Fund Climate Action Now, TEA Tells Budget Committee

To ensure Toronto’s new climate change plan succeeds, City Council must invest $1.6 million in the 2017 Budget, an amount far less than the costs of inaction. This was the key message delivered by TEA’s Executive Director delivered to the City’s Budget Committee.

Franz’s full remarks can be seen here, along with questions asked by Councillors afterward.

In his deputation, Franz made it clear to the committee that implementing the climate change plan adopted by Council in December was the most prudent financial move they could make because it would save Torontonians huge amounts of money in the future and allow Toronto to leverage new funds for climate actions. 

Unfortunately, neither Mayor Tory nor his staff were at the meeting there to hear Franz’s remarks. At the mid-December City Council meeting, Mayor Tory voted against a motion by Councillor Mike Layton to have the Budget Committee consider a staff report that stated a $1.6 million investment in 2017 was crucial for the new climate change plan to succeed. However, Mayor Tory’s Budget Chief, Gary Crawford was present at the budget committee meeting. 

Franz’s remarks were greeted with applause by many people attending. One person came up to him afterward to say: “thank you for telling them what so many of us are thinking.” 

You can read Franz’s deputation below or watch the clip on YouTube.


Below is the transcript of Franz’s deputation: 

My name is Franz Hartmann. I’m the Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. We have over 60,000 supporters city wide, spread across every ward in Toronto.

Today, I am here to ask the Budget Committee to raise another $1.6 million in the 2017 operating budget and invest it in Council’s climate change action plan, which was adopted in mid December.

The $1.6 million was the figure proposed by staff in a report forwarded by Council to the Budget Committee. This can be found in the CCO’s January 9 report called TransformTO Short-term Strategies Financial Estimates.

This is the amount required to begin leveraging up to $865 million in private investment for a variety of actions that will help the city reduce its ghg emissions and help meet our city and national ghg reduction targets.

Think about that. A $1.6 million investment this year will help leverage up to $865 million in investments that will also create a significant number of good jobs and needed economic activity in Toronto.

But, some will argue, this will mean raising taxes and Torontonians can’t afford this and/or don’t support higher taxes.

To address this, let me read you comments published in today’s Toronto Star made by the Insurance Bureau of Canada yesterday at a media conference. The IBC representatives were speaking about the ever increasing high cost of climate change to Canadians and the insurance industry.

“The record damage reported in 2016 is part of an upward trend that shows no signs of stopping,” said IBC [President and CEO] Don Forgeron. “That is why Canada’s insurance industry is calling on all governments across the country to come together and implement expansive climate policies that will better prepare Canadians and their communities when disasters strike.”

The goal is to prevent the damage before it occurs, not merely to respond to it, said Peter Karageorgos, IBC director of consumer and industry relations.

Now to make this real here in Toronto: remember back to Summer 2013 flood and the Winter 2013 ice storm. Because the city was unprepared, it cost Torontonians over $1 billion in insurance claims and deductibles to pay for flooded basements, damaged roofs and a host of other property damage. It cost governments another $300 million.

If we want to minimize what Torontonians have to pay in the future when severe weather events hit Toronto, we need to act now, just like the IBC said yesterday.

So, you have a choice:

Do nothing. Ignore the advice of the IBC and the evidence of climate scientists that things will only get worse. And guarantee that this Council inaction will cost Torontonians lots more money than the meagre tax increase needed to finance a $1.6 million investment.

Or, raise another $1.6 million in taxes this year and invest the money in getting Toronto ready for climate change. If anyone questions this, refer them to the IBC, tell them you will be saving them loads of money in the future and that you are also helping create good jobs and needed economic activity by leveraging up to $850 million in further investment.

Finally, I want to say a few words about some of the cuts that are proposed to help meet the $90 million budget hole. We join with the Toronto Can Do Better Collaboration to urge Councillors not to cut programs, especially those that people living in poverty rely on. We need services we can rely on and investments in our community that make Toronto a better place for everyone.

On the list of potential cuts to meet the $90 million hole are cuts that would close 12 outdoor pools and 36 wading pools. Remember last summer’s heat wave? That was a taste of what climate change will bring the city. What will happen when the next heat wave hits if these outdoor pools and wading pools are cut. Where will people go to cool down? Where will poor people go who can’t afford air conditioning go to cool off?

The fact is we cannot cut the city services vulnerable Torontonians rely on to survive, including those that they will increasingly rely on as severe weather events like heatwaves and storms become the norm.

The good news -and this is truly good news- we can deal with the climate change crisis and the poverty crisis in this city at the same time with many of the same actions. Because the actions that prepare our city for climate change can also be done in ways that help create jobs for those who need it the most and help improve the quality of life for those who are most vulnerable.

So, TEA urges the Budget Committee to be financially prudent and ensure our tax dollars get the biggest bang for the buck. That means raising an additional $1.6 million this year to help fund Council’s climate change strategy and NOT proceeding with cuts to existing city programs.

 Thank you.