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GREENINGS: Emergency climate calls to city met with busy signal (Jan. 2020)

January 31st, 2020 · No Comments

City is caught flat-footed as alarm bells ring

By Terri Chu

I was mildly optimistic when Toronto City Council officially declared a “Climate Emergency”, in October, 2019. How naïve I was to think that an “emergency” meant that something might actually happen. The situation appears to me as though teenagers are dialing 911 and screaming in terror into the phone while the operator on the other end says: Please hold, your call is important to us.

The Annex Residents’ Association hosted a TransformTO community consultation in November.  While the city facilitator fielded questions about what policies residents would go for, the majority in the room just angrily pleaded: Just do anything. We’re tired of watching you do nothing. We don’t care. Do anything!   We don’t need perfect policies, we just need the kind of action required in an emergency.

The car industry is that dead-beat uncle with a drinking problem that keeps asking us to subsidize its failing “business”.

Currently, 53% of Toronto’s capital budget is still getting blown on a single elevated road. Toronto transit is facing yet another fare hike. It’s like the city doesn’t understand basic supply and demand economics. It already costs a family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers over $20 to take transit for Saturday morning brunch. That same family can get in the car they already own, splurge maybe a $1 in gas (probably less), and drop $4 on parking.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which mode of transport a family with the ability to do basic arithmetic will choose. 

Are we actually in an emergency? We’re still holding on the line waiting for someone, anyone, to pick up the phone!

A hundred and fifteen thousand cars per day use the Gardiner Expressway. Nearly 15 times that number of people use the TTC yet the Transit Commission barely gets double the capital budget we are giving to a single road. Are we angry? Damn straight we are angry. We scream about not having enough money. The money is there. We’ve just chosen to spend it on the wrong things. Rather than buying milk and bread, we drop the monthly budget on three bottles of single malt scotch. Then we scream at the kids for eating too much. 

The car industry is that dead-beat uncle with a drinking problem that keeps asking us to subsidize its failing “business”. The money we drop on the Gardiner is enough to give the city 50,000 km of bike lanes. 

The car industry needs to shrink. No amount of catering public policy to drive their sales will change their long-term prospects. Break out of it. Get that uncle the help he needs rather than feed his addiction. The longer we drag it out, the more we all suffer.

The lack of moral courage of this city council is appalling. Even from the progressive wing, strong positions are hard to take because of the need for re-election. We are well past the time for term-limits. People who have been on council for the last 30 years should not still be sitting there making decisions like they were back when we won the World Series. 

Rather than raising TTC fares, the city could have chosen to raise surface parking rates to bring an hour of parking in line with two or three people taking transit. The city could have chosen to raise the vehicle registration tax. The city could raise the cost of the large garbage bins, rather than the small ones. The city has the power to enact an infinite number of policies that actually start to address this very real climate change emergency. 

The kids are waiting impatiently on the line, but the mayor won’t take the call.  He’s punting to the next mayor because re-election is more important than a livable future for the next generation.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths. Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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Tags: Annex · Columns · Life