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Environmental report card says Pantalone best, Ford worst - Toronto Star

Mayoral candidates were judged on six green issues

July 8, 2010
David Rider
Urban Affairs Bureau Chief 
Toronto Star

A ranking of the environmental friendliness of the platforms of the five main mayoral candidates gives Joe Pantalone top marks and Rob Ford the worst.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance’s report, released Thursday and based on six environmental priorities it has identified for the city, doesn’t give the candidates’ overall grades.

TEA’s executive director, Franz Hartmann, told reporters that won’t happen until closer to the Oct. 25 civic election because he wants to encourage the hopefuls, in a positive way, to green their platforms.

But he didn’t disagree that the grades on each priority would rank them, from best to worst: Pantalone; George Smitherman; Sarah Thomson, Rocco Rossi and then Ford.

The report card’s comment section says Pantalone “is doing well” and has shown an impressive knowledge of the importance of public transit, sustainable energy, green transportation and Toronto Hydro’s role in greening the city.

“However, he can improve his grade by supporting these priorities in an official platform” and needs to speak up more, says TEA’s comments in the report card released Thursday.

“He is distracted by what others say and needs to focus to get his points across.”

TEA’s assessment of Ford, the penny-pinching Etobicoke councillor whose platform focuses on cutting the city’s spending and improving its customer service, is fairly scathing.

Ford “has shown no interest in the environmental priorities,” and when he does talk on green issues it’s clear he needs to study more, TEA says. For example, he confuses regular streetcars with light rapid transit vehicles and wants subways in areas where the population density doesn’t support them, the group says.

“To earn a passing grade, Rob must put some time into understanding that there is more to being mayor than complaining about councillors’ expenses or talking about football.”

Smitherman, the former deputy premier who shepherded Ontario’s Green Energy Act into creation and often touts his environmental credentials as an asset, is rated as a good talker whose “enthusiasm doesn’t match his work to date.”

His transportation platform is “not as good for the environment” as Transit City and the Toronto Bike Plan, according to the alliance, because it will take longer to build, reach fewer people and keep bike lanes off main roads. “For George to succeed,” TEA says, “he needs to match his enthusiasm with solid planning to achieve a better grade.”

The priorities TEA used to judge the candidates are: building and funding the Transit City light-rapid transit system; achieving the city’s goal of diverting 70 per cent of waste away from landfill; encouraging the purchase of green products; implementing a “complete streets” transportation policy and a sustainable energy strategy; and providing tools to prevent pollution.

TEA ranked each candidate for each priority with the phrases, “going in the right direction,” “unclear — needs improvement,” “unsatisfactory performance,” or “has not commented on this issue.”

Ford, a co-frontrunner with Smitherman in recent polls, received an “unsatisfactory” ranking in four of the priorities — Transit City; waste diversion; complete streets; and sustainable energy.

Ford was ranked as “has not commented” on the other two priorities: buying green and local, and pollution prevention tools.

Pantalone received a top grade for four of the six, with a “needs improvement” for buy green and local, and pollution prevention tools.

Rossi, the former federal Liberal fundraiser and non-profit boss, who also touts his environmental bona fides, was graded “unsatisfactory” on Transit City — his top transportation priority is building subways — and on sustainable energy.

On the other priorities he scored “unclear” or “hasn’t commented.”

“Rocco is unsure about the priorities” and displays a lack of understanding when he talks about them, TEA says. His focus on subways shows he doesn’t understand that light rail is better for the environment, and his vow to sell Toronto Hydro could jeopardize the city’s Sustainable Energy Strategy, the group says.

“Rocco needs to spend the summer studying the priorities if he hopes to do well” on the final report card, it says.

Sarah Thomson, the Women’s Post publisher whose platform revolves around expanding the subway, got an “unsatisfactory” on Transit City and “unclear” or “hasn’t commented” on the other priorities.

Thomson is “very eager and wants to do well,” TEA says, but has no plans to back up her desire to get blue and green bins into apartments and says she cares about cyclists but “doesn’t want to build routes they need.”

As published here: http://www.thestar.com/article/833586--environmental-report-card-says-pa...