living.

“To us, that would be a no-brainer. We would support building code changes to ensure bird species are saved,” Dyck said. “It’s a very simple thing to do, and it would save thousands and thousands of birds every year.”

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