Press Release – Ari Goldkind’s Environment Plan: Helping Toronto Breathe Easier

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TORONTO – OCTOBER 16, 2014 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind today unveiled the first phase of his comprehensive strategy to return Toronto to its place as a world leader in environmental policy. Entitled “The Thriving Toronto”, this phase of Goldkind’s plan addresses big-picture issues facing a fast-growing city on a fast-changing planet.

“The environment is about so much more than green space, clean air and water, and recycling,” says Goldkind, who describes his policy as being centred on three key notions:

  • First, that the environment is about the space the city occupies as a whole, both in-and-of itself and as part of a larger interconnected region, province, nation and planet. It’s about the smaller spaces that make up the greater city, the relationship between people, plants and animals that live in that space, how we all live in that space.
  • Second, that the environment needs to be integrated into almost every policy discussion, because treating the environment in that context makes for an exponentially healthier and wealthier city of Toronto.
  • Third, there is a need to engage experts to help us get where we want and need to be, because they know these related issues far better than any politician does.

Goldkind points a finger at litter

“In many parts of the city, especially lower-income neighbourhoods, the first thing kids see when they leave their home is litter all over the streets. Kids are impressionable, so they learn to think that’s okay, and they fundamentally lose respect for their natural surroundings.” To that end, Goldkind states his first environmental initiatives as mayor will be to:

  • Institute a zero-tolerance policy for littering by sanitation workers who often leave litter strewn all over the streets when automatic refuse loaders miss their mark
  • Engage Toronto District School Board to get kids spending a half hour of their time every week on litter patrol, which will count towards their volunteering/community service requirement and enhance lifelong respect for their own surroundings.
  • Taking better care of our parks and ravines. From ensuring that litter is picked up or bins don’t overflow, so that we are proud of our parks and their state of repair.
  • Actually having the conversation of whether smoking should continue to be allowed on public property such as sidewalks, and ensuring that our city’s streets and parks don’t continue to be receptacles for cigarette butts.

Goldkind states he would also look closely at the efficiency of private versus public garbage pickup to determine which best suits the city, both financially and environmentally. He would examine the progress made by other administrations, such as the citizen-engaged Green Jobs Corps in New York City.

Reduce, reuse … reduce and reuse some more … THEN recycle

Goldkind finds the liberal use of prime farmland as landfill as unacceptable. “David Miller had Toronto working towards a 70% target of landfill avoidance,” he states. “Getting us back on that path is my priority, and the biggest part of that goal is ensuring that all new developments are green-bin ready which many newer buildings still are not; while progress has been made, there are many high-rise buildings that aren’t served by the green bin program.  I would work to ensure compliance for all existing buildings that do not yet have green-bin recycling.”

$5/day congestion pricing for roads and highways

“Cars idling bumper-to-bumper on our highways and congested arterial roads poison our air,” Goldkind states. “They are one of the single biggest causes of pollution. Congestion costs the city billions every year in lost productivity, and billions more in quality-of-life costs to people who drive.” He cites London, England as an example of a city that charges a congestion fee of close to $20 per day to drive in the city core between 7am and 6pm.  “Paying for the use of roads is a simple exercise in basic economic reality, supply and demand,” Goldkind states. “People have been overusing roads because they are essentially free to use. Charge zones in a specific designated bordered part of Toronto will lighten traffic, and will actually make driving easier, and, contrary to the most people’s thinking, cheaper.”

Goldkind recognizes that this proposal will not find favour with everyone at first. “Objections to road pricing and tolls are always to be expected,” he says, “but drivers who are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic are already paying Esso and Petro Canada much more in gas, just sitting there. Moreover, our current gridlock is terrible for the environment, the economy, and our quality of life. “

Studies from traffic management experts show that simply adding more roads or more subways will not solve the problem, since more people will simply fill in the spaces left by others. Goldkind: “As I stated earlier this year in my congestion pricing release, the time has come to follow basic principles and decide what our driving, our environment, and our time is actually worth.”

Deep Transit

“My transit plan is in its final stages and will be released early next week. It’s based around the idea that integrating housing, commercial activity and community space around new transit builds is the best way to reduce vehicle traffic and emissions. If you want to get people using transit, and out of bumper-to-bumper traffic, you have to make transit the most convenient, affordable and high-quality experience of moving around. This is front and centre of my environmental goals, on both a micro and macro level.”

An unequivocal NO to Island Airport expansion:

“Jets cannot be allowed at Billy Bishop Airport,” Goldkind states. He cites four immediate problems:

  • The Waterfront School at Bathurst and Queens Quay has some of the worst air quality in the city, and kids are breathing it every day.  Thousands of residents along Queens Way West face the same challenge, and this part of the city is intensifying extremely quickly which puts more people at risk of health issues due to poor air quality.
  • Major congestion issues on the streets near Billy Bishop, particularly Bathurst St. and Queens Quay, which would become totally gridlocked by airport limos and taxis if expansion were to go head.
  • The Billy Bishop Airport’s chief stakeholder, Porter Airlines, is a private business that requires hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding to support its expansion plans.
  • It is not about noise and never has been. Goldkind: “It’s about volume of flights, etc., and why the city is bending over backwards to make it easier for me to get to Vegas on a private carrier that needs new routes to survive, at the expense of the public good, is beyond me.” The greater good is a quieter, more peaceful waterfront and Toronto Islands.

Homegrown solutions to hunger and nutrition

“I greatly admired David Miller’s commitment to urban agriculture,” says Goldkind, ”especially how he used it to improve the quality of life in high-rise communities in the suburbs. And I want to continue what he started.” Goldkind points out:

  • The underutilized land around high-rise properties and in hydro corridors that could be used for urban agriculture
  • Much of the food produced by Toronto fruit trees (1.5 million pounds) is wasted.
  • Organizations such as the STOP Food Bank and Second Harvest who are ready and willing to work with the city more closely to make sure good food doesn’t go to waste.

Rebuilding our tree canopy

“Our tree canopy is our single biggest bulwark against extreme weather, and we lost 20% of it in a span of a week during the ice storm,” Goldkind states. “I will get our Parks & Forestry departments working with non-profits and community groups to rebuild our tree canopy and increase it by 20-30% city-wide. Arguments over whether the city should spend what it takes to replace what was lost in the ice-storm, and to maintain our tree canopy going forward, are short-sighted in the extreme. I will also take a personal involvement in expediting green roof development on new residential projects.”

Building sustainability on new projects

“Toronto’s forest of gleaming condos is great for our property tax base, but we must pay attention to the infrastructure, with tens of thousands of new residents entering the city every year,” Goldkind states. With that in mind, he proposes:

  • Combined generation — solar, geothermal and/or wind – mandated into every new mid- and high-rise development. This will attract premium prices from buyers who want to live in sustainable communities, and it will help us modernize our aging, over-stressed power grid.
  • Requirement that developers build with future infrastructure needs factored into their plans. “We cannot be afraid to say no to developers,” Goldkind states. “The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) standards would be my guideline for the sustainable, green design of new projects. While there is a baseline that is mandated by the city, there are even higher standards such as Gold and Platinum that we can incentivize developers to target, for example through density upzoning  in exchange for higher-level LEED compliance.”
  • Goldkind concludes by saying, he is “committed to making sustainable choices accessible to Toronto residents, making the business and quality-of-life cases clear, and spearheading the kind of generational mindset change necessary for our city to survive on a very unpredictable planet.” Goldkind continues: “Environmental stewardship is not only rewarding to people and communities, it’s immensely profitable, and those economic statistics are easy to find. Environmental sustainability needs to drive the thinking behind, or at the very least be part of the discussion, in almost everything we do as a city. As someone who is inspired by green leadership in groundbreaking cities around the world, I enjoy those conversations and look forward to having them as mayor.”

To speak to Mr. Goldkind for comment:

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