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Green isn’t just a dream

The Ontario election is just days away and with so much up in the air there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to smart government leadership. Moderate voters looking for balanced leadership are wondering who to vote for.

 As I sit on the GO train heading back to Toronto, I’m reminded of all the transit work the Liberal government has done over the past decade. As a transit advocate I know that they did their best to build as much as possible. But Wynne let a lot of people down in Toronto when she refused to approve the tolls Mayor Tory’s council asked for.  Tolls that would have been dedicated to funding transit expansion and relieving some of the enormous debt burdening our province.

I spent the weekend carefully analysing all the platforms –  and the quality of the party leaders. My experience as a candidate opened my eyes to the control and power the leader has over the rest of the party. Don’t be fooled by those who suggest you can avoid the leader and vote for the local candidate – the leader has total control over what the party does in government.

As a long-time Liberal I was surprised to hear Wynne give a concession speech this weekend, and I wondered why she wasn’t fighting to the very end. I have to admit that she pushed me to look outside the party for other options.

Who can moderate liberals realistically vote for?

After checking the positions each party put forward I have to admit that I was impressed with the support of the relief line that the NDP have touted as well as the huge list of all the other transit they plan to support. But read through the entire platform and their ability to pay for all the items comes into question. There are literally hundreds of special initiatives the NDP promises to make, as if trying to give each and every voter something. With promises so extensive, delivering on them would be impossible, and the level of debt it could bring on is worrisome.  I admire Andrea Horwath. Her character and contribution to this province is without question, but I worry over the lack of fiscal accountability the NDP platform reflects.

Looking over the Conservative platform I also see a lot of promises without any clear explanation for funding them.  Add to this Ford’s suggestion of selling the Greenbelt – which could devalue house prices across the GTHA – with his retraction of this policy, and it’s obvious he has little understanding of economic forces.  Doug Ford has a somewhat shady history – who can forget the ease at which he lied publicly about his brother never touching drugs? He lacks integrity, and I worry he’ll make backroom deals that would threaten the open and just system of balanced government we have achieved in the last decade.

By chance I found a printed copy of the Green Party 2018 election platform left on a bench at the Burlington GO train station. I read through every page and found it both a smart and a balanced platform that doesn’t over promise, and has a clear and concise explanation of how their initiatives would be paid for.

The Greens are the only party openly willing to consider using tolls or congestion charges to create dedicated transit funding. As well, Green Party leader Mike Schreiner told me that the relief line is their top Toronto priority.  I’ve known Schreiner for years. He’s consistent, steady, smart and dedicated.  Just the sort of leader Ontario so desperately needs. Anyone who has done their research will note that the Green party also has some of the best local community candidates in the province.

The Green party platform points out the serious transit issues that commuters have, with the average daily commute in the GTHA sitting at 80 minutes (equivalent to eight 40-hour work weeks each year).  Gridlock costs the economy $11.5 billion in lost productivity and congestion delays in trucking cost Canada $650 million per year.  The Greens plan to invest $1 to $1.5 billion per year and fund 50% of the operating costs of municipal transit systems – which would be a huge relief on our local municipalities – and they plan to pay for it all by implementing revenue tools such as congestion charges, parking levies and land value taxes, which will raise over $3.9 billion per year.

With so many people wondering who to vote for in this election I’m guessing the Green party may well get a surge of support – if they can get their platform out to voters in time. Their 2018 platform is one of the best I’ve evaluated. They will provide grants and interest-free loans to help homeowners, renters and businesses invest in energy conservation. And even better, they will pay for it by closing the Pickering Nuclear station and replacing it with the much lower cost of water power from Quebec which will save $1.1 billion per year!Ontario needs smart leadership and the vast majority in the middle need a party that can represent them. The Green party has put forward a well-balanced platform, they have a reliable smart leader in Mike Schreiner, and when combined with the excellent local candidates (52% are women) representing them, they are an excellent option for those in the middle who want an open and balanced government.  

Liberals have lost their chance of winning and the only hope for moderate voters is to go Green. It is time for Ontario residents to stop thinking that the Green Party will never get elected and start thinking about what Ontario could achieve if they did.

EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

GTA Electric buses set for 2019 launch

Everyday I see the signs of global warming and climate change. The extended cold weather this season, and the record breaking hurricanes last fall  have me wanting to do my part to try to reverse these effects. In the day-to -day hustle it’s easy to ignore the environment and forget to conserve water and electricity. It’s easy to leave the car idling in frigid weather or forget to recycle a coffee cup- believe me, I am guilty of all of the above.

The Ontario government is planning to do more to reduce greenhouse emissions produced by municipal transit systems in the GTA.  A new pilot program will be launched to test electric battery-powered buses in Brampton and the York Region.

The program is part of the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan, and is funded by proceeds from the cap on pollution and carbon market.

Steven Del Duca, minister of Economic Development and Growth, was in Newmarket earlier this week, to make the announcement:

“Our investment in York Region and Brampton demonstrates how we are helping our municipal transit systems reduce their carbon footprint. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles is one of the most important actions we can take to fight climate change.”

The province is investing $13 million and purchasing 14 electric buses and four charging stations for the York and Brampton transit systems. The projects will be coordinated by the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortum – a green transportation group.

Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the benefits of the new initiative:

“Investing in municipal electric buses will help us significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution from transportation, a sector that contributes more than one-third of the province’s emissions. Buses are an energy efficient way to move a large number of people. Making them an even cleaner option is a great example of how our carbon market and Climate Change Action Plan are investing in innovative actions to move us towards a healthier, low-carbon future.”

Service of the new electric buses will begin in 2019. It’s wonderful that the Liberals are determined to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 37% as of 2030 and 80% before 2050. The commitment to improving  quality of life and the health of the planet must be made by everyone.

Facebook: a politician’s best friend

Gone are the days when Facebook was simply used to reconnect with old pals and to stay updated.  I’ll admit that sometimes I do still get sidetracked scrolling through old photos , but the platform functions have certainly changed.

The social platform is about far more than staying in touch with friends and creeping on old flames. Many businesses use it to promote their products and services. When poll time rolls around, politicians turn to Facebook to build their following.

Ontario residents are preparing to cast ballots in  the provincial election this year, and as June 7th approaches, many politicians are relying on Facebook, by posting ads that cater to individual interests of voters.

The platform now allows campaigns to micro-target voters based on age, location, interests, gender and political positions. This tactic is helpful to  parties because it targets a more widespread audience.

Facebook stores such a massive amount of data that outlines users’ interests and the new techniques used by politicians to capitalize on it. It’s for this reason that one person might see an ad from a political party about slashing taxes, and someone else, might see an ad from the same party focusing on health care.

Although political ads on Facebook were used by Canadian parties for a number of years, it is the variation and intricate targeting that has now reached a new level. The ads are much more sophisticated.

They are not only far-reaching, but are also extremely low in cost, which makes it an even more effective campaigning tool for politicians.

 I do find the pooling of information worrisome, especially after the Cambridge Analytica issue that brought Zuckerberg to a formal inquiry. The Cambridge firm had access to  private information of more than 600,000 Canadians, and over 80 million Facebook users globally while execs of the social media platform sat on the information knowingly until outed by a whistleblower.

I  am not a fan of the platform currently, because the ads and sponsored posts that are meant to target my interests, seem to have taken over my homepage. I miss the days when Facebook was for catching up and daydreaming over my friends’ travel photos and becoming nostalgic over relatives’ family photos. But the business and entrepreneurial  side of me gets it.

Toronto transit receives massive funds infusion totaling nearly $9 billion

By Jessica Ashley Merkley

Let’s be honest, it’s clear that the Toronto transit system is due for an overhaul. I, like many out there, am faced on the daily with the somewhat archaic city transit system that can certainly do with an upgrade.

Perhaps the delays and technical issues that cause frustrations quite regularly to commuters, will be a thing of the past, all thanks to a massive infusion of funds granted to Toronto transit by both the federal and provincial government, this week.

It was announced yesterday that Toronto transit will be receiving a massive boost from the federal government to be put to use over the next decade. The provincial government has also stepped up and nearly matched the amount given by the federal government.

It is now confirmed that the federal government has allotted $5 billion to the city of Toronto’s transit system. Additionally, the provincial government has matched this amount, allotting over $4 billion for various projects that are in the plans for the city’s transit infrastructure.

During a press conference that was held in Mississauga on Wednesday, the infrastructure ministers on both the federal and provincial level, joined forces and announced the signing of a bilateral agreement, which will see nearly $12 billion of federal funds used across Ontario for public transit, various community projects and environmental green infrastructure throughout the next ten years.

Of the near-$12 billion, Toronto is set to receive over half of the funds which have been allocated for Ontario transit- a figure that is roughly $8.5 billion. This infusion of money will allow the city to pay 40 per cent of the cost for slated transit projects.

It’s certainly refreshing to witness two levels of government joining forces to achieve a common goal. Ontario Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli, also holds the same opinion on this as I, stating “I often say that the people of Ontario are best served when all levels of government work together,” while at the press conference on Wednesday.

As to the reasons why Toronto was allocated such a massive sum compared to other regions of the province, Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi explained:

“The city of Toronto is getting a significant amount of money, Toronto’s ridership is larger and we want the resources to go where the resources are needed.”

The specific plans for how the funds allocated to Toronto transit will be used, have yet to be determined fully, however, the financial boost is sure to bring massive improvements to Toronto transit over the years.

Metrolinx 2041 Rapid Transit Plan Approved: future looking bright for connectivity across GTA and beyond

By Jessica Ashley Merkley

Metrolinx, an agency created to improve modes of transportation in the GTA as well as the Hamilton Area, has now revealed their ambitious and detailed plan that will be ongoing, with a set date of completion for 2041.

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) was revealed this past week and is one of great ambition seeing as it is slated to involve 100 projects that will, in the end, result in better connectivity across the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding regions. The agency, which falls under the Government of Ontario’s Metrolinx Act of 2006, was created as a means to ease congestion on roadways and to offer alternative options to commuters.

Phil Verster, CEO of Metrolinx, spoke to the board about the importance of this plan’s approval, on March 8, 2018.

“This is a very important day,” Verster said. “It shows what good looks like.”

The RTP for 2041 was developed as a continuation of the initial plan and its success, termed “The Big Move.” Released in 2008, this first plan was the catapult to a $30 billion investment in rapid transit and resulted in a total of nine project completions of transit initiatives and projects. These include, Davis Drive BRT, the Mississauga Transit-way, running from Winston Churchill Boulevard and Renforth Drive, the Highway 7 bus rapid transit, running between Yonge Street and Unionville GO Station, in addition to the UP Express between Union Station and Pearson Airport.

The outline of the RTP’s focus first deals with the completion of current rapid transit projects, such as those scheduled for completion based on “The Big Move.”  The plan considers such projects “in development,” and developers are keen to first finalize these.

Additionally, the RTP is set on connecting a larger portion of the region with rapid transit. The GO RER, and subway lines are slated to be the backbone to those in the works and the intended network will bring connectivity to regional destinations, such as popular urban areas and high-density places of employment. This will be achieved by way of a light rail transit system, in addition to bus rapid transit lines (BRT), as well as express bus services offered more frequently and giving priority to those who need the services most.

Metrolinx’s RTP plan is also meant as a means to get the most optimal use out of the current transportation system by interconnecting the various options of transit by also offering the same cost and integrating the fares to passengers. Improving the ease with which commuters find their final destination from terminal and stations, by making stations more accessible for cycling, walking,  pick-up and drop-off, in addition to carpooling, also makes its way into this section of the RTP.

The plan intends to gain the backing of municipalities to work on a unified front and optimize land-use, as well as transportation. In addition, the RTP allows for alterations to the set outlook, for what is termed an “uncertain future.”

Transportation and connectivity for commuters is to be improved vastly due to  these set plans, over the upcoming decades.

http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/rtp/

Woman of the Week: Leslie Woo

Leslie Woo, Metrolinx’s Chief Planning Officer, approaches everything with curiosity. With an extensive background in both the private and the public sector, Woo is the kind of person who will move to a new position to fill an education gap and learn how everything connects. She calls it design or systematic thinking, something she acquired through her architectural background.

“Every time I twisted and turned in my career, it was because fundamentally, in my work, I identify something that drives me to solve some other underlying problem somewhere else,” she said.

Woo grew up in Trinidad with a middle class family surrounded by poverty, something she says is one of the reasons why she went into architecture and urban planning — to give back to the community. Architecture, Woo said, is an “interesting bridge between community and planning.” Her mother, who was interested in interior design, encouraged Woo in her love of math, art, and language, leading to a study abroad in in Canada.

When she arrived in this country, she found a hostile climate and a foreign landscape. Even the language was difficult, as she had a thick accent. But, Woo pushed through the culture shock, falling in love with environmental studies and city building.

“In reflection, everything in my life and career is about creating roots and being grounded and establishing a place for myself and for my kids and family,” she said. “This interest in urbanity and quality of space and access, that’s where it comes from.”

Woo’s career is extensive. Prior to joining Metrolinx, she worked with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust as well as Waterfront Revitalization, helped shape the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan with the Ontario Growth Secretariat, and acted as strategic policy director for the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities.

At Metrolinx, Woo developed a large and expanding portfolio. She is responsible for the long-term vision of the provincial transit agency, based on The Big Move, a vast plan to create one of the “largest and fastest-growing urban regions in North America.” She is responsible for $31 billion worth of capital public investments and drives corporate sustainability and innovation.

“I don’t know that I have a love for transit planning to be honest,” she said. “I have a love for city building, and you can’t build a city without mobility. This job has changed three, four times as the organization has grown, as we have continuously demonstrated our capabilities and our expertise, and we have been rewarded to be a larger contributor to the success of the region. That energizes me. Transportation planning is part of the puzzle I have spent the last 10 years trying to solve.”

She is currently leading the 2041 Regional Transportation Plan, which will build on the foundations created between 2008 and 2018, and help create a fully integrated transportation system across the province. Woo says her biggest challenge was to separate herself from the original Big Move plan and take an objective view, focusing on fresh ideas. The first round of consultations has just finished.

“The people using the system, municipalities and public, they have real insights that are important,” she said. “Now we are focused on the ‘how’ – we feel like what we’ve got is a strong validation of the ‘what’ – the direction, the vision. The ‘how’ is about who is making the decisions, how will you prioritize, how will you develop the evidence, where is the money going to come from, what is the role of municipalities?”

In addition to her work, Woo is deeply interested in mentoring and building up women. She said she was blinded about the gender divide in her early career, as a woman from a matriarchal family. But then, she took part in The Judy Project, an executive program within the Rotman School of Management in Toronto that helps prepare women for executive and CEO positions. The program really opened her eyes to the challenges women face in business.

For example, she said data showed that when someone was meeting a woman for the first time, they judged them 60 per cent on how they looked, 30 per cent on how they sounded in terms of their voice, and only a small percentage of what they actually said. “That for me was disturbing but really helpful in how I speak with other women,” Woo said. “It’s a great time to be a woman right now, but it is going much to slow.”

She continued her development at Harvard through a custom designed leadership program. As part of this fellowship, she founded She Builds Cities, a website where she showcases female city builders, people she has admires within the profession. She also leads Metrolinx’s network for women in management, which includes a mentorship program.

“I have formally and informally mentored younger women, older women, I have been mentored myself – I’ve been reversed mentored by younger women, which is refreshing,” she said. “Coaching, sponsoring, those are all things that are important. In my career, I had many mentors…men and women!”

Woo celebrated her 10-year anniversary at Metrolinx this week.

 

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Doug Ford: King of cover up

Today, the worst candidate I can think of for leadership of the Ontario PC party – Doug Ford – has announced he is running. And I realize now why he didn’t come rushing to Patrick Brown’s side to defend him. Doug Ford is an overly ambitious man who would use his brother’s coffin to vault himself into the limelight.  Harsh words, but never have any truer words been written about the man.

Let me tell you about some of the secrets I’ve learned that happened in 2013, when I came out on Mayor Rob Ford’s drug induced grope.  Apparently, when the news hit social media, Doug Ford immediately started making phone calls to his “buddies” in the press. His strategy was to control and manipulate public opinion. He fed the press questions that cast doubt on me, he pulled the shadiest councillors he could find (from Vaughn) to twist the narrative, and finally he went on the Fords Newstalk 1010 radio show and made me out to be just another “crazy” woman.  Doug Ford knew that taking things out of context, and controlling the court of public opinion was the only way he could hide the truth. And for a while he managed to do it. 

But hiding the truth is a bit like trying to hold water in a broken bucket – it eventually leaks out. 

Doug succeeded in manipulating the public and hiding the truth about his brother and  his friends in the media made quick work of degrading me and making me out to be an opportunist.  They questioned my intentions and Newstalk 1010 in particular did some nasty public shaming. But that came to an end pretty quickly when the truth about Mayor Ford’s drug use finally came out.  That was when Doug Ford began claiming that he didn’t know anything about his brother’s drug use. By then most of the media realized they’d been used as his pawns. The Ford’s show on Newstalk1010 was cancelled and their power over the media went spiralling.  

When I learned about Mayor Ford’s drug dependency and the demons he was fighting, I forgave the Mayor. But I will never forgive Doug Ford for using his position of power to influence the media to demean and humiliate me.  I wonder how many women will actually support a man who demonstrated that he didn’t care about sexual assault, or that his brother was a drug addict?

I’ve always believed that Doug Ford’s lies put more stress on his brother than the truth ever did. Instead of encouraging the Mayor to tell the truth, I wonder if Doug counselled him to deny it?  When I think of the weeks that Mayor Ford had to carry the lie, and the pressure it must have put on him, I don’t understand how Doug couldn’t see what it was doing to him.

And make no mistake, there was a cost. Mayor Ford paid it. I paid it. But Doug Ford walked away relatively unscathed.  It is men like Doug Ford, men who abuse their power to twist and distort the truth, who need to be held accountable. He is a man so desperate for power he’s now decided that instead of running for mayor of Toronto, he’ll run for leadership of the Ontario PC party. 

The #MeToo campaign and #TimesUp campaign are a sign the world is changing, and women are no longer staying silent about corrupt men who abuse their power. It won’t be an easy road for men like Doug Ford.

Doug Ford is an example of a man who worked to hide sexual assault, drug use, and anything that might hinder his future ambitions. The world he once thrived in is changing and women are coming together to speak out.  Here at the Women’s Post we encourage women to step forward. To tell their story. If you have suffered, like I did, from the actions of Doug Ford please reach out to me. Let’s talk. Your identity will be protected.  

Ontario PCs elect Victor Fedeli as interim leader

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party elected their interim leader Friday — Victor Fedeli, MPP for Nipissing, former mayor of North Bay, and the party’s finance critic.

The choice is a bit disappointing.

When former leader Patrick Brown resigned, Women’s Post called for the Ontario PC party to elect a woman to replace him.  The publisher recommended Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney, or Jennifer Keesmaat — three capable women with vast experience in politics.

Instead, the party chose a 61-year-old white man. Can you see why I’m disappointed? The party had a real opportunity to change, to make the face of the PC party one that doesn’t make Ontarians think of an old patriarchal political system. It also would have marked one of the first time all three party leaders were female, a milestone that would have been celebrated by the media.

Of course, Fedeli is only interim leader. The PC party still has an opportunity to make the right decision and elect someone who will unite Ontarians and work towards creating a more equal, just society representative of the diverse citizenry within it. But with an election approaching in the next six months, will there be enough time to unify this province?

It’s unclear whether or not Fedeli will remain interim leader until the June 6th election. Either way, I’m not sure the PCs have much of a chance come election day.