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Making space for green in the municipal election

By Renee Tratch
Digital Writer,
Thursday, June 5, 2014, 8:33

Finally. Toronto is looking beautifully green after a long grey winter.

But how “green” is our City politically? As the municipal election campaign continues, there has been some mention from the front runners about the environment. (You can check out what they told The Toronto Star on how they would improve it.) But how would some of the candidates vying for the City’s top job make it greener? Literally.

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Often described as “An Urban Forest” or “A City within a Park,” Toronto has an estimated 10.2 million trees covering approximately 18,000 hectares. About 3.5 million of those are in the parkland system (roughly 13 per cent of the City’s land area).

In April mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory made some tree-planting promises that would help restore the tree canopy devastated by December’s ice storm. Ms. Chow proposed planting about 100,000 trees with fees paid by polluting businesses. Mr. Tory shared his 28 in 10 plan, which would increase the tree-planting budget and aim to see 3.8 million more trees over the next decade.

In May mayoral candidate David Soknacki presented Ourspace, a policy paper on his vision to improve the City’s 1,600-plus public parks. Among them:

During Mayor Rob Ford’s current term, the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division delivered the 2013-2017 Parks Plan, the first-of-its-kind document that recommends ways to improve the quality of parks and build a legacy park system. Last year, City Council also approved a first-ever Strategic Forest Management Plan, with a goal to increase the City’s tree canopy to 40 per cent. (We’re currently at about 26 per cent).

So how do they measure up? The not-for-profit organization Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has been keeping a close eye on City Council’s actions. This month they are scheduled to release a report on how Mayor Ford and City Councilors have voted on a number of environmental issues. Come summer, TEA will ask mayoral and council candidates about their commitment to building a green Toronto. That report card is due out in September. In the meantime, explore Toronto’s green spaces. Need some inspiration? In Toronto Life magazine’s June issue, the promotional insert City of Parks features some of the new spaces, the revamps of the older ones, and how an increase in hands-on community park activism has helped make this all happen. Plus you can see how our parks compare to other cities. Leaf through it via the Park People, the Toronto Alliance for Better Parks website.

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