In the aftermath of the Paris climate change talks, it’s clear global leaders are ready to act because they understand the importance of reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate disruption. Sadly, the city’s proposed 2016 budget, released in mid December, doesn’t reflect this new global reality.
TEA has done a preliminary analysis of four key spending areas in the proposed budget that will impact Toronto’s environment and our ability to help meet Canada’s Paris climate change commitments. The good news is that City Council doesn’t make a final decision until mid February so we still have time to convince Councillors to do the right thing for our environment and wallets.
Problem 1: The TTC yet again raised fares. A key source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from people driving cars. If Canada hopes to reduce car use, Canada’s biggest city must do its part to create incentives for people to keep their cars at home. Raising fares every year does the exact opposite (and also undermines the city’s anti-poverty goals).
Problem 2: No new money for more tree planting or for taking care of existing trees. In 2008, the City committed to improving our tree canopy, which is vital to keeping the city cool during heat waves and soaking up flood waters. The Mayor committed to planting more trees during the 2014 election. Yet, the budget does nothing to increase tree planting. Rather, the tree maintenance budget is cut even though Toronto’s trees still need lots of TLC. As well, there is no new money to get the city back on track to meeting its 2008 timetable to increase Toronto’s tree canopy.
Problem 3: Failing to live up a July 2014 Council commitment to hire staff needed to prepare Toronto for climate change. In July 2014, City Council adopted a host of recommendations aimed at building a resilient city. These included hiring new staff and public engagement activities ($1.35 million worth). Last year, $250,000 was set aside to hire on new staff. This year, no new money is set aside.
Problem 4: Lack of resources to properly inspect and maintain Toronto’s ravines. Toronto’s ravines are important recreational spaces and green infrastructure. During floods, they channel water to the lake minimizing property damage. The rest of the time, they provide important green spaces that Torontonians and wildlife rely on. Yet, the proposed budget could not find $624,000 to help Parks staff properly protect our ravines.
What We Can Do:
TEA will be speaking with Councillors urging them to solve the problems identified above. We will ask them invest in the environment, which not only helps improve our quality of life but will save us lots of money by cutting carbon emissions and getting us ready for climate change.
You can contact your Councillor today and let them know you want them to adopt a city budget that solves the above problems.