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Feb. 20, 2014 Closing the downtown–suburban divide
It’s high time that we stopped thinking of downtown and the suburbs as enemies. In reality, they have more in common than ever before.
Pembina has published a new report about the potential climate impacts associated with the proposed Energy East pipeline. Our research shows that producing the crude required to fill the pipeline would significantly increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and make it even more difficult to meet our climate targets.
Ontario’s electricity system is often maligned, and more often misunderstood. Providing a multi-billion dollar essential service that employs thousands of people in competing industries is a tall order — doubly so when you’re trying to keep pollution levels and prices down. As we head into a new year, it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge some important gains the province has made so far.
Dec. 18, 2013 Fuelling our way out of traffic congestion
Last week, the premier’s advisory panel on transit investment proposed a strategy to raise funds for transit expansion while minimizing the burden on taxpayers. The panel’s strategy includes a gas tax, which became a lightning rod in the subsequent discussion. However, the cost of inaction far exceeds to costs of a gas tax, which would pay for a regional rapid transit network and alleviate congestion.
Dec. 12, 2013 New dollars, new transit
Today, the premier’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel proposed a transit funding strategy that represents a consensus on how to raise new dollars. It passed the tests set by thirteen panel members representing diverse interests — including labour, business, developers and drivers — and is a well-thought-out proposal that deserves serious consideration from the broader public.
The first paper released by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel unpacked some hard truths about transit. Those truths include how the cost of transit encompasses much more than just the cost of building it, and how building transit to an area doesn’t mean that development will come.
If the government is honestly asking taxpayers to contribute to the next wave of Big Move projects, it must be smart and responsible with everyone’s money. The panel needs to ensure that investments in transit provide maximum benefits and deliver tangible results, both in the short and long terms.
Oct. 29, 2013 Trending Bad: What Environment Canada's latest climate report says about Canada's carbon pollution
Last week, Environment Canada released its annual Emissions Trends report, projecting the path of Canada’s climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. This blog looks at what the report says and why it matters.
Oct. 21, 2013 Unpacking the truths about transit investment
Today Premier Wynne’s Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel released its first issue paper entitled: The Hard Truths about Transit in the Toronto Region
I am honoured to be a member of the panel, which was established with a mandate to advise the Province whether the Metrolinx’s Investment Strategy recommendations are the right ones. The first four weeks we spent grappling with this central question: Despite consensus on the seriousness of the transportation and congestion problem in Toronto, why can’t we agree on how to solve it?
Sept. 4, 2013 Seven ways to help commuters love the Big Move
For a region that’s trapped in gridlock or crammed into subways and streetcars, new taxes for tomorrow’s transit are a tough sell. However, the province, municipalities and transit authorities can take some immediate steps to sweeten the deal. This blog outlines seven actions that can help build public support around the need to fund transit expansion, while also offering benefits to the tax-paying commuter in the meanwhile.
Aug. 27, 2013 Clean Energy Champions: John Ruffolo
John Ruffolo, one of Canada's leading venture capitalists, belives that fostering a successful clean energy technology sector in Canada means more than just providing capital to startups — it means creating an ecosystem that supports their success.
When I was growing up at Highway 7 and Bayview Avenue in Markham, the bus showed up when it felt like it. An hour could pass while you waited at the stop.
This Sunday, I ventured back to my homeland and did something I never would have considered as a teenager: I chose to ride the bus along Highway 7. But this was no ordinary bus: it was an example of bus rapid transit, an outstanding transit option for low-density neighbourhoods.
No other province in Canada has a longer history with wind energy than Alberta, which has 20 years of experience with utility-scale wind farms. Yet, unlike some parts of the country, we don’t tend to hear much about it. So we set out to discover what sorts of complaints officials in Alberta have received about wind energy projects from nearby residents.
While Calgary celebrates its resilience at a “Hell or High Water” Stampede, Toronto is drying out after a dramatic storm that saw more rain fall in two hours than the city usually sees in the entire month of July.
Even if you don’t live in Southern Alberta or Mississauga, floods are fodder for dinner table conversations across the country right now. And more and more Canadians are asking whether what we’re seeing is climate change.
May 13, 2013 Ontario’s transit funding debate is getting HOT
The provincial budget saw the introduction of Ontario’s first (and modest) revenue tool to fund transit: high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. With the provincial budget hot off the press, now is a good time to examine how HOT lanes work and what impact they have on congestion, as well as commuters.
Toronto City Council is debating the revenue tools for transit recommended in the city manager’s report, based on opinion polls and public consultations with Torontonians. This blog answers some key questions regarding the report’s top four choices: a sales tax, a fuel tax, a parking levy and development charges.
In the debate over which combination of revenue tools would best support the expansion of transit in the Toronto region, an unexpected option has emerged as a top pick. Travis Allan and Cherise Burda take a closer look at the development charge and its potential to fund transit and improve urban planning at the same time.
April 30, 2013 Ontario Budget: Let’s not let auto insurance concessions “collide” with our goals to reduce gridlock
For the Wynne government to pass its first budget, it may have to consider some policies demanded by the NDP, including rolling back auto insurance premiums by 15 per cent. While insurance rates are higher in Ontario than in some other provinces, there are better policy solutions to offer drivers a break without undermining other key government priorities — namely reducing congestion in the GTA.
March 18, 2013 Q&A: How the Board of Trade’s transit funding proposal would drive the Toronto region in the right direction
Earlier today, the Toronto Region Board of Trade released its bold proposal to address gridlock and expand transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The benefit of the four tools proposed by the Board is that they can be spread among the tax base, be kept relatively low for each tool, such as for a regional sales tax and fuel tax, and not hit one sector or user group hard.
Feb. 22, 2013 Who’s really winning the race to end coal? A comparison of Canada and U.S. federal regulations
Sadly, Canada isn’t the shining example of coal-curbing excellence that Harper’s ministers are claiming. When it comes to regulating greenhouse gases from coal power, we’re doing about the same as our neighbours to the South — and may well be eclipsed before too long. As for “getting out of the dirty coal electricity generation business,” Canada won’t be fulfilling that commitment until 2062.
I want a medal for dedication. Saturday I gave up skiing in two feet of glorious sun-drenched snow to crowd inside Metro Hall for a public roundtable hosted by Metrolinx to debate how best to raise public dollars to fund transit expansion — one of a series of consultations currently taking place across the Toronto and Hamilton region.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Though originally written as a social criticism of the period leading up to the French Revolution, Charles Dickens’ words seem an equally appropriate characterization of the past year for energy and environment issues in Canada.
Last week I testified at the joint review panel hearings into Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in Prince George, B.C. It was my second time in front of the panel presenting research, on behalf of the environmental group ForestEthics Advocacy, that the Pembina Institute had conducted on the proposed pipeline and tanker project.
April 27, 2012 Support for road tolls, taxes and user fees depends on smart implementation and fair allocation
Congratulations to Metrolinx, Toronto’s regional transportation agency, for delivering the final kick in the pants to get Toronto moving with light rail transit (LRT). Earlier this week, the Metrolinx board approved its plan for the construction of four LRT lines voted on by Toronto council this year.
While these new LRT lines will provide relief to priority neighbourhoods in the Toronto area, transit enthusiasts in Ontario know that these four lines are part of a larger regional plan — The Big Move — that promises to deliver a rapid transit network for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
A proposal to eliminate part of the harmonized sales tax (HST) from home heating fuels in Ontario is back on the table as of this week. The New Democratic Party of Ontario has set its terms for accepting Ontario’s budget. One of the requests is the removal of the provincial portion of the HST from home heating fuels, a move that could cost the province about $350-million a year in lost revenues.
This week Toronto City Council meets to decide on whether or not to accept the recommendations from the Expert Advisory Panel regarding transit on Sheppard Avenue East. The panel, which released its report on Friday, concluded that light rail transit (LRT) was the better option for Sheppard Avenue, not just because it is most cost effective, but for a variety of other benefits.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford claims on his Facebook page that the Pembina Institute’s 2011 analysis of Toronto transit options support his case for a Sheppard Subway. Although we are pleased to see that the Mayor appreciates our work, some of his points require clarification.
Oct. 3, 2011 Fact: Green energy is good for Ontario
Ontarians head to the polls on Thursday to elect the next provincial government, at the close of an election campaign where green energy has emerged as a hot-button issue. As the rhetoric has escalated on all sides of the debate, Ontario voters have also had to wade through a great deal of misinformation about their energy options.
Sept. 26, 2011 Oilsands protests driven by lack of progress
Today’s protest in Ottawa and the sit-in at the White House this past month send a strong signal to Canadian and U.S. decision makers that the environmental risks and impacts from expanding oilsands development and associated pipelines are not being adequately addressed.
July 5, 2011 Cancelling the Green Energy Act would have little effect on Ontario electricity prices: author of new report explains results
Ontario's electricity prices have become a hot-button issue recently.
But in spite of the increased focus on Ontario's electricity system, and in particular the Green Energy Act, there has been little information about how replacing the Act would affect electricity prices in the future.
June 20, 2011 Tough Decisions in B.C.: carbon taxes and cap-and-trade
British Columbia has built a foundation of leadership with its carbon tax, and pursuing cap-and-trade without taking steps to build on the foundation provided by the tax would be a risk for climate action in the province.
Road pricing in Toronto could be right on the money, says Cherise Burda in response to a recent article in the Toronto Star citing public displeasure with the idea. It just needs some thoughtful politicians to make tough but informed decisions that provide commuters with choices.
May 17, 2011 Gas pain? Time for some serious nozzle-gazing
As the price of gas continues to fluctuate, drivers are feeling the pinch, and they're looking for someone to blame — be it the HST, the energy companies or political unrest in the Middle East. Many motorists are also calling for the government to step in and provide relief. Meanwhile, the Ontario government claims that if it reduces prices at the pump through tax decreases, energy companies will just jump in and inflate prices to fill the gap.
It's early days yet, but this spring's federal election campaign has already made one thing abundantly clear: there are a lot of political junkies working at the Pembina Institute.
Despite some very serious distractions (like those irresistible new daily Nanos numbers) we managed to tear ourselves away from our Twitter feeds long enough to put together a checklist for the kind of party platforms we'd like to see in this campaign.
March 28, 2011 Moving forward with a transit plan for Toronto
Lately it's been pretty quiet here in "Transit Nation." This may be the calm before the storm; surely any day now we will learn the fate of Mayor Ford's newest transit proposal. In advance of any final decision, Pembina has completed an analysis of the new plan, comparing how it stacks up against phase one of Transit City.
I have often marveled at how seriously Japan takes emergency preparedness, without which the casualty rate from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami would have been far, far greater.
Yet as we watch the drama unfold, we would be reckless not to consider the implications of Japan's nuclear crisis for our own energy system. Canadian energy planners and politicians, particularly those in Ontario who are pushing for a nuclear renaissance, must draw lessons from the Fukushima nuclear crisis. In short: we should be planning to phase out nuclear power, not aid its rebirth.
For the past week or so, Ontarians have been grappling with high gas prices resulting from the uprisings in the Middle East. Some oil analysts warn that this has long-term oil price implications, putting our economic recovery at risk.
The Globe and Mail reported this week that rising oil prices are "creating new urgency for Ontario to reinvent itself" via a clean energy economy — citing the Government of Ontario's estimate that its Green Energy Act will create roughly 50,000 jobs to illustrate how investing in green energy can help fill the employment void created by the recent recession and the manufacturing industry's decline.
Feb. 18, 2011 No such thing as a free ride
Earlier this week, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's office proposed a private financing deal to pay for a Sheppard subway extension east to Scarborough City Centre and west to Downsview station.
This paints what on the surface may appear to be a rosy picture — build the Sheppard extension and use provincial funds for transit elsewhere in the city. However, digging a little deeper suggests this option is far from being fiscally responsible.
Feb. 15, 2011 What to look for in a new Toronto transit plan
Here at the Pembina Institute, we have been preparing for the unveiling of a new hybrid transit plan for Toronto — a compromise between Mayor Ford's subway extension and the light rail plan that was underway before Ford became mayor. We consider what such a compromise might look like, what it should look like, and what's best for Toronto.
It may seem like stating the obvious — commuters who take the train (whether subway, Go transit or proposed light-rail) to and from work produce less air pollution than those who drive. The same goes for shipping. Moving freight out of trucks and onto trains and providing commuters with rapid, affordable transit options in and around Toronto will reduce smog, clear up traffic congestion, fight climate change, improve people's health and save Ontario taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Unfortunately, the benefits of replacing road transportation with rapid transit have often been obscured in the highly charged debate over transportation planning in the Toronto region. Those benefits are the focus of a new report released today by the Pembina Institute and Sustainable Prosperity.
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