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Provincial All Candidates Meeting Discusses Local Impact of Climate Change
By Dimitrije Martinovic
Dimitrije is a staff at FOCUS MEDIA ARTS CENTRE
The current political landscape is a variable cornucopia of election platforms, budget and policy announcements, and all candidates’ meetings, all competing for the would-be voters’ attention. There are to most people’s minds a tangle of municipal, provincial, and federal elections simultaneously taking place over the next few months. In tracking these many events, Focus Media Arts Centre located in Regent Park seeks to present what might be called a synchronic map, that is a picture of this given moment, as well as a diachronic view, that is a picture over time as to how events in the larger sphere can have impact on the small and local sphere. Knowing what the political landscape looks is never more important than now – what are the various parties plans for the environment – how can Regent Parkers make the right choices if they are not informed?
In Regent Park which is in the process of massive urban renewal, where residential density has risen to approximately 12,000 people and is expected to increase 17,000, matters related to the environment are extremely important. Would Regent Park residents like to see more funding for transit that would ultimately result in lower transit costs, increase more usage, and drive down air pollutants? Would the changes in the government's proposed planning act impact on Regent Park residents future ability to have a say in how developments are carried out in their communities? Will provincial government policies support municipals government policies and assist low income residents in Regent Park to better respond to issues related to food insecurities?
At a recent all candidates meeting for the riding of University – Rosedale which was organized by the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) at their Annex facility, the National Democratic Party (NDP), The Liberal Party, and The Green Party – The Conservative Party was invited but did not provide a candidate - candidates responded to what their respective party's platforms were regarding the key climate concerns.
Moderated by Tonya Surman, CSI's founder and CEO, the meeting comprised of Jessica Bell - the incumbent – NDP, Andrea Barrack – Liberal, and Dianne Saxe - Green Party. Additionally, the meeting was also attended by Stefan Hosteller (Community Director CSI).
The meeting was marked by a high degree of mutual respect, with candidates not indulging in speaking over each other’s remarks, and listening carefully to the moderators’ instructions. Together, the panelists credentials were indeed impressive, they covered experience in the corporate sector, activism, the government, and longstanding involvement in the environmental movement.
Laying out the key issues, Tonya Surman invited each of the representatives to respond to what each Party though about how they would handle, the Green Economy, Reducing Emissions, E-Vehicles, Zero Carbon Agriculture, and Regenerative Agriculture.
In all there were seven questions, with the first question being was a sort “soft lob” asking each candidate “When was the last time that you went for a walk-in nature? Where was it? Describe your relationship with nature?” Each candidate took to reminiscing about childhood memories and their early connections to nature that later emerged as more mature career paths.
The second question was, “What will your government do to accelerate the green economy - our circular economy and position Ontario as an innovator instead of a laggard?” Andrea Barrack – Liberal, lead the response her by highlighting that already the business sector is abundantly invested in strategies to address issues – they (businesses) want to be part of solution not part of the problem. She went to state, that in Ontario we lack a regulatory environment that is committed to making policy changes that truly tackle environmental issues and not just end up contributing to “green washing.”
The other questions were:
* And how do you see Ontario fitting into our national climate commitments?
* If you are elected but do not form a government, what will you do to advocate for climate issues (or any issues) from the riding of University Rosedale? How will you bring our voices into Queens Park?
* How will your government support both urban mass transit and intercity transit, as well as cycling infrastructure? What will your party do to address the proposed Highway 413? What will you do to prepare for the switch to electric vehicles?
* How, in the past, have you, personally, worked through complex systems and engaged people across silos, departments, and ministries?
* How will you support regenerative agriculture?
In the question, “How will your government support both urban mass transit and intercity transit, as well as cycling infrastructure? What will your party do to address the proposed Highway 413? What will you do to prepare for the switch to electric vehicles,” Dianne Saxe of the Green Party responded by saying from the beginning that if elected the Green Party immediately cancel HWY 413. But of course, she said that Ontario needs to reallocate public space, to change urban forms, and to change the vast amount of road space that is essentially wasted on private auto mobiles. This means more dedicated bus lanes with fast clean comfortable electric busses, and more safe bike lanes. Finally, Dianne offered that providing a cash incentive toward e-bike would have a tremendous immediate impact on back on cutting emissions.
In the final sampling of candidate’s responses, Jessica Bell - the incumbent – ND, had this to say about, “How will you support regenerative agriculture?” The NDP, Bell outlined would first protect the farmland that we have, then ensure that local farms stay alive, and to take a justice lens to when we are thinking about our faming, we fly in thousands of workers for South America and Mexico to grow our food. Migrant works have low paying jobs, have no health care, they can’t unionize, and they exempt from all the workplace protections that other Ontario workers have. The NDP is also committed to moving forward on the Food and Water Strategy, which spearheads the importance of local farming, farmers markets, but also the setting up of institutional channels to include our schools and hospitals buying locally – this the way we can truly scale up our green economy to include everyone.
Tonya Surman ended the debate by praise the candidates for their commitment and passion for the environment of Ontario.
Join us for next debate on May 12, 2022, as Focus Media Arts Centre brings you coverage from the debate on Social Innovation.
Focus Media Arts (formerly Regent Park Focus) is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 1990 to counter negative stereotypes about the Regent Park community and provide interventions to high risk youth living in the area.
We are motivated by the belief that participatory media practices can play a vital role in addressing local needs and development priorities, as well as support the work of building and sustaining healthy communities.
Today FOCUS Media Arts Centre serves as a community learning centre for new media, digital arts, and radio & television broadcasting. We provide a community facility dedicated to the training and mentorship of young people and the engagement of community members of all ages.
Address: 38 Regent St. (Lower Level) - Toronto, Ontario, M5A 3N7
Phone: Phone: 416-863-1074