Municipal Election Countdown
Green candidates gaining
by Anne Marie Aikins
Nova Res Urbis
Nov. 8, 2006
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With less than a week before voters in this municipal election
go to the polls, a number of races in the Greater Toronto
Area are growing increasingly hot. Some of that hot air, however,
has been blamed on the effects of global warming and the public's
increasing awareness of the impact of climate change, which
has spilled over onto the election agenda. Many predict that
candidates, who have not embraced the whole notion of environmental
responsibility, think perhaps Durham Region, have done so
at their own potential demise on election day.
At the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto this week, candidates for
municipal councils throughout the GTA gathered to sign on
to the "Green Agenda Pledge." Billed as the "green
divas" for council, the event was co-chaired by environmental
lawyer David Donnelly (Gilbert's LLP), who was quick to add
"guys" were included as well, and Markham councillor
Erin Shapero, who has championed a number of green causes
throughout her political career. They asked candidates to
promise to vote against shrinking the greenbelt boundary,
to refuse developer contributions and work to create green
development standards in their municipalities.
"Urban sprawl and low-density sub-divisions have transformed
post-war southern Ontario from a community of front porches
to an endless horizon of driveways," said Donnelly. "That
is why campaign finance reform is badly needed to limit the
amount of money and influence that big land developers are
having on local elections."
"Municipal governments are now on the front-line in
the battle to have an environmental sustainable future,"
he said. "I hope the green agenda will help create a
network of candidates that motivates people, who share our
environmental values, to vote," he said.
The green agenda first got its boost earlier in the year
when a York University study of the 2003-municipal election
found that more than 90 per cent of the contributions of $100
or more in the GTA came from corporations-mostly from developers.
Although the room was overflowing with green champions of
all political persuasions, including environmental commissioner
Gord Miller, there was no consensus about whether donations
from developers should be accepted or not. "I accept
donations from anyone or any group," who has a long history
of championing environmental causes, Richmond Hill councillor
Elio Di Iorio told NRU.
"I've never hidden my green policies-if a developer
wants to contribute to my campaign and work with me, then
that means they must want to work with my green agenda. And
that's a good thing."
At the Toronto event to sign onto the pledge was Vaughan
council candidate Deb Schulte (Boyd Park), Richmond Hill candidate
Natalie Helferty (saved the salamander on the Oak Ridges Moraine),
Pickering candidate Bonnie Littley (won fight for Duffins-Rouge
Agricultural Preserve), Oro-Medonte candidate Mary O'Farrell-Bowers
(Moon Point champion), and Clarington candidate Linda Gasser
(greenbelt fighter). Ajax mayor Steve Parish was there as
well, along with a number of Toronto candidates, including
former Toronto Environmental Alliance staffer Gord Perks.
In Durham where the battle lines have been drawn along green
lines this election, a coalition of groups including the Sierra
Club of Canada, Ontario Smart Growth Network, and Ontario
Greenbelt Alliance, has asked candidates to sign on to the
green agenda pledge. To date, Littley, Jurgen Degen, Eileen
Higdon and Lisa DePass from Pickering; Parish, Al Williams,
Colleen Jordan, Errol Massiah, Renrick Ashby, Joanne Dies
and Pat Brown from Ajax; John Henry and Bruce Smith from Oshawa;
and Gasser from Clarington have signed the pledge in Durham.
"We want to help save the areas in Pickering and south
Durham that connect Lake Ontario to the provincially-protected
areas of the greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Moraine," said
Sierra regional representative David Kempton. "These
areas are under threat of development for housing, industry
and an international airport."
"It is very exciting to see so many young women with
a keen awareness of the environment taking an interest in
local government," environmental commissioner Miller
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