Intensify the Suburbs to Save Ontario

the suburbs

The government of Ontario hates the environment so much that they are removing simple environmental protections and firing people who care about the environment. Thankfully some of those who are losing their jobs just published a fantastic report before they are forced out. The report points out we know the solutions to our overuse of fossil fuels and high carbon output. It also highlights that change needs to come from cities since there is only so much individuals can do. A key aspect of saving the planet that Ontario can do is revisit its land use policy.

Automobile-dependent suburban landscapes must be our focus for change. The vast majority of Ontarians who live in metropolitan areas live in such landscapes: 7.7 million of 11.3 million people.

Cars alone produce 20% of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transit is 10 to 50 times more energy efficient. In other words, if we all took transit instead of driving, we could make all the same trips we do now (i.e. no change in lifestyle) for a fraction of the fossil fuel use.

The report makes an excellent case for the steps that municipal governments can take, even in the absence of provincial leadership. Municipalities have great influence in land use – changes in zoning and development approval processes, for example, would make a difference in facilitating more “missing middle” housing. Don’t provide free parking for staff. Build cycling lanes and strong, accessible public spaces. We don’t have to accept the low bar set in the Growth Plan.

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