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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Where has our winter gone?

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It’s hard to celebrate spring when we’re worrying that there wasn’t a winter.

Last month, we had to cancel our annual St. Paul’s skating party at Wychwood Barns. Peter McKendrick, the “Lord of the Rink”, and his amazing posse had the will and the water but not enough subzero days in order to make ice.

The amazing Kirsty Duncan joined us for “Kyoto Beach Ball” instead, but climate change is no laughing matter. Duncan is the MP for Etobicoke North and the critic for the environment. She shared the Nobel Prize for her work on the International Panel on Climate Change. She is worried. We are all worried. At our cottage, the Georgian Bay didn’t freeze this winter.

We all can do our part to address the problem. We celebrated Sweater Day on Feb. 9 on Parliament Hill, with the WWF panda. We wore our sweaters to draw attention to the campaign to turn down the thermostat a few degrees. In St. Paul’s, Hillcrest School, Maurice Cody and the other impressive Eco Schools are producing committed environmentalists in our students. In the fall, school trustee Shelley Laskin was at Hillcrest School for the announcement that over 300,000 solar panels will be installed on the roofs of hundreds of Toronto public schools at no cost to taxpayers. Joe Mihevc boasts that Ward 21 in St.Paul’s has more solar power than any other part of Toronto.

But we have to do way more to persuade Canadians to get out of their cars. Transit City was such a plan. The province and Metrolinx needs the TTC to get its act together. The firing of TTC CEO Gary Webster is the last straw.

We are very fortunate in St. Paul’s to have city councillors who get it. Their support for public transit has never been more important. We need to increase civic literacy and efficacy so all the other city councillors understand Torontonians are demanding they intervene and vote down the expensive and misguided policies of the Ford brothers.

We need the Better Way truly to be better. It needs to be faster and more comfortable if we are going to have people leave their cars at home. It is certainly cheaper than parking rates. But I am tired of watching three full buses go past my bus stop on Eglinton before one stops. It makes me late and grumpy. We can and must do better. We need to listen to the experts and put in place the most cost-effective plan.

Transit is also good for our health. The Ontario College of Family Physicians has shown those who take public transit are healthier. They get more exercise. The Ontario Medical Association has proven smog days cost us billions of dollars in absenteeism, and visits to the ER and family physicians.

As we welcome the spring, and put away our hardly used winter coats, every one of us needs to redouble our personal efforts and our advocacy to wean ourselves and our planet off our dependence on fossil fuels. The province is doing good things, especially eliminating coal-fired generators. Unfortunately it seems Canada has no plan. The country needs to commit to real strategies. This involves hard targets, timelines and real policies (what, by when, and how) to help us all do our part to meet them. Instead, scientists are being muzzled and fired. Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto protocol. The highly successful Green Renovation tax credit programme has been cancelled. In the North, climate change is devastating the lives of Northern people. The federal government has its head in the slush.

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