Monday, February 15, 2010

Toward a Greener Toronto

Last week, the Toronto Environmental Alliance announced a list of priorities it believes the next mayor of Toronto should incorporate into his or her governing strategy. The TEA's news release gives the priorities as follows:
  • Build Transit City and fund it

  • Achieve 70% waste diversion by 2012

  • Buy and support locally-produced green products

  • Build transportation infrastructure everyone can use

  • Implement the City's Sustainable Energy Strategy

  • Provide tools to prevent pollution
It's good to see organizations taking an active interest in the environmental chops of prospective mayors. I think we've come to a time where urban environmental strategies are as important a component of governance as development strategies or justice strategies. For too long it's been ignored. After looking through these suggestions, I believe they're valid and would greatly assist in the improvement of Toronto's lot. I'll be more than happy if I'm not the only mayoral candidate who believes this, because this is an issue that transcends petty, everyday municipal politics. Far more than the question of, say, a bike lane on Jarvis or a redesigned Roncesvalles, the actions this city takes on the environmental front from now to 2014 will echo greatly.

In particular, I think the supporting and encouragement of locally-produced products will be of key importance in the years ahead. Since the amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto in 1998, we've seen the province and the federal government offload more and more responsibilities onto the city without providing it the means to pay for it - and it's not as if they're jumping at the chance to take those responsibilities back, or to give Toronto more capability to adequately finance them.

I think that as the years go on, self-reliance will become the name of the game in more and more respects for cities around the world. That's hardly a bad thing. Local producers can be far more responsive to local requirements and demands than producers a province, a continent, or an ocean away - and what's more, the growth of local green businesses will not only go a long way to putting a serious dent into Toronto's emissions, the development of that sector of the economy will see more tax dollars staying in Toronto.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance also draws attention to the transportation issue, probably the key issue of this campaign. I stand with it in my conviction to not only see Transit City completed, but for transit to be extended and expanded to even more corners of the city, and thus realize "a transportation infrastructure that everyone can use." It's not that difficult for me to conceive of that necessity, since I don't own or use a car - therefore, there's a great deal of infrastructure that's effectively unusable to me. There are, for example, extremely valid reasons you do not see bicyclists on the Don Valley Parkway. The danger of bicyclists being injured by angry motorists hurling heavy things at them as they weave through traffic jams is only one such reason.

In that vein, then, we don't only need Transit City. We need the Downtown Relief Line. Beyond that, we absolutely need a mechanism for the TTC to have a source of reliable funding, so that the organization does not constantly lurch from year to year with hat in hand, always perched on the precipice of fare increases and service cuts. Something like Los Angeles County's Measure R, a half-cent sales tax funneled toward transportation initiatives - which includes roads as well as mass transit - would be greatly useful here. I'd love to say that I'd implement something like that as mayor, but I can't - the City of Toronto Act prohibits the city from levying its own sales taxes. Thus, this is probably something that would best be taken to the province by a coalition of cities - something which I would support.

Ultimately, it's good to see more and more people and organizations taking an interest in the environmental implications of this election. Until very recently, the issue was ignored. I can't abide that any longer. At twenty-seven, I may well be the youngest of the twenty-three candidates - which means that whatever policies are put in place, I'll have to live with for that much longer.

I'd much prefer that they be good ones.

Interested in my campaign? Become a fan on Facebook! That would be totally rad.

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