DVP smog

Here’s a bit of background on why I joined the Green Party.  I moved into Riverdale in 2002 in part because our family was expanding with our infant son, newly arrived from Korea.  Just after we moved in, little Loren developed a rasp in his voice that concerned me.  He sounded a bit like my asthmatic eldest son had sounded when we adopted him in Brazil many years ago and before we were able to treat him.  In Loren’s case, the rasp was minor and disappeared over time, but I was not surprised to hear that the air in Riverdale is bad.  Toronto’s air is the worst in the country, with the most annual smog days by far, but Riverdale’s air is bad even by Toronto’s standards.

Which is really unfair.

Many of us have moved to this riding because of the excellent transit connections.  I chose a house with no garage, no driveway, no parking pad.  I liked the fact that stores were within walking distance.  And for choosing with these considerations in mind, I’ve been rewarded with an enormous hit from thousands of commuters who chose instead to live far in the north and east, even though they work downtown, and who daily spew their smog right in my baby’s face.  Call me stupid, but I hadn’t figured out before I moved here from across the river in Cabbagetown that the prevailing winds would make so much difference from one side to the other of the Don Valley Parkway.

So in the 2004 election, I was stunned to get Jack Layton’s flyer in my mailbox, advocating “stable energy prices”.  By “stable”, Jack does not mean “high enough that they can absorb market fluctuations”.  He means “cheap”.  So Jack Layton wants to make sure that people who choose polluting lifestyles are rewarded and coddled, while the constituents in his riding pay for these choices directly with their health.

By this time, I was worried, too, about global warming.  I had been reading about the threat from melting permafrost, which could start an irreversible chain reaction that would literally make the world uninhabitable.  I thought surely now the politicians would do something.  But there was Jack, advocating lower gas prices, getting people all upset about the price at the pump.

Jack Layton leads a party with strong ties to the auto union.  But he is still expected to represent his riding, too.  And he is failing us.

I couldn’t support Dennis Mills, the Liberal incumbent in that election, because he opposed same-sex marriage.  The Conservative candidate was completely unknown, but his leader was Stephen Harper and that was enough of an indication that my vote didn’t belong with him.  So after thinking long and hard about the consequences, I voted Green for the first time in my life.

In the fall of 2005, I couldn’t stand to wait any more.  Apparently our politicians were prepared to just stand by and watch our precious Earth burn up before them.  So I phoned the Green Party offices and asked what I could do to help.  Well, rather a lot, as it turned out.  Green Party work and other efforts on climate change have taken over my life.

But the Don Valley Parkway and the resulting smog that hangs over Riverdale continue to be my clear indicator of the lack of progress.  Loren will be 5 soon.  There are more cars stalling on the DVP and we get inundated with ads downtown of more and more new housing developments farther and farther away.� It’s hard to imagine how all those suburbs will ever be turned around into liveable communities without the car.  Cheap energy is literally killing us.

I am grateful to hear the Liberals and NDP finally, finally, talking about climate change.  And I’m going to pick on the NDP here for the unfair reason that they’ve actually got their policies clearly available online.  I don’t know what Stephane Dion plans to do about transportation and for all I know it will be worse than what Jack Layton has in mind.  But Jack Layton’s 7-point plan involves a great deal of subsidies for people to buy new fuel-efficient cars and for automakers to develop and make them.

Mr. Layton, I want cars off the road.

I want to put up barriers to existing cars, not encourage the production of more cars on top — not even fuel-efficient new cars.

Green Party policy will benefit Toronto-Danforth.  It will reward environmentally sane choices.  The Green Tax Shift would reduce income and payroll taxes and exchange them for a new carbon tax.  Canadians would have more money in their pockets but gas would cost more.  For suburbanites, it would be an incentive to trade in their old clunkers for newer models, to carpool, use public transit or move.  For our neighbours here in Toronto-Danforth, it would be an incentive to insulate our leaky houses.  For every Canadian, it would promote not only a reduction in greenhouse gases, but also cleaner, healthier air, so kids like Loren can breathe easy.

Leave a comment

To weed out spam, your comment will not appear right away.