By ADRIA VASIL
OCTOBER 2-9, 2014
VOL 34 NO 5
Around the globe, cities are at the forefront of a massive green shift to keep life on the planet humming sustainably. While Toronto once led the charge, we’ve fallen badly off course.
Time for a reboot. How do the leading contenders for mayor rate on key green issues?
As councillor, Ford voted down environmental issues so many times it’s hard to keep count. Some of the issues he voted no to: maintaining the city’s 70 per cent waste diversion target, the plastic bag ban, keeping the Jarvis bike lanes, Community Environment Days, coughing up $5 million to prevent TTC service reductions. Ford was also one of three votes against studying the health effects of Island airport expansion. He did vote yes – to axing $7 million from the tree-planting budget. He hasn’t uttered a word about climate change plans, and was a no-show at the only green debate, hosted by Toronto Environmental Alliance on September 23. Not surprisingly, Ford scored an F on TEA’s report card.
This Progressive conservative paints himself as forward-thinking on the green front. His vow to double the tree canopy budget in order to plant (with the help of “partners”) 3.8 million trees over the next decade is encouraging. But a lot of his enviro goals are of the low-hanging-fruit variety. He’d give $22 mil to monitoring energy use at city buildings with the aim of boosting conservation and says he’d revive the push for green bins in apartments. But what’s sadly lacking is a firm agenda to ready this city for costly extreme weather events like 2013’s floods. As for transit, his SmartTrack plan to use electrified GO tracks to add 22 stations around the GTA rides is a clean one, but with a risky funding plan, would trains ever leave the station? He vows to partner with business to build more separated bike lanes, but it’s unclear how many more. One thing’s clear, he’ll lose core green votes for refusing to take a stand against Island airport expansion and piping tar sands fuel across the city via Line 9.
Chow’s gotten flack for not letting her lefty flag fly, but she was loud and proud about her stance on several green planks at the TEA debate. She pledged to create 200 kilometres of separated or designated bike lanes within four years (using unspent portions of the transportation capital budget) and beef up city waste diversion targets to keep a tough but doable 90 per cent out of landfill. She’d also plant 1 million trees over the next decade and make sewer-polluting companies foot the tree bill. On the transit front, she’s the only one talking about boosting capacity ASAP (10 per cent more bus service) and wants to stick with an already approved and funded LRT plan, plus, in the longer term, the congestion-cutting downtown relief line. Her lengthy “not on my watch” list includes Island airport expansion, incineration and Line 9. But where’s the inspired climate change action plan? If she really wants Toronto to be the greenest city in North America, as she said at the debate, she’s going to have to deliver stronger leadership in the face of the biggest environmental threat yet.