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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered


  1. What a joke! Toronto is very far from ‘green’ versus other real world cities.

    The Mayor’s ‘green’ plan is no more meaningful than every other ‘green’ brand that is leaping into this latest trend.

    Where are real, potent, expedited transit plans? Where is the stomach to demand apartments recycle to the same levels as homeowners, including the same inconveniences? Where are meaningful incentives to install alternative energies in ALL building projects? Where is a total garbage recycling centre for ALL construction materials? Where is an idea for the Gardiner that actually incorporates solutions driven to dramatically reduce all pollutants, including noise and light while providing a true transportation ribbon throughout the city core and beyond encompassing rail, transit, vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, et al? And imagine if it also was planted as a sky garden providing an attractive canopy through the heart of the concrete jungle?

    Where? Nowhere. Miller talks ‘green’ like any other manipulator these days trying to appear to be doing something current.

    He should do us a favor, STOP. Stop pretending. Stop spending on fractured thoughts. Let someone with real ideas do the job.

    And fast!

  2. Not to be flippant but just who is this green saviour of yours, Jeff? Miller is the greenest mayor this city has ever had and there isn’t a person in the world who is greener and more electable in Toronto than him.

  3. Shirley>

    There are plenty of people “in the world” who would be both greener and more electable in Toronto than Miller. David Suzuki, Al Gore…hell, even Woody Harrelson, for a start. Gord Perks would be a good local alternative.

    But what does that have to do with anything? “Green” became a hot issue in Toronto just as Miller became Mayor. Previous Mayors were working in a different political context where different issues were public priorities. To call Miller “the greenest mayor the city has ever had” is really comparing apples and oranges. To compare apples and apples, compare what other cities are doing compared to what Toronto is doing (or not doing) under Miller’s leadership.

    The fact that Miller can say with a straight face that his goal is to make Toronto the “greenest city in North America” while introducing what amounts to quite conservative (as opposed to radical) changes and approaches, is proof to me that he is completely clueless as to what other cities are doing and exactly how far behind Toronto is.

  4. I find it strange when people like jeff and melissa claim that Miller is clueless to what other cities are doing, yet I constantly read about cities coming to Toronto to learn about our recycling, composting, transit plans, etc.

    And since Mayor Miller was recently appointed to a two-year term as Chair of the influential C40 Group of major world cities committed to tackling climate change BY HIS PEERS demonstrates to me there are a lot of people, like jeff and melissa, who are just interested in talking shit/complaining to no end rather than paying attention to reality.

  5. To add more spice to this discussion here’s something that just came across my desk:

    – – – – – – – – – –

    Mayor David Miller completed a successful appearance at two international mayors’ conferences yesterday where Toronto was recognized as a leading city on environmental and climate change initiatives.

    At the request of Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz, who hosted both events, Mayor Miller addressed the third annual Mayor’s Hemispheric Forum and the 76th annual United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).

    “Everywhere I went, Mayors from the U.S., Central and South America, and the Caribbean praised Torontonians for being among the most environmentally conscious urban dwellers in the world,” said Mayor Miller. “Whether it was programs like our organic waste collection or our green development standards and renewable energy strategy, or Deep Lake Cooling project, the Mayors were very impressed with what we are doing.”

    In addition to his presentations, Mayor Miller had a 30-minute one-on-one meeting with former U.S. President Bill Clinton to discuss the emerging role of cities in the global fight against climate change. Mayor Miller was recently appointed chair of the London, England-based C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group which has partnered with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) to develop and invest in Green House Gas (GHG)-reduction programs.

    “It is clear to me from our meeting that Pres. Clinton is absolutely committed to the development of policies and programs to combat this threat,” said Mayor Miller. “I look forward to working with him to accomplish that.”

    Mayor Miller said the conferences were important to not only share Toronto’s success stories and best practices but to hear what other cities are doing and learn from them.

    “Whether it is energy conservation programs in Austin, Texas or the impressive work being done in Seattle, WA, it is clear that municipalities large and small are making tremendous progress in the reduction of GHGs,” the Mayor noted. “Where national governments are failing to act in meaningful ways, cities are proving they can and will do so.”

    As well, Mayor Miller and several colleagues had the opportunity, to meet with presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama who addressed the USCM on his plans to strengthen ties with American cities by establishing an urban advisor in the White House.

    “We need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution,” Sen. Obama told the Mayors.

    “It is clear that cities are now being recognized as making incredible progress on some of the most important issues facing the world today,” Mayor Miller observed. “That is especially true when it comes to climate change.”

  6. It’s one thing to say Toronto isn’t green enough. But, sadly, I don’t think any big city is, so that’s not proof that Toronto isn’t “one of the greenest”. And if you’re looking to compare cities, imaginary mayors are hardly a fair target.

    From back in 2005, here’s a quote from the head of a New Hampshire-based environmental group called Clean Air-Cool Planet: “Toronto is undoubtedly the greenest city in North America. But big US cities like Seattle, Austin in Texas, Portland in Oregon and Salt Lake City have all launched big climate initiatives…”

    Has one of those cities pulled ahead since then? Maybe. But to make that argument, you really need specific examples with actual numbers to compare against.

  7. Melissa, look up Miller’s record on council pre-mayoralty. The guy was right there with Jack Layton beating the environment drum and getting things like the Toronto Atmospheric Fund set up. Layton tried to be mayor of Toronto on a more radical housing/environment platform and it didn’t work. Like it or not, Miller learned from Layton’s electoral mis-steps, moderated his delivery a little and got elected.

    As far as electability goes in Toronto, David Suzuki wouldn’t cut it because he doesn’t know much of anything about Toronto (not that I think he has an obligation to but it’s kinda a pre-req for being mayor), Al Gore being American and all wouldn’t cut it either and Gord Perks, as much of an environmental saint as he is, is way too cynical and sarcastic to last through a mayoral campaign.

  8. Toronto the “greenest” city in North America? I think we have a long ways to go, not necessarily because of anything Mayor Miller (or anyone in his shoes) does or doesn’t do…but because the situation is going to take decades (and work at many many levels) to reverse. While I don’t think Mayor Miller is a complete blank on the green front, but I do think too much of what he and the City (as a corporate body) say and do is little more than empty rhetoric, meant to make us feel good while hiding the fact that we continue to be incredibly wasteful (compared to the rest of the world) in terms of what we spend, what we do, and even in terms of the living space we use up per capita. (Kind of like the Toronto Star setting itself up as the chief trumpeter of the green agenda — all the while continuing to give us a weekend edition with at least 3 “wheels” sections.)

    The vast, sprawling and incredibly wasteful expanse known as the Greater Toronto Area was developed by the province and the various municipal bodies in the area (not just the City of Toronto) having licence to act as if space was an almost inexhaustible resource. This situation is going to take decades to reverse and a lot more effort than a few showpiece projects meant to appeal to a core of vanguard inner-city voters. In particular, we are going to need real gains that are not offset by more wasteful behaviour. (ie. our homes have become more energy efficient, but this has been more than offset by the fact that per-unit density of these homes has gone WAY down in this city…which not only means that we are using up more living space, but we are probably making it harder for businesses in our immediate community to survive since neighborhood densities are lower than they were in decades past.)

    In these days when all but everbody has jumped on the green bandwagon (including the nuclear energy and fur industries), being the greenest of the green, seems to have lost some of its cache. (Though of course the set of problems it was originally meant to focus on will continue to persist.) I waiting to see what color emerges next as the new green..or black or whatever.

  9. Hey everyone,

    I’d just like to point out that the examples that have been presented so far, are for the most part, someone’s propaganda.

    Do you really think that mayors of different cities are coming to Toronto and do critical and practical evaluations of our environmental initiatives? No, they don’t. Like most of us, they read the press releases, and take a guided tour from the Mayor, and then evaluate the effort based on what is essentially rhetoric. I know you probably have higher expectations, but that’s really how things work. Municipal governments generally don’t have the time or money to do the kind of in-depth research and analysis that we expect of them. Look, I worked in a municipal planning department doing research on “best practices” in sustainability planning. My research consisted of reading material from different governments’ websites–most of which is propaganda. That was what was expected of me. The information was then presented to the Mayor as “best practices” research, thereby informing their understanding of what was going on in “the world out there.”

    And awards are meaningless unless you take a serious look at who is giving the award, what the evaluation of award-deservedness was based on, and the politics involved.

    I know it’s more convenient to trust the press releases and accolades than to do your own research. However it seems more than a little ridiculous to just assume I’m wrong and saddle me with the burden of digging up the great examples and gold standards of green city-level action rather than do any research yourself. I’ve done the research already, and no, I don’t happen to have it handy for your reading pleasure, sorry.

    You’re free to believe what you want to believe, but if you’re content to assume Toronto is the gold standard and we’re already doing all we can, real progress is going to be painfully, painfully slow. We’re never going to get anywhere unless we, the people of this city, continuously demand more and seek to push the envelope.

  10. I don’t know how to take Melissa’s comment: I probably agree with her assertion, but she also exposed herself as (possibly) being a lazy researcher as a professional and not someone willing to provide her bosses with the correct info, but with “propaganda”.

    At the same time, I think we need to give-and take on this issue: governments make assertions of what they are doing and enviro groups knock it down or agree with it. In many cases Toronto is showing national and international leadership; governments cannot just make claims these days — they are always being challenged by media and now bloggers. So there is mostly truth, I believe, to government claims, but occasionally exaggerated or overblown in importance.

    Lastly — and this is where I should give Melissa full credit for pointing out — if TO really is the leader of green North American cities, than we are in for painfully long turnaround time. Its all relative to what other cities are doing: and in a north American context, most cities are lagging. So we may just be the best of a bad lot.

  11. Sam, good comment.

    As for our Mayor and his bravado, it’s nothing more than spin.

    I’m reminded of my flight back from Hong Kong a few years ago and sitting in front of me was Mayor Hazel.

    In our chat I asked her if she was impressed with the HK transit system, its speed, cleanliness, connectivity, low cost, its readable card, etc. Her response… we could never do anything like that in Toronto! I asked her why and she explained that they, HK, HAD to do it because of their population. She stated, we could never spend because it would cost billions of dollars.

    I was shocked, but it demonstrates justification and rationalization that is the mantel of these players.

    To them the vision, the benefit long term is irrelevant.

    Miller has learned to get press with frankly one cent ideas. And he appeals to a like group of mayors.

    Nowhere in his thinking is a Boston style recycling operation where EVERYTHING is collected including construction waste, dumped in one place, separated, sent off for $$$ or for reprocessing or turned into fuel that powers the operation. I pays and saves money too.

    Shirley, I don’t find your comments flippant. You are ill informed. Miller is just like green… he’s a taste amongst his kind for this moment. The single most adventurous decision he ever made, and followed through on was the bridge. What has he done since?

    The deep water started long before his arrival and is a close relation to the many decades old steam heating system that also serves the core. Even the blue box pre-dates the guy. He’s merely tagging on and making excuses why apartment dwellers shouldn’t be obligated to part-take lest they be inconvenienced. God forbid. So much for objectives.

    His LRT plan is a second tier transit plan in search of tier one. Without that it’s another TTC band aid solution when even TTC is on the record stating subways should be the priority.

    Perhaps take a look, or a visit to a place like Hong Kong and see what a desperate place can do with transit we would die for. And they did it without calling themselves the ‘best transit system’ or the ‘greenest’.

    BTW anyone find Miller sounding and selling a lot like Lastman?

  12. No, Miller doesn’t sound like Lastman. Last time I listened (and I did listen to that video link) Miller sounded like an intelligent and rational person, not a refridgarator salesman.

    I find most of Jeff’s comments ill-informed and full of unnecessary cynicism. He seems like a good example of the “Left eating the Left.” No one is ever good enough, and once one of their own is in power they somehow become sellouts and spin masters.

    Most shockingly is the assertion that Transit City is second tier?!?!?! It is by far the best transit plan this city has had and the one that is likely to have the greatest impact and bang for the buck. Almost every transit planner would tell you the LRT is the best option for any North American city that is developing its system in the suburbs. We certainly need help downtown with streetcars and more ROWs, but TC will have a greater affect on a greater amount of people. And the TTC is on record as saying that subways ARE NOT A PRIORITY, not the other way around.

    But jeff is doing exactly what he doesn;t like the mayor doing: spinning the facts to suit his needs.

  13. Thanks Rhonda I’ve never been accused of being left or even close. Perhaps that’s your coloring your read.

    To explain for you, 2nd tier is what LRT is in a transit plan after something called subway. Why? Because subway moves more people more quickly. If planned properly, riders get off the subway and onto LRT which brings them closer to their destination because it can get into the community in more detail than a subway. The 3rd tier is a bus.

    Check with Rod McPhail who is the mayor’s transportation planning guy and mouthpiece at community meetings, he’ll confirm.

    You see, when ‘planned’ properly, you can move masses on the most appropriate vehicle to get to a destination in the most efficient manner.

    THAT IS WHAT”S MISSING FROM THE TRANSIT CITY PLAN. And the Gardiner plan. And the Garbage plan….

    Except of course salesman-like spin and ‘we’re the best type claims’ ala Lastman.

    Having met several times with TTC planners I can tell you they believe subways are the first priority. But Rhonda, when the boss says he wants something cheaper and his other mouthpiece Giambrone rationalizes it several meaningless ways ignoring every other alternate suggestion, this is what you get.

    Am I frustrated? Absolutely. I want more. I expect a leader who leads and his example is far less than what our future can afford. Don’t like my POV? Fine but I am not looking at this as a political stripe issue. And I would invest and support the guy if he had merit.


  14. Let me see if Ive got the logic of an LRT based system in Toronto right:

    Lets take a city which is already suffering from wayyyy too much congestion, has rolling blackouts every summer due to lack of power generation and experiences an average of 6-8 months of winter a year and put in a system that takes MORE lanes off of the roads, forces people to stand outside in the snow (not to mention being subject to the same issues of snow blockages as car drivers are), runs off of electricity, costs an average of 5 million dollars PER KILOMETER to build and doesn’t run as quickly and efficiently as a subway.

    LRT’s do work, and are great, I believe this, I’m currently writing a thesis on them. The problem is, they work in very specific situations. All the examples worldwide of transit networks based solely on LRT’s are, surprise surprise, NOT IN NORTHERN CLIMATES.

    If a city such as New York can afford to open an entire new line every decade, or Paris can have a system with 13 (yes 13) different subway lines on top of a bus system and numerous LRT lines, then Toronto can and should invest in a system that suits this our situation.

    Rule number 1 of urban planning: There are NO universal solutions, EVER!

    Toronto’s climate alone should have been a flag to the TTC and Mayor Miller. Personally, I have had enough of the decisions made doing what is trendy in place of what will work best in this city.

    If this city is to truly become a “World Class City” as Mr Miller loves to say it is (and trust me…it isn’t…and wont be unless some radical action is taken), then just that needs to happen. Radical, truly innovative action needs to be taken. Soon.

  15. If you want the greatest transit plan ever, dig up Network 2011. Its proposed downtown relief line was a brilliant idea.

  16. Do you people think our politicians are magicians?? You’re all deluded if you think that Miller could just one day choose to have all the money it would take to finance subway extensions if he really wanted it.

    Anyone can dream but it takes a special kind of person to transform those dreams into reality. It might not be perfect but Transit City is taking the dream of higher order public transit for the suburbs and making it a reality.

    And those who think Miller is just trying to make life easy for apartment dwellers by not imposing green bins on them are nuts. Look at the reports written by the city of Toronto. The problem is that there isn’t enough space in the processing plants right now. That’s the delay, not some crazy conspiracy to keep apartments and condos from recycling.

  17. One of the reasons I checked into this site today was because of the story in Monday’s star on launching Toronto as a green city. Typically, I find the Star’s stories on green urbanism little more than empty rhetoric that is more than negated by the “unwritten” messages it communicates. (And today’s story about green city had a full page car ad opposite it.) But what was interesting about the gist of today’s Star story is that the reporter at least had the gumption to interview some environmental experts who ackowledged some of the green things going on in Toronto (other than the recycling program) were some interesting things that were basically at the pilot project stage but little more than that. Some of the things being proposed by the City under the green banner are I think a step in the right direction and are sure to make some Torontonians feel warm and fuzzy. But the fact is that these measures fall far short of what’s needed to make this the most environmentally friendly city in the world. Years of incredibly wasteful land-use planning across the greater toronto area has resulted in a low-density mess that is almost impossible to service by transit. I will give Mayor Miller the benefit of the doubt that he wants to do the right things…but I can’t help but think that encouraging more people to buy low-flush toilets and more energy-efficient air conditioning units (God forbid we should ever have to do without air conditionning altogether since that would really be too painful) is not going to cut it.

    I do think that Miller is a better mayor than Lastman (slightly better) but I do agree with Jeff’s comment that Miller’s boosterism on a green toronto is similar to Lastman’s, albeit on a different topic. (In any case, they both often talk about a “world-class city”, whatever that’s supposed to mean.)

    Regarding Clara’s comment that politicians are not magicians, Clara you are so right. They aren’t — which is why people should be looking closely at what they are doing rather than just accepting what their PR flacks are telling us.