Report on Roadmap to Environmental Action event of Nov. 13, 2019
On a cold, snowy Wednesday evening, 132 chairs fill Swansea Town Hall. Five banners hang on the wall (from left to right):
1. Preserving Nature
2. Food & Agriculture
3. Consumption & Waste
These are the sign-up sheets the PHP4 Climate Action Steering Committee prepared. As people trickle in, they walk up to the sheets and check mark those issues most important to them. On each seat lays a “Really Great Climate Action” printout, created by Chris Winter.
The meeting is called to order 7:20 PM, accounting for any people held up by TTC delay. All those waitlisted get in.
(5m) MC Sarah Doucette: meeting to order, outline our vision and format of the evening
—interruption from audience member about the “conflict of interest” Sarah Doucette’s MCing presents—
● Sarah Doucette welcomes the crowd & introduces some of the environmental leaders in the room, including: Keith Brooks, Environmental Defence; Nick Capra, Green Party of Canada; Angela ElzingaChen, Greenest City; Rita Bijons, Green 13; Tina Soldovieri, Roncy Reduces; Veronica Fiehl, RoncyWorks; Clement Kent, The Swallowtail Project
● Introduces the vision of the coalition (Green Parkdale & Roncesvalles, SafeRail, and Green 13) for event: empower to take action and develop strategies to collaborate
(5-10m) Abby Bushby, Green Parkdale/ Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden: Land Acknowledgment
Abby posed the question: What does a land acknowledgement mean? To her, and to the PHP4 Climate Committee, it is an acknowledgement of the following:
● That the significance of treaties and rights to be on this land are based on Treaty 13, which is a sovereign relationship with the Crown.
● That for meaningful environmental action, there needs for a move towards “a post-colonial Canada.”
● That and how indigenous peoples cared for the land prior to settlement
● Of the spiritual dimension → all (water, air, animals) is one Finally, the acknowledgement is a recognition that:
● “It is not indigenous peoples’ responsibility to teach other Canadians.” “We [non-indigenous Canadians] must take action ourselves, though we welcome these teachings, should they be offered.
(25-30m) Amanda Montgomery, Articling Student at CELA: explanation of what each level of government is legally responsible for and/or has control over, how the levels of government can work together, and the challenges of legislating the environment
1. On the difficulties of legislating on environmental matters in Canada:
● The distinction between what the three levels of government are responsible for is not straightforward.
● Neither is climate change (often described as a wicked problem).
● Start with the “low-hanging fruit”: ownership
- Each level of government can make decisions about land that it owns, decisions like those regarding building & procurement.
- When it gets more messy: when we look @ the constitution:
In s. 91 (Federal) and s. 92 (Provincial), the words “environment” or “climate change” are not mentioned —nor anywhere in the constitution, for that matter.
In 1867, the environment was not a priority; the priority was splitting wealth (such as land).
● Therefore, environmental lawyers must get creative to legislate on environmental matters.
2. On federal, provincial, & municipal powers and responsibilities:
● s. 91: fisheries, criminal law, “Indians and land reserved”
● POGG (Peace, Order, and Good Government) → “matters of national concern,” so can be
used to govern over marine & water pollution, GHG, making Carbon Tax constitutional
● Also useful: two treaties signed when Canada was under British rule: Boundary Waters Treaty a nd Migratory Bird Treat
● $$$ (federal has the spending power).
● s. 92: civil rights, management of provincial crown lands (e.g. governing over lumber & mining)
● “matters of a local nature” such as sights & facilities, electrical energy & the power to govern over municipal jurisdictions [CC Gord Perks boos loudly to laughter & applause]
● waste management, water, waste water
● City of Toronto Act ← climate change is mentioned
● “economic, social, and environmental wellbeing of the city” + protect the health of
● legislation is vague, which is good = municipalities (and TO specifically) can do a lot
On the question of jurisdiction over international treaties:
Federal, BUT federal must still respect the jurisdiction of the provinces e.g. The Government of
Canada can sign the Paris Accord, but not enforce it in provinces.
On how the three levels of government can combat/mitigate Climate Change:
Step 1: GHG emissions
Provincial → power over industrial emissions & electrical generation, buildings (municipal can help w/buildings)
Federal → federally regulated industry (fishing etc.) 1987 Criminal Law, POGG
Step 2: Land use
All 3 levels can protect (their) land
Federal → e.g. create protected marine areas
Provincial → e.g. protect forests
Municipalities → e.g. use local zoning
Step 3: Adaptation
Federal → protect ports, harbours, indigenous reserves
Provincial → industrial (e.g. bridges)
★ Municipalities carry the heaviest burden in resilience, but have the least resources. Provincial & federal governments must shell out the $$$.
On the question of cooperation between the three levels of government:
● Cooperation is written into the legislature (i.e. cooperative federalism)
● Successful example of cooperation: Canada Health Act (governed by provinces, federal
—interruption from audience with Q about s. 35 of the constitution (The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal people in Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.) Amanda addresses Q & outlines s. 35 —
(8-10m) Bhutila Karpoche, MPP
● Commends “on-the-ground work,” especially in the face of Ford government
● Working with Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns on: Health and Environment Bill (since has a
background in public health)
● Wishes to electrify UPX (trains that surround PHP) & the GO trains (issue: air pollution)
& has called for the legislature on this in provincial parliament
● Lake Ontario:
- “We need to do more to reduce pollution in our lakes”
- Plastics = worst pollutant (abundant & difficult to get rid of)
● Calls for an “aggressive” ban on single-use plastics:
- biggest offenders → 2020
- all manufacturers → 2025
• Stop Nestle:
- 3 Billion plastic bottles produced to date in the world
- Single-use plastic bottle companies are double offenders: 1) pulls water out of our lake(s) to bottle & then 2) pollutes those same lakes w/ those bottles
- Nestle applied for a 10-year water-drawing permit. Calls for action to ensure permit is not granted.
● Ontario Food Terminal
- Pushed to protect by designating as provincially significant employment zone
(8-10m) Arif Virani, MP
1.) What we [the Liberal party & Government of Canada] have done:
● Carbon Tax
—Digression: speaks in support of cooperative federalism, as Amanda mentioned
“air and water cross boundaries,” so all three levels of government must collaborate on environmental matters—
● phased out coal across Canada
● $5,000 rebate for zero-emission cars (2019 election platform promise) & slightly less for
● 5,000 EV stations commitment (2019 election platform promise)
● protected more than 10% of marine areas -- 2019 platform promise: 25% marine
protected, 25% land protected]. Goal set for 30% by 2030, for each.
● 2019 platform promise: plant 2 billion trees
— Aside: everyone, including Ford government & federal opposition agree on plastics. We can work with/on that —
2.) What we will do:
● Move with ambition (community members, including Green 13’s Rita, have called for
more ambitious action on climate & the environment)
● Net zero by 2050 + 5-year legislative targets
★ Q to audience: What would you like to see in 2020-2025 target? The future targets? That is something tangible Arif can report back to Ottawa from PHP.
(8-10m) Gord Perks, City Councillor
● We could act on climate change or we could not, but either way, “our lives are going to change profoundly.” Either we succeed & change OR we fail & suffer the consequences. There is no staying as is.
● This problem requires a collective solution. Calls for systemic change (collective action projects and infrastructure changes needed)
The Light Bulb Problem:
Step 1: Turn off.
Step 2: Replace.
Step 3: Change the fuel that powers it.
These steps ought to be done in order. The take-away: we want to get to Step 3, but in order to get there, we must start with Step 1.
● Toronto is a global leader on climate & environment TransformTO:
- Net zero by 2050, or sooner
- By 2030, all new buildings built to produce “near-zero” GHG emissions + 1.5
- By 2050, all existing buildings retrofitted to improve energy performance, by average 40%
- By 2050, all vehicles to use low-carbon energy & infrastructure built to walk, cycle, & transit
- By 2050, 95% of waste diverted from landfills
● We need to go “much further” than single-use plastics
- Canadians create more garbage per capita than any country in the world (even the U.S). “You are worse than the United States.”
- And we need extender produced responsibility (EPR) → mimic Europe: make the producer have to pay.
- We [Toronto? Canada?] need a sustainable food system (and we’ve done it before → 3 sisters: beans, squash, and corn + indigenous communities)
● Final note: “Arif, I need some MONEY!”
(50-60m) Q&A Discussion led by MC
Q1(Debbie Green): How can we encourage people to retrofit their homes?
● Feds can step in (as they have in the past)
● Investments in skilled trades (work w/ Bhutila & provincial government on this)
We already have the following programs in place:
● Free home energy audit
● Interest-free energy loan
● $5,000 rebate for green homes
However, people need to apply — we need to make sure people know about these programs. @ Gord: we have the $, but municipalities often don’t apply or are slow to apply for funding.
● Unfortunately, Ford government has cancelled many programs.
● Look to NDP in BC for example
● Net-zero for new buildings
● OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) gets in the way
Q2 (Cathy Brown): What if we ban cars from residential apartment buildings, instead of accommodating them? Or limit the parking spaces available?
● I always go under the development plans for # cars
● Done some zero-car buildings
● BUT, in Toronto, the city has to pay for transit vehicles (currently from property tax
revenue) If we do not allow cars, we need infrastructure, like buses, but we need $ — provincial & federal can help — and we need that funding to be stable & reliable.
● Provinces used to pay 50% of transit
● NDP has called for the 50% back — in many platforms
● Province needs to help ($)
● $9B has been spent for public transit infrastructure, including 60 electric buses as a pilot
● Agrees our funding needs to be more stable & reliable.
● Need to get Uber to use EV.
Q3: How will you deal with the constraints imposed by the Ford government?
● Ford government has been difficult (e.g. put forth a motion to declare climate emergency. It was voted down.)
● We can push plastics, since Ford has shown an interest in this
★ Call to the attendees: Be vigilant.
- e.g. the Environmental Commissioner office doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no more impartial, non-partisan voice on environmental matters in the Provincial Parliament.)
- Changes to regulations (unlike legislations, which have to go through parliament, regulations can be altered w/o notice or discussion) e.g. Endangered Species Act
● “We’ve seen that when there was pushback, the government has backtracked.” We need to push.
“I know Doug. He won’t ever take these issues seriously.” The answer to working with him? “Defeat him”
Q4: What is your taxation plan? And will this plan disproportionately affect middle-class families? Who will bear the burden of climate action? (hidden/actual question later revealed: will you tax corporations instead of people?)
AV: --muddled b/c of interruptions--
Carbon Tax + explanation of it & that the rebate goes back to people. Exemption for fuel subsidies for northern peoples.
Will middle-class families be affected? Yes.
“Every time you hear ‘tax cut.’ you should translate to ‘We won’t deal with the climate crisis.’ ” To answer your question, yes “you will have less $ in your pocket.”
● We need to ↑ corporate taxes. Even if we just raise to 13% (a 1.5% increase), that would
make a big difference
● We can also get “creative” with our taxation
e.g. Income Tax: we propose a 1% increase on individuals (not families) w/ incomes over $300,000. Why aren’t there more categories/tax brackets up top? Why is someone making $20 million paying the same tax rate as someone making $250K?
e.g Vacancy Tax. 66,000 homes sit empty in Toronto (many more around the country)
Q5 (Nick Capra): This is more of a statement than a question. What is all this talk about 2050? We need to hit 1.5°C by 2030.
Q6: Arif, what is your vision for not just reducing oil & gas emissions, but bringing them to zero?
● We need to address the economic anxiety in Alberta & Saskatchewan
● “You don’t see what I’m up against in Ottawa.”
● 4000 products are made from oil and gas. Not an easy transformation.
● We need renewables in Alberta & Saskatchewan
● Subsidies phased out by 2025. Complete phase-out by 2030 (most “ambitious target”)
● Yes, we need to get off oil & gas, within our lifetime.
● Every building in Toronto is heated with fossil fuels.
● Retrofitting homes is a better employer than oil & gas. We could be the wealthiest nation
in the world if we focus on retrofitting every building in the country.
Q7: How do we convince people of the merits of carbon pricing?
Please talk to your friends in the prairies. They need to understand: inaction on climate costs our economy.
● Carbon Tax was a bargain struck b/w environmentalists & conservatives.
● Yes, we need carbon pricing, but it is not enough:
- Don’t be afraid of yellow jacket & sepratist fear-mongering — the #s are few (“How many seats did the People’s Party get? 0.”)
● Difficulty paying energy bills is the #2 cause of evictions in Toronto.
Q8: We expect you to not only be representative but also leaders. How will you lead for us
in parliament or council?
We have it good PHP, but we need a city-wide movement.
BK: “Look around. Look at the make-up of this room.” (Almost everyone in the audience is white.)
★ “Equity needs to be central in the climate movement.”
● Nov. 26th event puts at the centre the experiences of POC, marginalized people, and indigenous people
(5m) MC Sarah Doucette: closing remarks
● Thank yous & expectation to reconvene in April for a follow-up event.
● Sarah asks each of our representatives to identify a staff person to deal with
environmental issues. Gord Perks identified Dusha Sritharan.
Since the event in November, the PHP4 Climate Action Steering Committee (a coalition of Green Parkdale & Roncesvalles, SafeRail, and Green 13) has welcomed new members who signed up at the November 13th event and have begun a variety of projects in connection to climate and the environmental in our community. A few members of the committee have also been meeting regularly with MPP Bhutila Karpoche and City Councillor Gord Perks.
A follow-up Roadmap to Environmental Action event has been confirmed for Monday, April 6th 6:30-9PM. The discussion will be held in the the May Robinson Auditorium, and MP Arif Virani, MPP Bhutila Karpoche, and City Councillor Gord Perks have all confirmed attendance.
You may view segments of the recording of November 13 at the lower segment of this Facebook link.
This report was prepared by Alevtina Lapiy.