With the provincial election coming up on June 2, we’re posing one question: What does the ideal climate action candidate look like for Toronto?
Forget partisanship. Forget smear campaigns. Forget voting for a candidate because their climate platform is marginally better than another.
And forget needless bureaucratic gatekeeping — climate justice advocacy is simple when it’s specific, direct, and actionable.
It’s reasonable to demand that provincial candidates adopt a climate justice platform that:
- Improves cost of living, livelihoods, and security for more Ontarians in the short term
- Secures Ontario’s future as a sustainable, thriving economy in the long term
- Protects Ontario’s biodiversity, natural resources, and green spaces
We can achieve these outcomes with governments at all levels — and it doesn’t need to take years if we elect leaders who take immediate action. We have that chance on June 2 with the provincial election.
But before this happens, we need to advocate for a high standards climate action platform. With that in mind, we focused on three key climate justice issues that affect local constituents now:
- Housing affordability
- Transit access
- Food affordability
Keep reading to find out how each issue intersects with climate justice and how you can inform your own vote on June 2.
Housing affordability and climate action are linked. Housing insecurity in urban centres like Toronto pushes people to car-dependent regions of the province. On the flip side, housing development in dense neighbourhoods encourages building more housing at scale with sustainable materials and technology. And when skilled workers can afford to live close to low-carbon jobs, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
When those same workers can afford climate-friendly retrofits such as heat pumps and solar panels, everyone benefits.
Housing affordability is a local issue that affects ridings differently, depending on their socioeconomic demographics. Example: According to the 2016 Census, nearly 25% of households in the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding live in subsidized housing, compared to the provincial average of 15%. People in this riding need increased access to housing supply and “missing middle” housing, which allows several homes on a plot of land that would have been used for one single-family house.
How climate justice and housing affordability intersect
- Affordable housing within cities like Toronto makes it easier for people to access public transit infrastructure like bus lanes and subway lines, which reduces transportation-related emissions.
- Building dense housing at scale increases access to cost effective, sustainable building materials and technologies that reduce energy-related emissions, which will protect renters from rent hikes.
- Housing affordability frees up personal income that may be spent on climate-friendly retrofits such as heat pumps and solar panels — which should also be partially subsidized by the provincial government. Energy efficiency also leads to cost savings for hydro.
A climate-forward housing platform
- End exclusionary zoning for detached single-family homes so that the city can increase “missing middle” housing supply, which would allow up to four homes on what is currently a single-home lot.
- Increase climate-friendly housing supply with developers that are committed to using sustainable building materials and technologies at scale to bring down costs.
- Subsidize housing retrofits such as heat pumps and solar panels.
- Include significant investment in social housing and coops.
Learn more about housing climate justice
Toronto is seeing some exciting developments in public transit expansion and affordability, both of which will reduce our province’s transportation-related emissions.
For example, the city broke ground on the Ontario Line, a 15-stop subway line that will run from Exhibition Place, through the heart of downtown, to the Ontario Science Centre. The new line will provide major relief from crowding on the Line 1 subway and other busy transit lines across the city.
But the province needs to fund more options for people outside the downtown core. For example, the Scarborough RT closes in 2023, but a subway replacement won't be open until 2030 at the earliest.
While the Scarborough RT corridor will be transformed into a dedicated busway in the interim, the province needs to fund infrastructure for dedicated bus lanes with signal priority and protected cycling space. Constituents in Scarborough should have access to as many high-quality transit choices as possible to avoid relying on cars to get around.
Also, the Fair Pass Transit Discount Program provides a 33% discount on TTC adult single fare rides and a 21% discount on TTC adult monthly passes. With phase two expansion of the program, 77,000 people are now eligible as subsidy recipients.
While this is great progress for transit affordability, a climate-forward candidate would commit to making transit free for people with lower incomes.
How climate justice and transit access intersect
- Robust, affordable, safe transit systems reduce reliance on cars, which reduces transportation-related emissions.
- Transit expansion increases urban density and reduces suburban sprawl, which protects natural resources and biodiversity.
- Transit expansion increases demand for low-carbon jobs that support a Just Transition to a sustainable economy.
A climate-forward transit platform
- Subsidize 100% of transit fares for people with lower incomes and youth.
- Fund a Scarborough dedicated bus lane with signal priority and green space for cycling.
- Fund more high-speed rail connections outside the GTA to make residents less reliant on cars.
Learn more about transit climate justice
The pandemic triggered the shut down of businesses, causing job loss and disrupting food supply chains in a way that increased costs. If your grocery bill has increased, you’ve experienced this disruption. No one should need to choose between affordable food and personal health.
In the first two months of the pandemic, food insecurity in Canada increased by 39%. Pre-COVID, 12.7% of the general population experienced food insecurity. When looking at the distribution of food insecurity by province, Ontario ranks higher (13.3%) than the national average (12.7%).
As food becomes more difficult to farm, scarcity will increase costs and reduce accessibility to healthy food. Healthcare costs for those who are severely food insecure are 121% higher than for those who are food secure.
How climate justice and food affordability intersect
- Droughts, insect infestations, and high temperatures reduce food production, which increases costs.
- Increased temperatures affect the growth of water-borne bacteria that can contaminate fish.
- People who experience food insecurity have compromised physical health, mental health issues, and barriers to employment. As climate change worsens, people made vulnerable due to food insecurity will experience disproportionate hardship in accessing resources.
A climate-forward food affordability platform
- Set targets to reduce food insecurity by 50%, from 12.7% to 6.35% of the population by 2030. Report annually on rates and include race-based data.
- Boost income supports to make sure people can put food on the table by increasing the Ontario Disability Support Program, implementing a Universal Basic Income, increasing minimum wage, and increasing daycare supports.
- Stop sprawl and highways to protect valuable farmland, supporting local food economies.
- Fund city-grown food initiatives and use the power of government procurement to support local farmers.
Learn more about food affordability climate justice
We’ll be sharing more soon about party platforms, but here’s where you can start.
General party websites
Don’t forget to vote on June 2! Here’s where you can find your local candidates and voting location by electoral district after May 9.