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FORUM: Leaders must take real action on climate (July 2021)

August 16th, 2021 · No Comments

We must all join the chorus for change before it’s too late

By Jessica Bell

Since I was in elementary school, I have been listening to scientists and activists sound the alarm about the threat of climate change. Now my children are in elementary school, and the threat is horrifyingly real. Canada is battling deadly heat waves, volatile weather, intense humidity, epic storms that threaten to overwhelm our city infrastructure, and catastrophic forest fires that are making our air so unhealthy to breathe. Yet we still have leaders who are failing to take the bold steps necessary to lead humanity out of this environmental crisis. 

Doug Ford is the worst political culprit. The annual budget is the most important legislation the government passes each year, but in this last budget, the PC government didn’t use the term climate change once. That says everything about the Ford government’s priorities. The premier has spent millions of taxpayer money cancelling viable renewable energy projects and scrapping Ontario’s modest cap and trade program, and even took the federal government to the Supreme Court to fight the federal carbon tax, just so the conservatives could score political points with their base. Ford even threatened to fine gas stations if they didn’t put government-mandated anti-climate change stickers on their pumps. 

As a community organizer and lawmaker, my goal is to work with people to push for and implement big and just solutions to the climate crisis. What is so special about our riding is that so many of us deeply care about the most pressing issue of our time. Despite the enormity of the issue and the resistance we face from fossil-fuel corporations and the politicians that back them, so many of us are strategically advocating for a positive and green future.

The Ontario NDP has developed a Green New Deal policy platform to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. Our plan includes putting an effective price on carbon, phasing out the use of gas-powered plants to generate electricity, ending the production of gas-fueled vehicles in Ontario, dramatically improving active transit and public transit options, reforming land use planning to ensure sustainable land use patterns, improving the energy efficiency of buildings, and funding a just transition for communities and workers impacted by climate change. That is what we, as an NDP government, will do. 

We will have the chance to evict Ford from the premier’s seat in June 2022, but until then there are many practical steps we can take together, right now, to push for real climate solutions. 

The Ontario Clean Energy Alliance is calling for the Ontario government to cancel its latest plan to extend the life of gas-powered plants in Mississauga, Windsor and Sarnia, and increase electricity production from gas by 300% in nine years. 

Ontario’s electricity grid can and should be fossil fuel-free.

Fridays for the Future Canada is organizing a global climate strike for September 24. 

Peaceful direct action plays a crucial role in every social movement for change. It is inspiring and important.

The City of Toronto has approved an ambitious climate action strategy to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions called TransformTO. 

The goals and strategy are good, but what is lacking are implementation and funding. 

That is why it is critical for us to participate in the City of Toronto’s budgeting process – which starts in November – to ensure these climate solutions are funded and prioritized.

Climate change is an emotionally challenging issue to work on as the stakes are so high and the required changes are so great. That’s why I believe it’s best to join a group and work with others, as our neighbours can provide support and ideas. 

Our office works on these issues regularly, and we can also connect you with advocacy groups in our area that are taking action.

The issue of climate change requires all of us to care, and act. 

Jessica Bell is MPP for University–Rosedale.

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Tags: Annex · Opinion