Inside the Toronto election campaign: A baby, a dog — and some hazy climate policy - Toronto Star

Toronto Star

By Alyshah Hasham

Most importantly advance voting is already open until Tuesday, June 13 you can vote at any polling station in the city.

The wildfire smoke this week wafting in from northern Ontario and Quebec may have covered up the scent of desperation in the mayoral race as we enter the home stretch, but all the signs are there.

Several campaigns are trying to convince Torontonians it is a two-horse race: [insert candidate here] and Olivia Chow, who continues to hold her lead in the polls.

As all her rivals struggle to break from the pack, one even set up a website this week expressly designed to stop Chow’s momentum, and some candidates have taken to shouting out their number on the historically long ballot list to make it easier to find.

With decision time fast approaching (election day is just two weeks away) we’ll be getting into the weeds of the candidate platforms and their skill sets. Advance polls are already open (until June 13 you can vote at any polling station in the city)

Toronto election goes to the dogs

Molly might be the pup running for mayor but Copper, the four-legged best friend of Mark Saunders, is also influencing the mayoral campaign. Last weekend, Saunders announced a plan to create new off-leash spaces for dogs, in response to outcry after a child was bitten and schools tried to deter dog owners from using school grounds to let their pets play. Will this play for downtown dog owners be received with furious tail wagging, or is the Saunders campaign barking up the wrong tree

The most important moment of the Brad Bradford campaign occurred at 3:33 p.m. on Monday when Bradford and his wife Kathryn welcomed their second daughter, Bronwyn, at Michael Garron Hospital. New dad energy is a known phenomenon in Toronto sports — but we haven’t had a chance to observe the impact on a mayoral election until now. We hope the campaign made a onesie emblazoned “strong baby of action.”

The Big Smoke

Mayoral plans to tackle the climate emergency have not featured much on the campaign trail, with a planned debate this week cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. Still, Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Sarah Buchanan said, in some ways that is a good thing. After all, when candidates talk about investing in transit, affordable housing and tackling inequity that is all related to climate policy.

But the orange haze and coughing fits from the dangerously poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke in the last few days has brought home the need for Toronto to be a climate-resilient city, which means ensuring access to safe, indoor spaces during smoke and heat waves, as well as shady green spaces and flooding prevention, Buchanan said. It means ensuring the new housing that is built is done with green regulations and future risks in mind. It means getting people out of cars and on to transit.

This week the Toronto Environmental Alliance released an analysis of the climate-related policies of each mayoral candidate. “I would love to pull parts from each one of these platforms and form a super-platform,” Buchanan said. She was pleased to see candidates commit to green building standards in new developments. Some other highlights: Josh Matlow’s plan to retrofit buildings to make tenants safer during extreme weather and to move from fossil fuels to electric energy. Mitzie Hunter would have a permanent Chief Resiliency Officer to ensure Toronto is prepared for extreme weather events. Chow would expand waste diversion, including recycling and organic waste to all residences including buildings. Matlow, who was the first to release a climate policy, would also fully fund the city’s ambitious TransformTO plan through the use of a commercial parking levy (city staff are studying the levy and other revenue tools).

Other candidates including Ana Bailão would also fund TransformTO, though they haven’t specifically set aside funding to do so, Buchanan said, which worries her.

Buchanan was alarmed that Mark Saunders said in Tuesday’s CBC debate that the TransformTO plan had “flaws,” but didn’t specify what he would change — though he has objected to some bike lanes because he argues they contribute to gridlock. “One of the reasons it is scary to hear that from a major candidate is because we are walking outside and struggling to breathe because of the exact attitude that it’s not worth the money and it’s a war on cars,” she said.

This article was reposted from the Toronto Star This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on Saturday June 10 2023