With the 2022 provincial election just days away, voters in Peel Region have many issues to think about before casting their ballots – and climate change is perhaps the most pressing.
It’s no secret that the effects of climate change can be felt and seen in Peel, from record heat waves to extreme flooding in Brampton. How the provincial government plans to deal with these events in the future appears to be a top concern for some voters.
Divya Arora, a community engagement organizer with the David Suzuki Foundation in Brampton, said a priority for the new provincial government should be to create a strong climate mitigation plan backed by financial support.
“We don’t see an environmental vision or plan that doesn’t change every four years. What we need is [the government] working across party lines and working across years.
In Brampton, Arora says it’s possible to build stronger future communities without relying on freeways.
“One of the strongest cases would be community development. Brampton is on the outskirts of the GTA, where the opportunity to build sustainable, walkable communities lies. »
She acknowledges that the City of Brampton has many climate action plans in place, but provincial financial support would help strengthen the city’s commitment.
Similar thoughts are shared by Phil Pothen of Environmental Defence, who says car addiction and emissions are among the biggest problems in Peel Region.
“It’s not for nothing that the suburbs of Greater Toronto have been described as the tar sands of Ontario,” he said.
“What amounts to meeting our climate change obligations requires us to get out of our cars,” he said, adding “you can’t build highways and solve the climate crisis. just isn’t compatible.
Building Highway 413, which would run through Peel Region, would increase the province’s GHG emissions and save drivers just 30 extra minutes, activists have said.
For Pothen, the new government should tackle three important issues specifically in Peel: reversing the urban boundary expansion that would see thousands of acres of farmland paved, adopting a strong new plan reduction in carbon emissions and further protection and expansion of the Green Belt.
In 2019, the Region of Peel declared a climate emergency and approved a climate change master plan, with the aim of reducing GHG emissions from businesses to 45% below 2010 levels.
But as Pothen points out and as the Toronto Star reported in 2018 and 2020, the province will not meet its GHG emission reduction targets without a “radical change” in behavior.
Last year, the Auditor General concluded that the current provincial government, which said Ontario would reduce its annual emissions by 17.6 megatonnes by 2030, would only meet 20 per cent of that target.
“They need to adopt a carbon emissions reduction plan that brings them 60% below 2005 levels by 2030,” Pothen said.
But it’s not just emissions that need to be dealt with in Ontario, activists say.
For Rosemary Keenan, a community volunteer with Sierra Club Peel, the next government must restore environmental policies and procedures that were eliminated under the Ford government.
“The very first thing is to reinstate the environment commissioner, to keep [the government] responsible,” she said.
In 2018, Premier Doug Ford eliminated the position of Environmental Commissioner, an independent body responsible for enforcing the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights, and placed it under the responsibility of the Auditor General.
Keenan believes the move helped developers speed up plans to build on green land without proper verification.
She also wants the next provincial government to reintroduce environmental incentives that were canceled by Ford.
One such program was GreenON, which offered free smart thermostats and other energy-efficient rebates to homeowners.
“The result of the election, whether [the current government] U-turns on its policies or a new government comes in, that’s critical,” Pothen said.