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Who’s promising what for the relief line?

Toronto Mayor John Tory knows what the city needs and is not afraid to fight for it. Tuesday, in what may be a last desperate attempt to prove to the current provincial government he is not to be trifled with, Tory announced that he would remove his support for the Yonge North Subway Extension unless Ontario provided more funds for the relief line.

The Ontario government has informed the City of Toronto that they will be implementing a budget freeze, which means no new money will come in for this important project. Over the last few weeks, Tory has been meeting with other party leaders to see what they will be offering the city in terms of transit and infrastructure. Here is the rundown:

Liberals

Ontario’s 2017-18 budget indicates the province will continue to “support for the planning of the Downtown Relief Line in Toronto”, but no further funding was made available. Currently, Ontario has offered $150 million for the planning of this integral transit project.

Instead, the province is standing firm in their contributions via the gas tax program, which promises to double the municipal shares from two to four cents per litre by 2021.

Toronto Mayor John Tory may not have been given the right to toll the DVP and Gardiner Expressway, but the provincial government has permitted the city to implement a levy on “transient accommodations”. This will allow Toronto to tax hotels and short-term accommodations in order to generate much-needed revenue for infrastructure in the city.

Conservatives

Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, met with Mayor Tory at the beginning of May to outline further promises for social housing and funding for Toronto Community Housing Corporation— something the Liberal government did not allot money for in this year’s budget. The promises made included allowing TCHC to purchase natural gas independently instead of bulk buying from the Housing Services Corporation. The idea is that TCHC will be able to save money be negotiating better prices on natural gas. The city estimates savings of about $6.3 million.

Other inclusions in the PC plan: financial support of the Scarborough subway (actual contribution unknown), supporting TTC fares on SmartTrack RER, and pledged to intervene so that Bombardier trains for the Eglinton Crosstown arrive on time.

The Yonge Relief Line was not mentioned at all in the statement released following the meeting. It should also be noted that during the provincial budget release, Brown said he was not in favour of tolls or short-term accommodation levys.

NDP

Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP Party, was the latest major politician to meet with Tory. She promised to provide one third of the repair costs for social housing if elected.

In a press release passed out to journalists following the Liberal budget, Horwath also announced the party would enter into a 50 per cent funding agreement with municipal partners to help pay for transit operating costs.

Horwath has not ruled out the use of tolls or short-term accommodation levies; although she has not said she has not clarified if she would implement such revenue tools.

Green Party

The Green Party is all for the use of tolls (dynamic tolling) and congestion charges, in addition to uploading the cost of maintaining and operating the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway back to the province.

The money collected from these tolls would be dedicated to transit, ensuring that those who choose to use alternative modes of transportation are able to use a modern and well-maintained system. This would also free up a couple billion dollars worth of funding the City of Toronto could use to build better transit infrastructure and maintain other roads within the city.

Tory threatens to stop Yonge extension until relief line funded

Toronto Mayor John Tory has threatened to remove his support of the Yonge North Subway Extension unless the province agrees to provide funding to help construct the relief line.

This announcement was made following a report that was released for approval by the Executive Committee on both transit projects, seeking approval for the alignment and design/planning stages. This new report also included the cost estimate for the relief line — $6.8 billion for the construction of the first phase of the project. There is little doubt the cost will continue to rise as the design of the line continues.

As of now, there is no dedicating funding from the federal or provincial government for the relief line. The Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, has promised $150 million for the planning of the project, but that’s it. According to a press statement released by the minister, the province has also notified city officials of a budget freeze in 2018,” which would leave no room for funding either of these projects at the municipal level.”

Del Duca doesn’t see this as a problem. “We’ve been at the table right at the start for both of these projects, by contributing $150-million to the Relief Line planning and design work, nearly three times the amount the City has committed, and $55 million towards the same work on Yonge North,” he said in the statement. “However, Mayor Tory just can’t take yes for an answer.”

What Del Duca fails to realize is that $150 million for the planning of the project will do nothing to help move the relief line along. It’s small change for a project as large as this. By 2031, the Yonge Line (Line 1) will be at capacity, unable to carry new riders. It’s important to remember the development of SmartTrack will not offer relief to Line 1. The many transit extensions being built prior to the relief line will actually drive traffic towards this central line, increasing capacity until it’s no longer feasible to operate.

That’s why Tory said at a press conference that he would not support the development of the Yonge North Subway Extension until the province changes their mind on funding this important project. The extension is a project supported by many Liberal candidates in the York region.

“We might have to consider just diverting our resources to other work,” he said to reporters. “If we are uncertain that the relief line will be funded or not, then why would we be devoting our time working on the Yonge Street North Extension because the two are very much interconnected.”

Tory emphasized that without provincial or federal funding, there is no way the City of Toronto can afford to build this critical subway line.

The new relief line, if approved by city council, will travel down Carlaw between Gerrard St. and Eastern. The next phase of the work will be to accelerate the planning and design of the southern part of the line, including developing the next budget estimates.

Who will win Toronto’s votes?

Monday saw a battle to woo voters, with representatives from both the Conservative and Liberal Party of Ontario in Toronto to discuss their plans for housing and transit in the city.

After receiving little support in the provincial budget last week, Mayor John Tory sat down with Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown Monday morning to discuss funding for social housing and SmartTrack.

The meeting itself was behind closed doors, but the media was given a press release following the exchange indicating PC promises to Toronto if elected into power in 2018. This included allowing Toronto Community Housing to purchase natural gas independently instead of bulk buying from the Housing Services Corporation. The idea is that TCHC will be able to save money be negotiating better prices on natural gas. The city estimates savings of about $6.3 million.

Other inclusions in the PC plan: financial support of the Scarborough subway (actual contribution unknown), supporting TTC fares on SmartTrack RER, and pledged to intervene so that Bombardier trains for the Eglinton Crosstown arrive on time.

The Yonge Relief Line, the project every transit and city building agency has indicated as its priority, was not mentioned in the statement. There was also no mention of allowing municipal sources of revenue such as tolls and short-term accommodation taxes — which makes sense considering Brown made it clear during the budget lockup that the Conservative Party was against both sources of revenue.

At the same time this statement was released, the Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca took questions from reporters in Etobicoke. In it, he re-stated that the Ontario Liberals are big supporters of Toronto and “no one was invested more than them” in the city.

The Liberal Party has only promised $105 million for the planning of the relief line.

Honestly, at this moment in time, it doesn’t seem like Toronto will win with either party. There is still no promise for further funding for social housing or important transit initiatives like the relief line — two things that are critical to the growth and survival of Toronto.

I wonder if the mayor is planning on speaking with the New Democratic Party to find out their views? During the budget lockup, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she was committed “to a 50 per cent funding agreement along with its municipal partners” to help in operating costs for transit. It would be interesting to see what her commitment was to Golden Horseshoe Area.

It’s the perfect time to light a fire under Queen’s Park for more transit and housing — and Tory knows it. It’s about negotiating the best deal as soon as possible, because it’s all about the votes at the end of the day.

2017 budget highlights include health care, no new transit

Thursday, the Ontario Liberal government put forward the first balanced budget in the last decade.

“This budget is fiscally responsible,” Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa said to reporters in budget lockup, prior to the Throne Speech. “Balancing the budget allows us to make these important investments — investments that have real meaningful impacts in people’s lives.”

The 2017 Ontario Budget, entitled A Stronger, Healthier Ontario, is meant to spearhead a balanced budget for the next three years. The document focuses greatly on health care and education, while investing less in infrastructure and transit. There are some special tidbits for families, including a 35 per cent reduction on hydro bills for eligible households, free prescription medication for children and young adults, and funding for work-related opportunities through a new Career Kick-Start Strategy.

Sousa was adamant the budget did not have anything to do with the impending provincial election.

“Our message for the people of Ontario is that we, together, have balanced the budget, have taken the precautions of assumed growth, and now we are taking the necessary steps moving forward,” he said. “We want to be competitive long term. These decisions we make today are not based on election times. They are based on long-term benefit for the people of Ontario.”

It’s important to note that despite the balanced budget, there still exists a projected total debt of $332.4 billion as of March 31, 2017.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2017 provincial budget:

Health care

The biggest announcements in the 2017 Ontario Budget was the Child and Youth Pharmacare benefit program, which will provide free prescription medications for everyone ages 24 and under — also called OHIP Plus. The coverage includes rare disease medications, cancer drugs, medication for diabetes, asthma, mental health, HIV, and birth control. The new OHIP program will be effective as of Jan. 1, 2018.

The cost of this program, which was left out of the budgetary documents and press releases, is $465 million annually.

Ontario will also expand access to safe abortion by providing publicly funding the new abortion pill Mifegymiso.

Other investments include:

  • $9 billion over 10 years to support construction of new “hospital projects” across the province
  • $518 million to provide a three per cent to help decrease wait times and maintain elective surgeries, among other hospital services.
  • $15 million for primary care and OHIP-funded non-physician specialized health services
  • $74 million over three years for mental health services, including supportive housing units and structures psychotherapy

Transportation

The provincial government, while making significant investments in health care and education, chose to maintain investments on pre-existing projects rather then provide new funding for further transit networks like the downtown relief line.

In addition to the province’s continual $190 billion investment over a 13-year period, which started in 2014, Ontario is investing an additional $56 billion in public transportation for the GO Network and other pre-existing infrastructure projects like the Eglinton Crosstown, Hamilton Rapid Transit, and the Mississauga Transitway.

The budget indicates the province will continue to “support for the planning of the Downtown Relief Line in Toronto”, but no further funding was made available. Currently, Ontario has offered $150 million for the planning of this integral transit project.

Instead, the province is standing firm in their contributions via the gas tax program, which promises to double the municipal shares from two to four cents per litre by 2021.

Other transit projects receiving funding include:

  • $1 billion for the second stage of the Ottawa LRT
  • $43 million for proposed transit hub in downtown Kitchener, which will connect to GO and Via Rail.

Housing

The province introduced their Fair Housing Plan, which is meant to help increase affordability for buyers and renters. The cost of housing has increased up to 33.2 per cent since 2016. Ontario has proposed a non-resident speculation tax to help cool the market. This will be a 15 per cent tax on the price of homes for non-Canadians, non-permanent residents, and foreign corporations. If passed, this tax would be effective as of April 21, 2017. Ontario has also committed to improving rent control in Ontario to include units occupied on or after Nov. 1, 1991.

Toronto Mayor John Tory may not have been given the right to toll the DVP and Gardiner Expressway, but the provincial government has permitted the city to implement a levy on “transient accommodations”. This will allow Toronto to tax hotels and short-term accommodations in order to generate much-needed revenue for infrastructure in the city.

The authority to implement such a tax will also be extended to all “single-tier and lower-tier municipalities”, with the understanding that 50 per cent of the funds accumulated from the levy be given to the municipality’s regional tourism organization.

An amendment to the City of Toronto Act will have to be approved before such a levy becomes a reality.

Other investments include:

  • $200 million over three years to improve access for up to 6,000 families and individuals to housing assistance and services
  • $125 million over five years for multi-residential rebates to help encourage development
  • $70-100 million for a pilot project throughout GTHA to leverage land assets to build affordable housing
  • Proposed amendment of legislation that would grant Toronto authority to add a levy to property tax on vacant homes.
  • Frozen municipal property taxes for multi-residential properties where taxes are high

Child Care

Ontario will support an access to licensed childcare for an additional 24,000 children ages four and under. The $200 million in funding allotted to this project for 2017-18 includes a mix of subsidies and the creation of physical spaces for childcare.

In fall of 2016, Ontario spent $65.5 million to create 3,400 licensed childcare spaces.

Climate Change

This year’s budget didn’t put as much of an emphasis on the province’s environmental efforts. Through the cap and trade program, the government has accumulated $472 million in funding that must be re-invested into programs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This specific funding was from Ontario’s first carbon auction in March.

Through these auctions, Ontario expects to raise $1.8 billion in 2017-18 and then $1.4 billion annually following that year. Examples of where this money can be spent include promoting electric vehicles, modernizing transit, preserving lands, enhancing research, and Green Investment Fund initiatives.

Other investments include:

  • $377 million through the Green Ontario Fund to make it easier for households and businesses to adopt proven low-carbon technologies.
  • $200 million in funding for schools to improve energy efficiency and install renewable energy technologies
  • $85 million to support additional retrofits in social housing
  • $50 million in commuter cycling infrastructure like cycling lanes and barriers
  • $22 million in electric vehicle charging infrastructure

 

More to come.

Is the government scared of an informed youth?

*UPDATE: Since the publication of this piece, Women’s Post has been contacted by Paris Semansky, Senior policy advisor to Premier Kathleen Wynne, via Twitter. She insists the provincial government is not considering cancelling civics classes and will be keeping it as a distinct mandatory course in high school. Women’s Post will be keeping this piece online as it does represent an important discussion about youth involvement in politics, but note this update as you read.

 

“Today’s youth are too apathetic and lazy. They don’t care about politics. They don’t understand how their own government works.”

I’m a millennial, and despite my intense interest in the news, my teachers and political leaders often told me that I was not doing enough. My generation, they said, was too apathetic. They didn’t vote, they didn’t get involved, and they simply didn’t care. And whose fault is that, they would ask? Entirely yours, they would say.

It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated high school, and those statements are still thrown in the face of young people across the country. It’s not a politician’s fault they can’t engage with youth, right? These kids spend too much time on Snapchat and not enough time reading the newspaper, ect. ect.

But then, after all of the nagging and the finger pointing, the Ontario government has the gall to consider cancelling civic classes.

Civic class represent a mandatory half credit in Ontario high schools, and is paired with a half-credit “careers” course. It teaches the basics — how our government works, how to vote, and what people’s rights are as a Canadian citizen. The careers course, on the other hand, essentially teaches kids to write a resume and not to chew gum during a job interview.

These are two integral and important classes, classes that should not under any circumstance be dismissed. In fact, I would argue that each course should be a full credit. Kids should be taught how to budget, file their taxes, and negotiate a sale. They should be taught how to submit a deposition to city council, hold a legal protest, and where to find information on the bills being discussed in question period. They should be taken to see question period!

And yet media sources report that the provincial government is considering removing these critical classes from the high school curriculum. How much do you want to bed that they will still blame kids for not understanding how their own government works?

The province has a right to be scared. Civics is breeding a new generation of informed citizens, kids who understand that they don’t vote for a leader of a party, despite what every political campaign tells them. These kids understand that most promises are smoke screens for hidden agendas. They get it! They ask questions. They are skeptical!

And that’s a scary thought. All of a sudden, MPPs have to focus their political capital on a generation they previously ignored. They have to pretend to care. Their career could depend on the vote of a single 18-year-old entering university for the first time.

No wonder the province doesn’t want to invest in informed citizens. An informed citizen is dangerous to the entire political system. An informed citizen will vote, take part in the discussion, and advocate for change!

It’s much better to just knick that pesky habit before it even develops.

 

civics

Ontario cabinet now consists of 40% women

Monday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a cabinet shuffle that is meant to integrate some fresh perspective into the Liberal government. Seven new cabinet members were added, including five women.

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a federal cabinet consisting of equal parts women and men, provincial Liberal governments are under pressure to do the same. Ontario is now closer to that goal, with women making up 40 per cent of the cabinet and 50 per cent of the Priorities, Delivery and Growth Committee, which is responsible for steering Ontario’s economic plan.

Some of the highlights of the cabinet shuffle include: Deborah Matthews, who will be remaining Deputy Premier and who was also appointed the new responsibility of Minister for Digital Governance. Laura Albanese is now Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Indira Naidoo-Harris is Associate Minister of Finance.

Luckily, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, was given an opportunity to implement the climate change plan he spent the last year putting together. Other ministers who will be staying in the same position include Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance and Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation.

Strangely enough, Ted McMeekin’s position as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has been taken over by Bill Mauro, former Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. Last week, McMeekin made a statement saying that he would be stepping down from his position to make room for more women in the cabinet. Imagine my surprise when his job was instead given to a man.

There are a lot of qualified women on the roster. Here is a list of the new Ontario cabinet:

  • Kathleen Wynne: Premier and President of the Council Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • Deborah Matthews: Deputy Premier, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Cabinet Minister Responsible for Digital Government.
  • Michael Gravelle: Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
  • Brad Duguid: Minister of Economic Development and Growth.
  • Jeff Leal: Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  • David Orazietti: Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
  • Liz Sandals: President of the Treasury Board.
  • David Zimmer: Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
  • Michael Chan: Minister of International Trade.
  • Reza Moridi: Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.
  • Yasir Naqvi: Attorney General, Government House Leader.
  • Charles Sousa: Minister of Finance.
  • Eric Hoskins: Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.
  • Glen Murray: Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.
  • Bob Chiarelli: Minister of Infrastructure.
  • Michael Coteau: Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism.
  • Tracy MacCharles: Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, Minister Responsible for Accessibility.
  • Kevin Flynn: Minister of Labour.
  • William Mauro: Minister of Municipal Affairs.
  • Helena Jaczek: Minister of Community and Social Services.
  • Dipika Damerla: Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs.
  • Steven Del Duca: Minister of Transportation.
  • Mitzie Hunter: Minister of Education.
  • Laura Albanese: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
  • Christopher Ballard: Minister of Housing Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
  • Marie-France Lalonde: Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs.
  • Kathryn McGarry: Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
  • Eleanor McMahon: Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
  • Indira Naidoo-Harris: Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Retirement Pension Plan).
  • Glenn Thibeault: Minister of Energy.

What do you think of this new cabinet? Let us know in the comments below!

Minister steps down to help Ontario make gender parity pledge

A cabinet shuffle is on its way, and a certain Ontario MPP is standing aside to make room for a more gender-diverse leadership.

Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his position to make room for more women in the cabinet.

“I have three daughters, all confident and accomplished young women. With my wonderful wife, they are the joy of my life. Thinking of them, I’ve often dreamed of a day when the question of gender parity wouldn’t even arise, because it would just be taken for granted,” McMeekin wrote on his Facebook.

“But sometimes the best way for a man to advance the equality of women may be to step back and make room at the table. For me, this is such a time.”

While this may seem like a noble gesture, it’s likely that Minister McMeekin already knew there were a number of incredibly talented and well-credentialed women ready to take his place in the upcoming cabinet shuffle. It has long been rumoured that a cabinet shuffle will be announced after the legislature breaks for the summer (which is said to occur on Thursday), and it’s entirely plausible that MPPs were already given their notice. I doubt the Premier would have allowed him to say it if she didn’t know for certain the new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was going to be a woman.

Despite his good intentions, McMeekin has put himself in a strange position. It’s true that more positions of power should be opened up to women, but it’s a bit condescending for a man to say he stepped down to allow it. By phrasing it this way, it becomes less of an accomplishment for women, and more of a logistical issue to be rectified.

The provincial government has been under pressure to even out their cabinet after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted on a federal cabinet consisting of equal parts women and men. “Because it’s 2016,” he said in a mic-dropping speech after the announcement. This will be a greater challenge for the Ontario cabinet, which currently consists of eight women (including the Premier) and 19 men.

McMeekin’s announcement came the day before the Ontario government announced a target to help reduce the gender gap that exists within government agencies. By 2019, Ontario wants women to make up at least 40 per cent of all appointments to every provincial board and agency. A lofty, but not impossible, goal.

“Ontario is also encouraging businesses to, by the end of 2017, set a target of appointing 30 per cent women to their boards of directors. Once businesses set the target, they should aim to achieve it within three to five years,” a press release stated.

Wynne made the announcement in the presence of representatives from Catalyst Canada and UN Women, the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality, at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management Tuesday morning.

Hon. Minister Glen Murray deserves the spotlight

It seems like every week a new headline relating to climate change is gracing the front pages of the news.  Whether it’s the unruly weather or the destruction of a natural habitat, it seems like climate change is on everyone’s mind.

The Ontario government has made a number of promises to invest in green retrofits, electric vehicles, and renewable energy, and for that, Women’s Post salutes them. It’s impossible not to see the negative effects climate change is having on this planet, and it’s time for Canada, especially Ontario, to take action.

But all of these changes would not be possible without the leadership of one man — the Honourable Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray.

Minister Murray is enthusiastic, driven, and level-headed — something all politicians can’t claim. His extensive political career began in Winnipeg, where he acted as city councillor before becoming Mayor in 1998. It’s worth mentioning that he was the first openly-gay mayor of a large city in North America, which was a big deal at the time.

After moving to Toronto in 2010, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Since then, he has held the position of Minister of Research and Innovation, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure, and finally Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Minister Murray has thrived in each of these positions and has incorporated the sustainable practices he has learnt throughout his political career to push through impressive legislation. The minister was instrumental in the creation and adoption of the cap-and-trade regulations that passed through the legislature in mid-May. The policy will place a cap on carbon emissions and allow companies to sell or trade unused credits for profit. This will ultimately reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emitted from high-polluting industries. The government will be auctioning off a number of credits to companies that may have a hard time adjusting to the cap. In 2017, emission allowances are 142,332,000 tones, which will decrease over four years to 124,668,000 in 2020.

The program will take effect on July 1.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today,” Murray said after the cap-and-trade policy was revealed. “Ontario is doing its part to reduce harmful greenhouse gas pollution by putting in place a cap and trade program to limit emissions and invest in the kind of innovative solutions that will give our kids and grandkids the sustainable and prosperous legacy they deserve.”

Through the cap-and-trade regulations, Minister Murray has ensured $1.9 billion in additional revenue for the provincial government. This funding will be used to support future green initiatives.

In the next few weeks Murray will unveil the provincial government’s ultimate climate change plan, which promises to help Ontario households and businesses adopt low- and no-carbon energy in homes and the workplace. It also puts an emphasis on incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations. The climate change strategy is said to cost an average household about $13 a month, but is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

And these are only a few of Minister Glen Murray’s accomplishments, just from the past year!

Later this month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to do a major cabinet shuffle — and all Women’s Post can do is hope that Minister Murray is given the opportunity to expand on his vision. He has spearheaded a number of environmentally friendly and revenue building policies over the last year. What is needed now is the strength, determination, and tenacity to implement them — and Minister Murray has that in spades.

If Ontario wants to prove that it is serious about fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse emissions, Minister Murray has proven his ability to steer this through. The political arena doesn’t support a rising star and we can only hope his cabinet supports him to carry out his role as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. His consistent hard work, determination, and refusal to back down under pressure from private industries makes him the ideal candidate for the position.

Nothing comes of Ontario’s Equal Pay Day

Ontario’s Equal Pay Day came and went without much fuss.

Women working full-time in the province only earn about 73.5 cents to every dollar a man makes. And this is in 2016.

April 19 marked Equal Pay Day in Ontario — the day in which a woman’s yearly earnings will catch up to the average salary of a man. In essence, it takes four extra months of work for a woman to make the same as a man.

Despite the fact that half of Canada’s cabinet are women and that our Prime Minister self-identifies as a feminist, there hasn’t been much done to ensure equality in the workplace. Ontario’s gender gap continues to grow. It’s gotten to the point where women in the United States are making on average five cents more than women in Ontario.

What’s even more surprising was that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne did not make a speech or even release a statement about Equal Pay Day. Instead, a press release was sent out early Tuesday morning regarding the results of consultations conducted by Ontario’s Gender Wage Gap Steering Committee. The report was the product of 18 weeks of surveys and in-person conversation.

The women who participated in the consultation said they often felt as if they have to prove themselves in the workplace and that some fields, especially early childhood education, should be presented as a gender-equal profession. At the same time, schools should be encouraging women to get involved in STEM fields or skilled trades at a young age.

The press release also provided an overview of everything the Ontario government has done over the last year to help reduce this gender gap. Some of these initiatives include the following:

  • A regulation that requires company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange to report on their approach to increase the number of women in management positions.
  • Increase wages by $2 an hour (including benefits) for early childhood educators and child care professionals.
  • Increase hourly wages of personal support workers
  • Invest $120 million over three years for new licensed child care spaces in schools
  • Implementing a number of training programs for skilled trades, information technology, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.

These are all beneficial programs and regulations that will no doubt encourage more women to aim for managerial positions, but it isn’t nearly enough. Many of these regulations involve increasing wages of typically female jobs like child care worker or a personal support worker, instead of putting the onus on businesses to hire women in positions of power.

Regulations and programs are great, but a change in mentality is necessary to actually reduce the gender gap. How does this start? It begins by rewarding companies that hire using equal opportunity, encouraging more women to apply for managerial or board positions, and addressing the stigmas that are so obviously engrained in the hiring process.

Three years ago Ontario announced Equal Pay Day. It remains the only province to have done so. In a country that prides itself on equality, its shocking that more governments aren’t following suit and bringing awareness to the startling inequality that exists within the workplace.

Why not use tolls and fees to fund green projects?

Over the last few months, the City of Toronto and the Ontario government have made some amazing announcement focused on green energy, infrastructure, and public transportation. The most recent announcement was made Tuesday: the Ontario government released $750 million in funding (in the form of a green bond) for environmentally friendly, low-carbon infrastructure projects, the majority of which would be dedicated to transit in the GTHA.

These investments are a good thing. A great thing, even. This city and this province must invest in infrastructure and transit. But, where is this money coming from?

A green bond is a great tool to raise capital for projects with environmental benefits, but eventually the bond holders need to be paid back. Investors provide funds for these projects and the government guarantees a return for each investor. When asked by Women’s Post if there was a plan to pay back these investors, this was the response given:

“Ontario’s Green Bonds rank equally with Ontario’s other bonds,” a spokesperson for the Ontario Minister of Finance said in a written statement. “Payments of principal and interest will be a charge on and payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Ontario and not tied to the revenues of any particular projects.”

Luckily, the maturity date for the green bond is in 2023, which means that the government has time to educate the public on the need to come up with the revenue for these investments. And it will be interesting to see what forms of repayment they create.

Tolling — while under both the provincial and municipal responsibility depending on the road — would be an ideal form of revenue. Ontario is starting a pilot project in the summer that will allow single-occupancy vehicles to use the High-Occupancy Vehicle lane meant for carpooling. Vehicle owners will be able to purchase a permit and pay a toll for its usage. This is the first time a responsible government has risked their positions to do the right thing.  Toronto is a long way off, with only a handful of councillors willing to stand up for the revenue tools Toronto needs to pay for the capital projects the city has committed to.

The money collected from these tolls can be used to fund the  the relief subway line which will provide an alternate east-west route to the Gardiner. Council has to make the bold move to call for other user fees – tolls, carbon tax, parking increase – so that property owners won’t carry the full burden of our capital deficit.

Both the city and the province are trying to find money in the budget — which amounts to shuffling through the same insufficient funds that caused our infrastructure deficit.   Toronto councillors will need to show the bravery their province counterparts have demonstrated in committing to high occupancy toll lanes.  The obvious solution is to use existing green projects such as tolling, congestion fees, or even a carbon-tax , to fund infrastructure investments.

The biggest problem facing all levels of government is that most Canadians want the infrastructure but they don’t want to pay for it.   The province is doing an amazing job ensuring that transit and green infrastructure is built, but Canadians have to start doing our part.

Let’s support the use of tolls, congestion fees, carbon taxes – whatever our council might bravely suggest — and start investing in Toronto’s long-term future.