On October 22nd, Toronto voters elected 25 City Councillors and re-elected Mayor John Tory to lead our city. Toronto’s new, smaller Council will include 21 incumbent Councillors who were re-elected and four new City Councillors, including two who unseated incumbents.
The good news is that we have some experienced environmental champions returning to City Council this term who know the issues very well and will advocate for action to protect Toronto’s environment. But with a Council that has 26 voting members, we will still need to convince a majority of Councillors (14 actually, but who’s counting?) to show their support for a greener city.
From the moment the election campaign became a 25-ward race, there was growing concern that the chaos would overshadow the important issues that matter to residents.
I’m proud to say that TEA didn’t let that happen.
We gave Toronto voters a reason to go to the polls. We reminded people why our city government is so crucial to building a greener city for all. By pledging support to “vote for the environment”, residents across our great city went to the polls with key insights they needed to inform their vote.
We got climate change on the agenda by making the news (regularly) and when our planned mayoral debate didn’t pan out, we switched gears and issued a mayoral candidate questionnaire instead. As a result, Mayor Tory agreed to fully fund TransformTO, develop a climate adaptation strategy and pass new city rules to reduce & restrict single-use waste materials like problem plastics. TEA will be holding Mayor Tory to his commitments by ensuring that the city budget secures the necessary funding and that Council adopts policies that turn words into action.
With so many incumbent Councillors running for re-election, TEA knew it was important to compile a vote record of some of the top environmental decisions City Council made in the last term so people could see for themselves where their representatives stood on the issues. And to give new candidates a chance to make their opinions known, we encouraged Torontonians to ask them key environmental questions.
We didn’t just reach out to TEA’s existing supporters with these election tools. We took to social media, attended events, reached out to residents associations and knocked on doors to spread the word and attract new people to the campaign. Thanks to our efforts, we’re growing a base of support across Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke and downtown that will be more than ready to hold City Council to their environmental responsibilities.
Rest assured, TEA has a strong track record of getting action at City Hall and we’re already working on a strategy to ensure that climate change, waste woes and pollution are familiar topics in all the Councillor’s offices. TEA will be working hard to convince Councillors one-by-one, issue-by-issue to build a greener city for all. We want to restore Toronto’s reputation as a green leader in Canada, not lag behind our neighbours coast-to-coast. TEA has a vision of a green, healthy and equitable city with economic activity that sustains our environment.
To do this, we’re going to need your support.
We’ll be calling on you to be the ‘eyes & ears’ in your community, sign petitions, meet with your local councillor, show up at City Hall and donate to our campaigns. Are you in?
Heather Marshall is the Campaigns Director for the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA).