Ontario’s Dirty Lil Secret

The federal government is coming back from its recent climate conference. Where once again the Canadian government made bold promises to reduce CO2 emissions and to meet bold targets. Once again a lot of promises were made but no clear plan of attack was set out. A point many critics have made against the federal government.

Naturally, the focus is centred on the Oil Sands in Alberta as the biggest emitter of CO2, and the biggest obstruction for Canada to meet its targets. However, there is another problem that gets little to no coverage. And it’s a lot harder to fix than imposing a carbon price or limiting emissions targets. It’s Ontario. Specifically the 905 region of Ontario. It is one of the most densely populated parts of the country and is designed to essentially be a CO2 powerhouse.

The car is the life of the 905 region. As someone who has lived here his entire life, it is abundantly clear that everything in this region is built around getting around in your car, parking your car and where you can store your car privately. Home development is built around a single-family detached style where the family can park their cars. This of course leads to unmitigated sprawl. The previous Ontario government tried to stop this through the Greenbelt. However, in recent years the current PC government in Queen’s Park has slowly tried to undo that. The push for more and more development has been unrelenting from this government. It’s a recurring topic we cover on my podcast The 905er. I suggest you take a listen.

At the moment, the project du jour for the Ontario government is Highway 413. A highly questionable highway that would run from north of Vaughan down to near Milton. At the cost of $6 to 10 Billion, the benefits are dubious at best. What would increase substantially would be CO2 emissions from traffic which would inevitably come from the highway. Along with this, is a report from the government which shows it is nowhere near meeting its own targets for emissions reductions. None of this is surprising. This was the government that tore up the Green Energy Act on day one of being elected. And along with that a clear plan to tackle emissions and put Ontario on a path to sustainability.

The problem in Ontario as you can see from above is that it’s not a specific policy or plan that can be used to tackle the problem. Rather it’s a network of them. In fact, it’s more like a philosophy that’s needed to change public expectations and demands. That only comes from leadership. The changes that will be needed to meet Ontario’s climate responsibilities lie not just in cars but in the planning of infrastructure they depended on. Density and more people-friendly communities are what is needed. The political landscape may be changing to meet this reality. But it will depend on the will of the people to make it happen.

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