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Premier Ford’s approach to sustainability: A call to social consciousness

 

On June 7, the province of Ontario held its provincial election which saw Kathleen Wynne lose to Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives also managed to win a majority government. With the pendulum swinging from left to right in Ontario, it has left many people wondering how big the changes are going to be under Ford. While the issues are far ranging, the focus here is going to be on Premier Ford’s approach to sustainability. The earth is getting hotter every year with more and more extreme weather events. That is why sustainability and environmental protection are such a vital topic. Premier Ford has already axed a number of green programs. If there was any doubt before the election about Ford’s approach to the environment and sustainability, there isn’t now: the proof is in the actions he has already taken.

Let’s rewind to the Harper government and their approach to science. To say that there was a contentious relationship between the two would be an understatement. Under Prime Minister Harper, not only was funding to scientific research cut, but scientists were muzzled from reporting their findings supporting climate change and steps to prevent it. How relevant is scientific data in the face of massive development proposals that stand to make a few people very rich? Not very relevant to Harper and the PC. This highlights the PC Party’s willingness to ignore science and data in the face of profit. When Doug Ford was Toronto city council and his brother Rob Ford mayor, the dynamic duo was very outspoken about their preference for cars over bikes. After all, oil companies can only make money off of cars, not bikes.

During his campaign for Premier, Doug Ford made it obvious that environmental protection is not a priority. At one point, he proposed opening up Ontario’s protected green belt to developers, something he almost immediately flip-flopped on due to public backlash. That is a disturbing look into Ford’s mind and priorities: profit over sustainability. Of course, there was also the usual rhetoric about slashing gas prices, which is to be expected of Ford and the PC Party. The right wing refuses to give up their fossil fuels. Ford was also outspoken about wanting to get rid of the cap and trade program that has provided companies a financial incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. Because preserving the earth for future generations is not a good enough reason. Add to this, his general lack of platform in the final days of his campaign especially regarding environmental policy.

Over two months have passed since Ford was sworn in as Premier of Ontario and he is already making big waves. He has scrapped the GreenOn initiative. The program was meant to encourage people with financial rebates to make their homes more environmentally friendly. Gone already is the cap and trade program. Even though his actions do imply he is waging a war against green initiatives, there is hope and progress. The Trudeau government, which is dedicated to green causes, has poured money into research aimed to understand and mitigate climate change. This includes monitoring and protecting the oceans and creating greener technologies. So even though the Ontario government has taken steps backwards, the federal government is light years ahead of the previous Conservative government.

Even though the new provincial government is a far cry from what an environmentally conscious person would want in power, private citizens can make their voice heard keeping the public discussion open on social media channels and contributing to the reduction of carbon footprint. Driving a car in Toronto is already an unpleasant experience; therefore, it’s much easier to take the TTC or ride a bike. Just imagine every time you take your bike or the public transit you are sticking it to Doug Ford. Every time the premier slashes another green policy or implements a destructive one, citizens have to respond and take advantage of the fact that Canada is a country where the people can express their views. When the government fails to provide and protect, it falls onto the citizens to enact positive change.

Save money green your home

Written by: Bilal Khan

As a sub-urban resident of greater Toronto area, I enjoyed the house that my partner and I bought a couple years ago. Moving from our small downtown apartment to a spacious detached house gave us the opportunity to break away from the “newly graduate and freshly employed” lifestyle. We had ample space to host and entertain people, and space where I could slip into a study area to concentrate on a private project. All this freedom was about to come to a staggering halt the moment we found out that we were expecting our first child. The study room that I had fallen in love with so much now began to feel distant as the thought of it being converted into a nursery haunted my nights. We were forced to ask our selves the question, where do we see our family in 5 – 10 years? Do we relocate to a larger house, or renovate our existing place?

Should we go or should we stay?

Relocating would give us room to expand our lives to accommodate our growing family. But it would also mean adding more transit time to work, relocating to a new and uncharted neighbourhood, moving away from friends and family. As I saw our priorities change from entertaining and hosting friends to more family time, relocating would completely isolate us from our friends, our support system that we had grown to rely on so much. Renovating became the logical choice.

Of course, anyone who has had the experience of renovating their house would tell you that it can be a costly venture, especially when you are aiming to live in that house for a very long time. We knew that in thinking of longevity, it meant buying quality materials that are durable, sustainable, and maintainable as the house is passed on from one generation to the next.

Greening your home? Don’t do it alone!

Luckily, the government of Ontario has recently introduced rebates and grants for homeowners opting for sustainable material choices for their renovation projects. These incentives can be used to upgrade your home to be more durable and energy efficient, to save money on your utility bills and household maintenance long-term; in other words, to make your home more sustainable. The program includes rebates for heating and air conditioning systems, windows, insulation, and electrical applications to name a few.   

So say if you live in a old house and often wonder why its cold in the living spaces even though the heating is really cranked up, that’s because it is mostly likely that the exterior walls and windows are leaky and/or uninsulated, allowing, allowing heat in the house to rapidly escape. This is not sustainable!   

Since this was going to be our forever home, at least for the foreseeable future, I realized that these government rebates and grants would take away some financial burden upfront, but in the long run also affect the colossal energy bills that we as a household were paying annually.

Find your incentive

Rebates can be assessed through the Green Ontario Fund, which is a not-for-profit provincial agency tasked with reducing greenhouse gas pollution in buildings and industry to help meet Ontario’s emission reduction targets. So by making a conscious decision of insulating my home and replacing the old windows with high performance one’s, I was not only having a positive impact on my energy bill but also helping to meet Ontario’s emission reduction targets and helping us work toward a low-carbon future – something we all need to participate in.

I don’t have a little private study anymore. In fact, my privacy has totally been breached by a 2 month old, yet I feel fulfilled. I guess they are right when they say that a child brings a positive change in your life. I can certainly see that change on my energy bills.

 

Bilal Khan: Architectural Designer

Bilal is currently working at SUSTAINABLE.TO through an internship as part of the degree requirements for his Master of Architecture at Dalhousie University. His experience in the biomass industry and clean transportation has shaped his career towards thinking about sustainability as a system. Bilal is passionate about Urban Systems Design through architectural exploration and believes that the true value of design lies in improving individual and community lives through sustainable urban interventions.