Category Archives: GTA Environment

You burb I burb we all scream for the suburbs


The Suburbs

Cookie cut lives in the suburbs

It’s a cookie cut life of mediocrity, welcome to the burb. It’s all the same, we love it and it’s nothing to absurd. Admit it, we were sucked into the dream; the dream of owning a piece of Canadian terra-firma and all that it means. You love the plastic playground and uniform styles. The box stores and endless cars scream out the word character. It’s perfect and fun! It’s lovely and glorious, isn’t it? We enjoy the hours spent in the daily commute; a life like this is a wonderful pursuit. We love, even more, waking up early to catch a GO Train; packed in like sardines, it’s all normal, we are not insane. We enjoy closing ourselves out from the world; shielded by our iPhone, Android, Blackberry and tools. Thank you fast food, easy meals, it’s all so divine. Yes, we live in the suburbs and our lives have never been better. It’s all so simple and pedestrian.

No Pipeline to the West Coast?


A slim majority of British Columbians support a proposed $5.5-billion oilsands pipeline to the B.C. coast, but opposition to the megaproject is growing, according to a new poll.

The poll also found that an overwhelming majority of B.C. Conservative party supporters, and two-thirds of B.C. Liberal supporters, favour the controversial plan by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who commissioned the poll, said the results suggest it will become increasingly difficult for Christy Clark, B.C.’s Liberal premier, to continue to straddle the fence on the issue.

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/business/Opposition+oilsands+pipeline+growing+poll+finds/6374553/story.html

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Election Day in Canada – May 2, 2011


Stephen Harper, Canadian politician

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Well a historic election has just taken place in Canada. The Bloc was decimated in Quebec, and almost wiped off the map. Newfoundland told Conservatives what to do with themselves. The Greater Toronto Area is painted blue and Toronto has gone NDP Orange. Also, it looks like we have our very first Green member of Parliament. So what went wrong for the Liberals? They took their support for granted. Canadians were looking for change and they did not see it in the Liberals, in Ontario. Yes, there was a lot of vote splitting, however lets be honest. Ontario has been red for a long time. This is a breakthrough for the Conservatives in Ontario. The question is, can they live up to that support?

The G.T.A is an important battleground and they better take note. As for the NDP, they better not take their Quebec support for granted. The Bloc imploded, Liberals were yesterdays news and they did not like the Conservatives. So we are left with the NDP. Jack the time to start working is now. As for the Liberals, there is a lot of soul searching.

However I will offer this advice to all parties. (1) Liberals, you need to go back to your roots. Your party is not dead. I’d rather say that it is in hibernation and healing. Canadian’s have not forgotten you, rather the opposite happened. You forgot them. Remember who you are and what you stand for. Otherwise, what is the point of the Liberal Party. It is time for you to reconnect. (2) NDP you have been given the chance to prove your worth, so do not disappoint. From the people I have spoken to many parked their vote with the NDP. Also, in Ontario, people simply love and trust Jack Layton.  It will be important, despite a majority Conservative government, that the NDP choose their battles well and fight for those who voted for them. Less we forget, as often Canadians do! (3) Conservatives fought a simple and straight-forward campaign. You delivered your message and Canadians listened. We are concerned about the economy and trust in that has been given to you. However, do not take that trust for granted. A lot of Canadians still do not trust the Conservative Party and a lot of seats were gained from vote splitting. Be careful how you govern. Canadians are watching. Do not slip to the right with arrogance. As Harper said, keep a steady ship. If you can prove your worth maybe your quality will be remembered. (4) Finally, to Elizabeth May and the Green Party. You have made Canadian history! Despite the media ignoring you, thank you for running and not giving up. The Green Party should be a wake up call to ALL parties. People voted for Elizabeth May and the Greens across Canada. Their ideas and policies should not be ignored! Summed up in Elizabeth May’s own words “amateurs built the ark and professionals built the Titanic”. People are wary in Canada and if the status-quo parties cannot deliver, Canadians may decide someone else can.

Congrats to Prime Minister Harper, who has finally gotten a majority government for the Conservative Party. We will all watch, wait and see what policies are implemented and what happens in the next Parliament. See you in 2015!

By Mannee Jay

What is the plan for Transit City now? GTA has worst commutes in 19-city survey


Commuters in the Greater Toronto Area suffer through longer round trips than their counterparts in 18 other major centres, including notoriously congested Los Angeles, according to a new report commissioned by the Toronto Board of Trade.

The board’s second annual “scorecard on prosperity” concluded the average GTA commute lasts a punishing 80 minutes for drivers and public-transit riders alike, putting the region an “embarrassing” last place behind not only L.A., but also the gridlocked metropolises of New York, London and Montreal.

“The report shows [commute times in the GTA] are getting worse,” said Carol Wilding, the president of the board of trade. “So there’s another clearly strong proof point and evidence that says they’re getting worse; we’ve underinvested. We’ve got to get on with it.”

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Transit City Cancelled?

Toronto’s commute times are the longest

Jack Layton is the ideal opposition leader


You can’t do your job as Leader of the Opposition. I don’t know what you’re doing running for Prime Minister. It’s a very unusual political situation when every voter knows even before the federal election that Canada’s next prime minister will be Stephen Harper. Like or loathe it, the Conservatives will be returned to power on October 14.

But two other important questions are far from decided – who will be Opposition leader and whether it will be a minority or majority government.

After last week’s debate and two years of Harper government one thing is very clear – the only real federal opposition in the House of Commons is the New Democratic Party. And the only real choice for Opposition leader is Jack Layton.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion is a smart, decent man. But Dion and the Liberals don’t stand up to Stephen Harper – they prop him up.

On 43 separate occasions in Parliament, Dion’s Liberals voted to keep Harper in power and accept his very conservative legislation.

By continually abstaining, the “Official Opposition” has abdicated its important role of serving the majority of Canadians who reject Conservative ideology.

But it wasn’t just fear of losing an election that led to the Liberals becoming Conservative Lite – they actually agree with Harper’s wrong-headed positions on many key political issues.

Dion and the Liberals support Harper’s massive $50 billion corporate tax cuts that reward companies which have eliminated more than 400,000 manufacturing and forest industry jobs since 2000.

And the Liberals and Conservatives want huge tax cuts despite the fact that Canada’s tax rates are already lower than many industrialized nations, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan.
And Canada also has a much lower Goods and Services Tax than most countries.

Dion and the Liberals joined with Conservatives to vote to extend till 2011 the deadly mission that sent brave Canadian troops into a hopeless situation in Afghanistan.

Dion and the Liberals say they want a “Green Shift” and carbon tax to protect the environment but oppose a proposed NDP moratorium on new Alberta tar sands oil projects – Canada’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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Toronto explosion rock the northwest of the city – Downsview area


A series of explosions at a propane facility early Sunday forced police to evacuate a residential area in the city’s northwest.

Toronto Explosion in North-West Toronto

Toronto Explosion in North-West Toronto

“It was just a tremendous explosion and blew all the windows out of the house, just blew the house up, and I just managed to get out of there in time,” said Robert Helman, who lives across the street from the facility, which he identified as Sunrise Propane. Helman, who was covered in cuts and bruises, said when he went outside, he saw a “huge fireball” followed by “multiple explosions.”

He said when he ran a “wave of a heat” followed him. The first explosion sounded like a loud thunderclap and could be heard at least seven kilometres away. It was followed by a series of more muffled explosions.

Clouds of black smoke could be seen billowing hundreds of metres into the air. An emergency worker with Bombardier, which has a facility in the area, said he saw houses on fire. The worker, who did not want to be identified, also said he saw propane tanks dropping from the sky.

Toronto Firefighters attempting to contain the propane explosion

Toronto Firefighter's attempting to contain the propane explosion

The worker said the propane supply was shut down, but warned there could be more explosions until the remaining in the tanks is all burned up.

Police brought in buses to take residents out of the area to the Yorkdale shopping centre southeast of the scene of the explosions. It was not immediately known how widespread the evacuation was or how many residents were involved.

Some people moved away from the danger zone were wearing masks because the air was foul. Police with megaphones were warning residents that the air was toxic and they should leave the area. Toronto police could not indicate how widespread the evacuation was or whether there were any casualties.
Police said there were workers at the propane facility, but it wasn’t known how many or what happened to them. Scores of police and emergency vehicles were on the scene trying to keep people out of the danger zone.

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Update: Condolences to the family of a fallen Firefighter who died today.

Canada puts brakes on electric vehicles


Despite increasing local demand for zero-emissions cars and trucks and robust exports of electric vehicles, Canada will not allow them on its roads, lament manufacturers.

“It’s a daily embarrassment,” said Ian Clifford, president of Zenn Motor Company, which builds “zero emissions no noise” vehicles in Canada for export primarily to the United States.

“Even my employees can’t drive to work in a Zenn. It’s absurd,” he said of federal and provincial rules that forbid electric cars from being driven on most Canadian roads.

Clifford’s frustration is aggravated by the view that Canadians are increasingly concerned about the environment and are said to be eager to drive electric vehicles in this warming climate.

“We build the car in St. Jerome (Quebec) and ship them all south of the border,” where 44 states allow them, and some 45,000 electric cars are in use today, he said.

But Transport Canada says the vehicles made of lightweight metals and plastics are not safe to drive on Canada’s open roads, and would not stand up in a collision.

The regulatory agency has so far certified only five models as road-worthy, including the Zenn, and two others that are no longer in production, said Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette.

But most provinces, which have jurisdiction over the vast majority of roads and highways in the country, have balked at giving electric cars the green light, citing Transport Canada’s safety concerns.

“We found Transport Canada to be very hostile towards low speed electric vehicles,” echoed Danny Epp of Dynasty Electric Car in an email to AFP.

The Canadian company was recently sold to a Pakistani group which plans to move production to Karachi and continue exporting its vehicles to the United States.

According to reports, others allege political bias, noting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s base of support in oil-rich Alberta province.

To date, only westernmost British Columbia allows low speed electric vehicles on its urban roads.

This week, Quebec in eastern Canada announced a three-year pilot project that would permit starting in July the Zenn and an electric truck called Nemo on its roads with posted speed limits of 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour.

Manufacturers are hoping Quebec’s pilot may spur its neighbors to jump on the bandwagon and eventually make it possible to drive an electric car from coast to coast across all 10 of Canada’s provinces.

“We hope it will lead to changes,” said Jacques Rancourt, head of utility truck maker Nemo, based in Montreal. But the road promises to be uphill all the way, he said.

Despite their widespread use in the United States and strong sales, there are still technical improvements to be made, say experts, such as boosting the life of batteries used in electric vehicles to allow them to go further.

Hydro Quebec subsidiary TM4, which makes electric motors for the Cleanova electric car built by a subsidiary of France’s Dassault auto group, is working on a new more powerful lithium-ion battery for use in electric vehicles.

According to Quebec’s Transport Minister Julie Boulet, TM4 is also seeking to partner on the project with a large automaker, which she refused to name.

“The battery is really at the heart of the matter to get electric cars rolling,” said Hydro Quebec spokesman Flavie Cote. “We all want exceptional performance from a battery that doesn’t take long to recharge, at a low cost.”

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Toronto Queen streetcar named among world’s best


National Geographic includes the TTC’s Queen streetcar, the 501, one of the top 10 trolley routes in the world. It’s a crowded ride, but oh, what a view. The 501 has become emblematic of the stretched service on the TTC. But finally there’s a glint of good news for the much-maligned queen of Toronto’s streetcar routes. The venerable 501 – known as the Queen car – has made National Geographic’s list of the world’s top 10Queen Streetcar Toronto trolley rides. It’s a distinction shared with streetcar routes as far-flung as Melbourne, Seattle and Lisbon, part of the contents of the coffee-table book Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips, published in October.

“Throwbacks to an earlier age, the great trolley routes we selected let you jump on and off with the locals while riding through some of the most scenic and historic districts of each city,” wrote National Geographic editor Larry Pogue of the selections.

According to the book, the Queen streetcar made the list because it is one of the longest routes in North America while showcasing “lively downtown Toronto.”

The 48.9-km. line stretches from Long Branch on the Mississauga border to the city’s easternmost streetcar loop at Neville Park.

“It is a wonderful route,” said TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton. “What I love about it is the interesting, shops, buildings and architecture you can see.”

Along with being the city’s longest route, the 501 has a reputation for being among the most troubled. The TTC’s estimate of 43,500 riders each weekday in 2006 is down from 63,000 in 1981.

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Sheppard: TTC subway to nowhere? Then finish it!


“Construction booms, but opinions remain sharply divided as the often-derided Sheppard line turns 5. The futuristic chrome plating in Sheppard-Yonge station already looks a little scuffed. But it was only five years ago – Nov. 22, 2002 – that then-mayor Mel Lastman cut the ribbon to open Toronto’s northern east-west subway line, accompanied by a phalanx of dignitaries, reporters, children and musicians”. Read from the Toronto Star article.

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TTC Sheppard SubwayI could not help myself but to comment on this well written article from the Toronto Star. As always, I still feel that the Sheppard line must be completed before going to Vaughan. VIVA already had a plan for an LRT into Toronto, which would have served the needs to Vaughan residents. As I mentioned before along with going east to Scarborough Town Centre and western portions should be completed also, with the possibility of going north to York University or better yet, west towards Jane and Finch and beyond. The northern portions of the City of Toronto deserve a subway crossing the top of the city from East to West, line the Bloor-Danforth line. I am all for an LRT network, but I also feel that if you start something than it should be finished. Politicians and planners like to talk about intensification and density. If this is the case, please tell me why we are even talking about a subway to Vaughan, better yet to York University? I agree that the Sheppard line could have simply been an LRT; however it is too late for that now. What we have is a subway that should be finished. The problem has always been the cost and unfortunately the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets to dig.

TTC chair Adam Giambrone has been quoted many times saying “Instead of spending a billion dollars to finish the line, we can do (about) 10 times as much LRT for that same amount of money,”.

Sure he is correct! However how is having an LRT along Sheppard, from Malvern to Don Mills station going to provide a seamless mode of transportation for users? Or is it a case of lets just put something there so we do feel so bad about Sheppard? To be honest I understand what they are attempting to do for the city of Toronto. While they are offering the money lets take it and build something quickly before they take the money back. Who knows what will happen if another government gets in power in the future. But lets be honest, are we making the right choices with Transit City? LRT’s can work in the right circumstances if it is done properly, however has anyone noticed the fiasco on the St. Clair ROW? In the end it will be a better option for St.Clair residents, however I beg to wonder if they have really thought out the plan. Not every area has the charm of St.Clair. That’s not to say that other areas are not charming, just different. Streetcars and trams just work well in certain parts of the city where interchanges between stops need to be short in distance.

Looking at the Sheppard line, if it was completed to Scarborough Town Centre, there could have been the opportunity to even go south and connect it to the Bloor-Danforth line. Or better yet, in the not so distant future go west and then south connecting it to the airport? Sure I am dreaming in Technicolor, but I am starting to wonder if they are making the best choices for the city? What about the “intensification” at Scarborough Town Centre? The development that would take place at Scarborough Town Centre would be immense, if the city allows it. There is a large opportunity to allow for high-density development in this part of the city.

I personally believe that they should concentrate on providing upgraded LRT’s for the downtown areas of Toronto, on ROW’s and utilizing “Transit Malls”. In the downtown area “Transit Malls” can work. Queen Street and King Street are early candidates. There are also other routes in the downtown region that could use tram or streetcar type service. In addition, I have often wondered why has Toronto not considered VIVA styled buses for Toronto on BRT’s, instead of LRT’s? VIVA has shown that it can work! Providing people with a comfortable ride and information, as to when the bus will arrive are good options for the city. Don Mills could use a VIVA styled BRT, stopping at only at Steeles, Finch, York Mills, Lawrence, Eglinton, Flemingdon Park and then express to downtown. There are many areas in the city where a VIVA styled system could be used.

Vanhool Extended

In the end we need to finish the Sheppard line and do more with it! Let’s go west with the Sheppard subway line and finish the project; providing fast and convenient transit for other portions of the city. We do not need to go to Vaughan! The city of Toronto needs to take care of its own transit priorities. We can make it work! We just need a politician with vision that will do what must be done!

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The G.T.A Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario

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Can baking soda curb global warming?


A start-up in Texas says it can turn the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants into baking soda. Some scientists have proposed compressing carbon dioxide and sticking it in underground caves as a way to cut down on greenhouse gases. Joe David Jones wants to make baking soda out of it.

Jones, the founder and CEO of Skyonic, has come up with an industrial process called SkyMine that captures 90 percent of the carbon dioxide coming out of smoke stacks and mixes it with sodium hydroxide to make sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The energy required for the reaction to turn the chemicals into baking soda comes from the waste heat from the factory.

“It is cleaner than food-grade (baking soda),” he said.

The system also removes 97 percent of the heavy metals, as well as most of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds, Jones said.

Luminant, a utility formerly known as TXU, installed a pilot version of the system at its Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas, last year. Skyonic, meanwhile, hopes to install a system that will consume the greenhouse gas output of a large–500 megawatts or so–power plant around 2009. Skyonic is currently designing one of these large systems.

“It has been working pretty well. It does present a potential solution to emissions,” said a representative for Luminant. “But right now there is still a lot of work to be done.”

If the concept works on a grand scale, it could help change some of the pernicious economics and daunting engineering challenges surrounding carbon capture and sequestration.

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Ontario considers ban on baby-bottle chemical linked to cancer


TORONTO – There is a “compelling case” for Ontario to become the first province in Canada to ban a potentially harmful chemical found in common plastic baby products and linked to adulthood cancer, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday after meeting with experts and parents pushing for a ban of bisphenol A.

The governing Liberals are going to appoint a panel of medical experts to study toxins like bisphenol A – found in everything from baby bottles and sippy cups to the lining of food cans – with a view to introducing legislation next year, McGuinty said.

If that panel of doctors and scientists recommends a ban, McGuinty said it will be done.

“I just had the opportunity to speak to an expert up from Virginia who makes a very compelling case,” McGuinty said after a private meeting with about a dozen parents and environmentalists.

“So what we’ll do is we’re going to ask our Ontario experts to give us their best advice on that. If their advice to us to ban, then we will ban . . . There is no reason that we can’t be a North American leader when it comes to reducing toxins and carcinogens.”

San Francisco is the only jurisdiction in North America that has banned the sale, distribution and manufacture of baby products made with bisphenol A. Health Canada is currently studying the risk posed by bisphenol A and expects to report back to the federal government by May.

But Ontario can’t afford to wait, McGuinty said.

“Why is it that, at the beginning of the 21st century, one in four Ontarians are now dying of cancer?” he asked.

“We need to do a better job of understanding the influence of these chemicals, toxins and carcinogens in our environment and (on) our quality of life.”

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