A number of air pollution control initiatives have been identified or are under way at both the federal and provincial levels. Since this report is oriented towards a smart growth strategy for the Central Ontario Zone, only major federal and provincial initiatives are highlighted. The reader is referred to the web sites of Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to obtain more detailed information.
The Ontario government formally launched an Anti-Smog Action Plan (ASAP) in January 1998. The first progress report was published in August 2000 and a second progress report is soon to be released. The progress reports describe the initiatives taken by governments, industry and other non-governmental organizations to reduce emissions of NOx, VOCs, SO2, and particulate matter. ASAP also describes some of the initiatives under way in municipalities, although the municipal information is very sketchy. The progress reports show significant progress towards meeting the NOx reduction target of 45% by 2010 (from the 1990 emission level), less (but still somewhat significant) progress on achieving the VOCs target (a 45% reduction from the 1990 emission level), and little progress to date in both understanding the sources of and hence reducing the emissions of particulate matter, which has a 10% interim reduction target until better source characterization is available.
Smart growth has not been included to date in the ASAP progress reports. However, smart growth and other measures that can be implemented in the Central Ontario Zone can cause major reductions in air pollution (and greenhouse gas emissions). Examples of such measures include:
- Intensifying urban development by infilling existing built areas, cleaning up and re-developing brownfields, and promoting compact, mixed-use communities, with appropriate green space access, to enable people to meet most of their needs and interests locally.
- Concentrating new developments in transit-oriented nodes, with supportive parking policies and other measures to encourage transit use, bicycling, and walking as modes of transportation.
- Modernizing and reinvesting in transit systems that implement the latest user-friendly technologies and information systems, and integrating transit systems into seamless webs in large urban centres, such as the Greater Toronto Area.
- Educating the public on the harmful effects of smog and climate change, the benefits of switching to transit and alternative transportation modes, and the contribution that inefficient vehicles and the overuse of such vehicles make to these problems.
In addition, there are some important supporting measures that are outside the authority of municipal and regional governments, but that are essential to reducing air pollution. Municipalities should be active advocates for the implementation of these measures, including:
- Converting coal-fired electric power stations to cleaner sources of electricity.
- Putting pressure on the federal government to implement a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard to increase the fuel-efficiency of new vehicles.
- Lobbying the federal and provincial governments for funding to support smart growth and to provide incentives for areas under municipal control, such as a tax-exempt benefit for employer-provided transit passes and an urban gasoline tax to fund urban transit systems and other appropriate investments. The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority receives 12C/ of the 15C/ provincial fuel tax to fund its work. These funds are sufficient to manage the transportation system, but are not sufficient to expand it. A re-direction of federal fuel tax revenues should also be implemented in major urban centres across Canada.
Some of these initiatives, and many more, were part of the Central Ontario Zone Smart Growth Panel's "Interim Advice on Unlocking Gridlock and Promoting Liveable Communities in Central Ontario." The Panel is to be commended for this excellent report and its progressive recommendations. The report focuses on short-term initiatives, but also identifies some medium- and longer-term actions related to expanding system capacity and integrating land use and transportation planning. Strong stakeholder and public support exist for these recommendations, as evident in the Summary of Consultations for the Five-Year Review of the Provincial Policy Statement. Smart growth wording should be included in any revisions to the Provincial Policy Statement.
The Interim Advice given by the Panel also touches upon broader transportation issues and needs that must be addressed by, or in cooperation with, other levels of government if the goals of unlocking gridlock and promoting liveable communities are to be achieved. In particular, working with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) as part of a long-term transportation network for highways and on a goods movement strategy are noted as areas of interest, but are not addressed in detail. The Panel is urged to include these issues as part of the smart growth strategy.
The June 2001 Review Panel report on the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) is an excellent resource for future large-scale transportation thinking, especially with respect to the need to preserve rail corridors and to reform transportation funding and management.14 It is worth noting that the loss of short-line railways in southern Ontario has already started to foreclose some options for future freight and passenger movement by this generally more energy-efficient mode. U.S. legislation exists to the effect that an existing rail line cannot be fully abandoned. Tracks can be lifted and rights-of-way given on an interim basis (for example, for recreational trails), but rights-of-way must be kept available for future reactivation. Similar legislation should exist for Canada. A large number of Ontario municipalities have called for an Ontario Rail Renewal Task Force. The Central Ontario Smart Growth Strategy Sub-Panel should support this recommendation since it too is integrally linked to smart growth.
The overriding goal of the Smart Growth Strategy should be to create a vision of sustainability for the Central Ontario Zone, engage political leaders in the vision, secure senior government policy and funding commitments to make it happen, build widespread cooperation among key stakeholders and opinion-leaders, then fully involve the public in the implementation of the vision. This means that public engagement initiatives, such as the City of Toronto's campaign 20/20: The Way to Clean Air, and other worthwhile efforts by a multitude of non-governmental organizations, should be fully supported both politically and financially. These initiatives are needed to reinforce the behavioural changes that people will have to make to do their part to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.In summary, the main barriers to achieving environmental improvement are political leadership, adequate funding arrangements, multi-jurisdictional cooperation, and sustained stakeholder and public engagement. Smart growth principles are well-known and energy-efficient technologies are widely available. It is entirely feasible to achieve much lower emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases while maintaining our high standard of living.
14. Report of the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel. June 2001.