Eco-activists question what mayor-elect Rob Ford will mean for environment

Members of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) want to know what the “Ford years” will mean for them.

To date, mayor-elect Rob Ford’s agenda doesn’t outline environmental initiatives, the group says, and it’s something TEA executive director Franz Hartmann says makes people uneasy.

“We have a mayor that we don’t know where he stands on the subject,” Hartmann said. “He refused to fill out our environmental report card.

“We just want to know if the environment is part of his gravy train or not. Is he going to continue building on the process of 10 years of environmental success, or go a different way?”

Alliance members and fellow Torontonians gathered at Revival on College Street Tuesday night to strategize ways to approach environmental issues under Ford.

The mood in the room was surprisingly optimistic. Councillors Shelley Carroll and Gord Perks answered questions and outlined the ways residents can work with or without city council to keep the environment a priority.

“There have been over 10 billion human beings born on this planet, and Rob Ford will not be the one who destroys the environment,” Perks said. “It’s important for us to realize that the election doesn’t matter terribly for our work.”

Perks said Torontonians have to fight for the initiatives that are in the works. He referred to the Mayor’s Tower Renewal, which gives buildings a green face-lift by retrofitting them with things like a new green roof and external cladding. It leads to community improvement and in some cases new housing, Perks said.

“We finally achieved the thing we’ve always talked about, which is marrying social justice and environmental work and urbanism together,” he said. “We literally have concrete ideas on how to do that. Keep fighting.”

Carroll agreed that influence at city hall might not matter as much as it did in the past. The detail work in these initiatives is now done by organizations like TEA. She said it’s up to the people.

She pointed out many Torontonians care about these issues, even if they did vote for Ford. Carroll referred to Jane’s Walk, a group that explores natural environments in different areas of the city.

“A lot of them voted for mayor elect,” Carroll said. “The gravy train resonated with them, but they weren’t connecting the dots.”
Barry Lipton attended the event to meet these like-minded people, he said.

He’s the vice president of Community Air, and he wants to eliminate the Toronto Island airport and get the Go Transit system electrified.

“I’m here to meet with other people who are also concerned, to try and build a coalition to work to preserve and to further environmental projects in Toronto,” he said.

Carroll said it’s up to Torontonians to organize and become the opposition to continue environmental work.

“Can I bring Ford to look at a place like the Chester Springs marsh? No. But you can,” she said. “Plus he’s giving out his cell phone to every living soul in the city. He said he wants to be out there, listening to people. That’s you, not me. So, bring him to the marsh.”