I normally have a lot of time for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, but the heat this week must have wiped out the organization’s institutional memory.
How else to explain the perplexing and conspicuous omissions on TEA’s mayoral candidate environmental report card [PDF], released yesterday.
For those who missed the evening news, Joe Pantalone comes out with solid grades, while George Smitherman gets frowny-cons and a rather catty put down (“needs to apply himself”) in the comment section.
A little background on both is definitely in order:
Pantalone, it’s true, has wrapped himself in the tree advocacy role for years. Whether this title has actually led to more trees being planted in Toronto is an untested proposition – municipalities plant constantly – and he certainly didn’t do much to ameliorate the plight of the thousands of pencil-neck trees that continue to die miserable deaths on our sidewalks.
TEA gives him a smiley face on the 70% diversion goal question, but neglects to note that council has missed this target, as well as David Miller’s 2010 deadline, by a wide margin (residential diversion is at 46%, up from 40% in 2005). Pantalone was deputy mayor the whole time. Should he not be held to account for that failure?
Most problematically, Pantalone for years advocated the construction of the Front Street Extension, the last of Metro’s downtown highways, and a megaproject that Jane Jacobs strenuously opposed. It would have ruined the Spadina/Wellington/Front/Liberty Village area, and only died because the cost became completely untenable. If I were an environmentalist, I’d certainly dock him marks for that.
And what about Smitherman? “George,” TEA sniffs, “likes to talk about the environment, but his enthusiasm doesn’t match his work to date” [emphasis added].
Excuse me? Is this the same guy who, after taking over the Energy and Infrastructure portfolio, spent the summer of 2008 touring Europe to find out how countries like Denmark and Germany use green energy incentives to build green industries that create green-collar jobs?
Is this the same guy who asked environmental groups to publicly push him to tear up Ontario’s antiquated energy policies in favour of legislation that is considered to be absolutely cutting edge in North America?
And is this the same guy who had the guts to hit the eject button when the nuclear industry and all its Liberal lobbyists were pushing for huge sums to jump start yet another reactor extravaganza?
Shortly before Smitherman tabled the Green Energy Act, one environmental activist told The Toronto Star (Feb. 11, 2009), “The idea of a Green Energy Act that speeds up the development of renewable energy is absolutely necessary.”
That quote, by the way, comes from TEA executive director Franz Hartman, and The Star, in fact, reported that TEA “applauds the legislation.”
So let’s not pretend that Smitherman doesn’t have a rock solid track record on the environment. TEA knows it, and they need to be a lot more straightforward in their political judgments if they want to retain their credibility as green watchdogs.
photo by Laurie McGregor