The momentum for change taking shape in Toronto’s mayoral byelection June 26 could be a powerful opportunity for the city to accelerate action and catch up with its own promises on climate change.
Toronto has established its position as a Canadian climate leader with science-based targets, a rigorous city-wide climate action plan (TransformTO), and sectoral strategies for major emissions sources (its EV strategy, for example). But like so many other communities across the country and around the world, our next challenge is to translate those plans and commitments into action and results.
That’s where Toronto’s next mayor can and must make a difference. It begins by putting fast, effective climate action at the centre of the city’s cornerstone strategies for economic development, housing, transportation, health, and more. Then ensuring that those initiatives receive sufficient funding and policy support to deliver the breakthrough results the community needs and expects.
If the incoming mayoral administration gets this right, we’ll be able to look back five years from now with a sense of pride, amid surging job opportunities across sectors, greener and more efficient housing, comfortable and fast public transit, and emissions dropping every year instead of increasing.
Three priorities for our next mayor
The good news is that we already have practical elements of a successful implementation plan. They need to be coordinated, expanded, and properly funded. But there’s no doubt that we know how to get this done.
Toronto’s net zero existing building strategy, adopted by city council in 2021, is a central part of the effort to bring the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2040. But the strategy depends on an existing buildings performance standards policy that is still under development.
- Implementing the net zero existing building strategy— including its cornerstone existing building performance standards — will directly support economic and industry activity, create jobs and training opportunities and help make housing healthier and more affordable.
Allocating the funds for deep energy retrofits in city properties will help create critical mass for Toronto’s green building sector and deliver safer, healthier housing for the households that need it most, while producing energy and operating cost savings for local taxpayers.
- The affordable housing crisis is partly about people living in substandard units that are too expensive to heat and cool, and often unhealthy to live in. Municipally-owned buildings, including the Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) portfolio, are an important opportunity for Toronto to lead by example, reducing energy costs while improving air quality and comfort for public housing tenants who are among our city’s most vulnerable. Our retrofits with TCHC have also proven that these projects can create quality jobs and lead to long-term careers for public housing residents, but the current 10-year capital budget only earmarks a fraction of the money the city will need.
Better access to reliable, affordable transit makes it possible for all Torontonians to participate in civic life. It also reduces traffic gridlock, emissions and air pollution, and makes our communities more vibrant.
- One of the targets in TransformTO is for 75% of school and work trips under five kilometres to be covered by walking, biking, or transit by 2030. We can only meet that goal by making transit more affordable and easily accessible, not less.
- In alignment with recommendations by the Toronto Environmental Alliance, we recommend priority actions such as increasing TTC frequency and service, improving reliability in identified priority corridors, ending fare increases and expanding access to riders with low incomes, and accelerating the timeline for zero-emission TTC fleets.
There are now 102 candidates running for the top position in Canada’s largest city, and one of them will be responsible for whether we reach our 2030 target or not. The new mayor must tap into the way these complex challenges intersect and be ready to advance climate actions that support affordability, equity and mobility. With a record number of candidates and voter turnout expected to reach new lows, candidates need to establish a bold vision to stand out. At minimum, candidates of any political background can include these practical multi-solving actions in their campaign platforms. Find links to candidate information including links to their platforms here, and all the info you need on how to vote here.