Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

An Interesting Editorial…BUT

The editorial by Alberta premier Ed Stelmach in the Toronto Star peaked my interest. Not because it tries to re-stoke the tired Ontario vs. Alberta debate. Not because it overlooks the reality of oil sands and the disruptive environmental damage that continues. That may be considered offensive but is not unexpected considering the source. Alberta is an economic engine, as is Quebec, Newfoundland,… etc. Alberta has and continues to carry some heavy baggage.

Mr. Stelmach talks of some efforts to lessen enviromental impacts and carbon capture and storage. Yes there have been some small steps in Alberta to reduce emissions and environmental impacts but not enough to change the downward spiral. Carbon capture and storage research and development is in its infancy. It remains to be seen if a solution of “hiding” CO2 underground will work. American big coal have touted this as a potential solution for years. The safety of storing massive amounts of an odorless gases that can asphyxiate seem daunting or near impossible at best. New technology, the geology of the storage sites and time will tell.

Ralph Klein was not a poster child of sound economic development nor is Ed Stelmach. By having no plan for oil sands development, up to 50%+ of Albertas economy demanded most of if not all of employment and other resources. With only modest reinvestment in infrastructure like roads and housing the tide slowly started to turn. The modest royalties during the boom period looked to be eclipsing demand for services. With several years worth of surplus at risk the Alberta government saw this and Stelmach helped to implement an increases to Alberta royalties last year. Now with the price of oil falling and the viability of Tar Sands expansion in jeopordy we have calls for special “royalty discounts” and high profile editorials. Mismanagement of the royalty program alerted the public to the problem at hand and created the pressure to increase rates in the first place. During the period from 2004 to 2007 it was found that Alberta was short paid about $1 Billion per year in royalties. Stelmach wasn’t concerned then since $22 Billion in government debt had been repaid under the old system. Continuing under this flawed logic not paying your taxes would be OK as long as you bought goods and services in Canada rather than while vacationing abroad (the money is still spent in Canada right?) Whatever?!!!

Stelmach misses the point once again. It matters not which province is in the economic lead, we are on the same team. TEAM CANADA. By squandering surplus funds, allowing growth without planning, and failing to protect the business and living environment the premier shows he has little to offer Alberta let alone Ontario. Hmm, what could he and his colleagues at The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships be lobbying for? Surely the runaway blank cheque approach should not form the basis of Public-Private Partnerships as well.

Taxpayers feel the pain of industry windfalls or shortfalls and elected officials should be more mindful of this than anyone. How much tax revenue will closed industries pay into the government? What are a governments costs of benefits paid to those put out of work and who are paying less or no income tax? How real is a deficit in these trying circumstances?

Am I calling for the end of the Tar Sands, the closing of Ford or a planned economy? No, no, and no. Your opinion is welcome Ed but your bias is a little bit transparent. Personally when it comes to infrastructure, resources, and industry I like to see return on my investment. The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships’ Toronto event, which Mr. Stelmach is attending, focuses on Canadian, U.S. and Mexican perspectives on infrastructure. Mr. Stelmach you seem to be running Alberta like a thirsty bloated furnace rather than well tuned engine. Thanks but no thanks. Canadians are calling for a much needed rebuilding of our infrastructure, not another puff of hot air.

The Urban Water Cycle… Best Yet!!!

The Urban Water Cycle Pools Together Near Trinity Bellwoods

The Urban Water Cycle Pools Together Near Trinity Bellwoods

Glad I had a chance to check out this year’s Human River – Urban Water Cycle on Sunday. It was a brilliant idea to try the event as a bicycle adventure through the streets of Toronto. Of course it helped that the ride was downhill (basically the path of Garrison Creek toward the lake).

A big bonus were the speakers and stops along the route which brought new insight into Toronto, past and present. L.E.A.F. , Toronto Public Spacing Committee, Human River, Lost Rivers, The Toronto Green Community, River Sides, Coach House Books and the many volunteers should be proud of their efforts. A job well done on improving on what was already such a great event! Four years strong, here’s to four more!

Urban Water Cycle


It’s back again for another year! The Human River. This year’s event, The Human River Urban Water Cycle, is a leisurely bike ride. The downhill ride will have riders follow the route of the now buried Garrison Creek, Toronto’s biggest buried river, toward Lake Ontario. Urban Water Cycle promises to be a great family friendly event that will enlighten and entertain while providing a different take on Toronto neighbourhoods and the environment. The ride starts at St. Clair and Humewood and ends at Old Fort York’s Blue Barracks. There will be food, raffles and a photo show at the Blue Barracks at 3:30pm.

So if you are not too much of a ZOMBIE Sunday morning dress up in blue and join the Human River!

Human River – Urban Water Cycle
October 19th starting at 1pm
Free (Donations are Welcome)

7Km ride Starts at 1pm – North West Corner of St.Clair and Humewood
(Waiver Required)
Stops include Bickford Park (approx. 1:45 – 2pm), Trinity Bellwoods (approx. 2:20 – 2:40pm) and Old Fort York (approx. 3:10 – 3:30pm)
Food and Photo Show at 3:30pm after the bike ride at Fort York’s Blue Barracks

Non-cyclists are encouraged to join in the fun at Fork York or at other Water Cycle stops (Bickford Park or Trinity Bellwoods).

An Election Promise to Build On?

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Mayor Miller both support Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s $70 Billion Infrastructure Plan (over 10 years). It’s refreshing to see politicians finally realize that taxes paid to the government are best used to invest in its citizens. Merely cutting taxes or increasing tax refunds does little to repair roads, build hospitals or improve our infrastructure.

I’m sure Mayor Miller’s and McCallion’s sentiments ring true from St. John’s to Victoria. This national strategy sounds like a viable promise and one worthy of implementing no matter who finally forms our government in Ottawa. Too much time has been wasted and too little has been re-invested back into Canada (and Toronto’s Infrastructure). Transit, Energy, Water Treatment and the neglected list goes on. A Liberal “Green Shift” promise for now but this should be a non partisan mandate for whomever takes office.

Local Food PLUS!

A lot has been said about the relationship between what we eat and our health. Recently emphasis has been placed on where and how far our food travels before it reaches our mouths. From the 100 Mile Diet to 50 Mile Diet people are increasingly trying to put this thinking to the test.

With plenty of amazing farm land in Ontario is crazy to see mega grocery stores still buying produce and fruit from the USA and Mexico when local produce is available. Shopping today at my local independent I came across Local Food Plus. Local Food Plus is a non-profit organization matching environmentally and socially responsible farmed goods to consumers. Local Food Plus have goods inspected by third parties and then label and certify goods. These goods arrive at your grocery store and can carry the LFP logo.

So far it seems that food price inflation has been lessened by Canadian grocery stores keeping prices down to fend off the likes of WalMart. Canadian stores may have some short term advantages especially when dealing with their neighbours (local farmers). Loblaws advertising campaign regarding Canadian produce appears to voice that. The Loblaws ads have the potential to pay off, if only in transport and fuel prices. In the end if local farmers benefit and so do the people that eat fresher locally grown food. After all farmers feed this city.

Cough, Cough, Wheeze

Opened the door to smog city and saw the air. It looked like dust floating, like particles rising from a room under construction or deconstruction. But no construction going on that I could see (probably one of the few places that’s c-free in Toronto). My lungs instantly rebelled. I’d forgotten my asthma meds, and boy was I reminded in a hurry.

I didn’t hear if it was a spare-the-air day, but it really should be a stay-inside day. I dream of a time when all cars emit just water and the Ohio coal plants are shut down, of a time when smog is relegated to the history books instead of blanketing Toronto and the whole of southwestern Ontario. Until then, I ain’t going outside on days like this if I can help it!

Free Transit Touted Elsewhere, but Not in Toronto, not for the TTC

A Hamilton City Councillor is pushing for free public transit, a “no-brainer” move some Torontonians would like to see happen here, at the very least on smog days. It’s a no-brainer because as the Councillor points out, free equals more riders, and on smoggy days, when apparently 50% of Toronto’s smog comes from cars, that’s a good thing.

But “while cities like San Francisco and Montreal can offer free rides on
smog days,” Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC, says that “the concept doesn’t work with the TTC’s 1.5 million daily riders.” (Nick Kyonka, The Toronto Star, 8 July 2008)

He’s right. Free equals more riders which requires sufficient capacity. I don’t know much about public transit in San Francisco, but I do know that Montréal has more subway lines than Toronto, servicing a much smaller population than we have.* In other words, they can accommodate an influx of riders, the kind of influx that requires large-capacity carrying transit for the kind of riders who won’t tolerate packed, overheated buses and streetcars but will take the subway in lieu of their preferred cars. Toronto cannot.

Not on our buses, not on our streetcars, not on our subways. This is what the Art Eggleton-school-of-apathy established in 1980, the Ontario-Canada-school-of-hate-Toronto, and the learned-helplessness-of-Torontonians have begotten us. The one thing that may save us is the green movement, whereby even the most apathetic and most-Toronto-hating politician may find it beneficial to start building subways again, especially downtown where it would pay for itself. (I don’t know what’s happened to the subway to York U, but it seems to have transferred itself onto the slow track.)

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* How much smaller is Montréal to Toronto: read this tourist post. For a person like me who remembers when the two cities were neck and neck in population, this is very funny. I’m glad she had a good time here! That’s what we like, happy tourists!!! Even if we natives have to put up with an inadequate TTC.

The Missing Art of Weather Forecasting

The weather is weird. Even the forecasters can’t forecast in the moment!

Yesterday, as the meterologists I’m watching are saying it’s plus 30 and humid out, I had the windows open, revelling in the cool air blowing in from the “tornado-watch” winds. Today as my weather forecast is saying the temperature has dropped about 6C to something more comfortable, I stick my head outside and find it’s still hot as Hades out there. The thunder is grumbling threats, and I see evidence of rain on the ground, but where’s the cooling air?

I’m used to weather forecasters not getting it right even 12 hours earlier — night-time forecasts totally off the mark from the morning reality — but not getting it right in the moment?! Sheesh!

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On a totally unrelated note, I seem to be the only one showing up sort of regularly these days here on Toronto Metblogs, yet I’m ready for my summer hiatus from blogging. We are looking for new, energetic authors, and if you want to spout off regularly about Toronto, give us a ding. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep some sort of presence here on the web.

CBC Toronto Does Half a Story on Green Bin Waste

Yesterday, CBC Toronto six o’clock news did a story on what happens to Toronto’s green bin waste. According to their report, the city collects 150 tonnes per day, 20 percent of which is not compostable or organic and contaminates the organic waste stream, impairing the ability of the city to sell the compost. The city says we’re doing three things wrong:

  1. The plebes double or triple bag their waste. Wonder why? It couldn’t be because it’s collected at half the rate it used to be and thus has time to start to rot and smell, now could it? As the solid waste manager noted at the beginning of the piece, organics stink. The city uses a pulper to separate the plastic bags from the waste; the more bags, the longer the pulper runs, the more electricity is required to run the machine.
  2. The mayonnaise effect: plebes throw out the whole jar of spoiled food, rather than scooping the food out (old mayo, for example) into the green bin and washing out the glass jar before tossing it into the recycling bin. I sympathize with the plebes; especially when you’re cleaning out the fridge, who wants to double the time you already don’t have to do this chore by separating each and every container into its component parts. The pulper and rest of the machinery doesn’t completely separate the glass from the food, and so the compost ends up with sharp shards in it.
  3. Us plebes don’t have a clue what to put in each bin. We spend time reading the calendars, checking out what others have put in their boxes, asking others even the city, yet still we get it wrong, and the city blames us. We’re not educating ourselves well enough, and we have to do better, they claim. The only ones who will heed their accusation and feel guilty will be those who are already trying to educate themselves; the passive protesters couldn’t care less. They’re too overworked to spend time listening to a city that can’t deal with a garbage issue so throws responsibility for it onto the people.

The CBC report answered the question how do the organics get separated from the plastic, but it didn’t challenge the city at all. It didn’t ask why it’s not using better equipment, equipment other municipalities have tried out or are using that does a good job of separating all the various waste streams from each other and doesn’t require ordinary people to pre-sort their garbage. It didn’t ask why it’s relying on overworked, underpaid, don’t-speak-English citizenry to do its job and pay for the privilege. Toronto doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there’s a large segment of the population who don’t buy into the garbage-sorting-makes-us-better-citizens BS and never will and that though Toronto prides itself on being multicultural, many of those with poor English skills use that to avoid spending so much time on trying to figure out the convoluted garbage rules. They are in effect being passive protestors.

CBC also didn’t ask how much of the green bin waste is actually recycled into compost and how much ends up in the landfill. It mentioned creating methane from green waste, but CBC didn’t ask if it’s being done now and what’s taking so long; why old landfills’ methane are being vented into the air and not being used for energy creation; and why this form of gas creation is OK but not a high-tech incinerator or plasma arc plant.

In other words, as usual we got a regurgitated press release, just with pretty (or stinky if you will) pictures, telling us what we’re doing wrong instead of challenging the city on why it’s doing a half-assed job and pissing off the neighbours and its own citizens in the process.

Round Two: Garbage Bins

Holy cow, did you get a gander at the new garbage bins? No, not the monstrous blue, I mean round two of bindom.

Garbage Bin Ad

I think she must be Glenn De Baeremaeker’s sister. Questions: Will Cabbagetown residents get more ticked off and ensure they get to continue to use bags for their garbage too? Am I going to have to make another call to get rid of this bin too?

If you couldn’t get worked up over round one, how about the fact that this time, you get to pay for it? These bins aren’t the ones they presented to the media last summer — those ones were tame compared to these behemoths! talk about massaging the message — but for the privilege of polluting the visual appeal of your property, even if you don’t use your bin some weeks, the bigger the bin, the greater the hit on your wallet. (BTW the reason why the smallest bin is much bigger than they advertised last summer is because they have to make it bigger for automated collection, which is impossible outside of the burb areas of Toronto but who cares about that small detail, and so they put in a false bottom. The actual bin capacity is half of what you see. You’ll get a $10 annual credit for using that one. Be still my beating heart.)

Of course, if we’d gone to bag tags and continued to be allowed to put out garbage your way (whether bags or bins) you’d have to pay only when you put out your garbage, not every two weeks regardless of how much, if any, garbage you put out. The bag tags also are an easy and visible way to show how much you can save if you put out less garbage; the bin way it’s far more of a hassle to reduce your garbage, that is, you figure out you could go down a size, but then you’d have to know you could do that every 2 weeks, for sure, and maybe you’re not sure plus you have to call City Hall, and who enjoys doing that? So in the end, why bother? So no, the bin way is a less-satisfactory method of reducing waste production plus it penalizes large families and cultures that live in extended-family units. But then Toronto really wants more taxes out of you, and bins are the way to do it. Have a good day!

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