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Toronto City Council votes to fund only 20 per cent of the budget for climate program

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For the first time ever Toronto city council has designated funds to combat climate change. TransformTO, the climate program of the city's Environment and Energy Division, developed eight initiatives, at a cost of $1.6 million, to kickstart the city's actions toward a goal of 30 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and 80 per cent reduction by 2050.

TransformTO is a new program and as such was fighting against the city's austerity approach that was calling for cuts across the board. On Wednesday, Council adopted a budget funding three of the programs for a total of $330,000, or 20 per cent of the funds. Many activists sought to see the full funding of $1.6 million voted in by council. A grassroots campaign encouraging constituents to contact their councillors in support of full funding nearly carried the day. However the effort fell short by two votes in a 23-21 decision.

 Still, the motion garnered strong support from across the political spectrum.

"People in my ward are very affected by climate impacts, including flooding," said Councillor James Pasternak, representing the city's north end, "My constituents care about this issue." 

"The city faces 44 degree days, 66 days of the year, and extreme rainstorms in 2040 if carbon dioxide emissions are not drastically cut internationally," said climate activist Sharon Howarth. "Toronto needs to do its part. Insurance companies are well aware of the cost of climate inaction and it's something our councillors must address."

On Monday before the vote students of Thorncliffe Park Public School brought Valentines expressing their love for nature, for the city, and their concerns about climate change to City Hall for the mayor and their city councillor, Jon Burnside.

But despite the Valentines' which were also delivered to Mayor Tory's office, more than 700 signatures on petitions, and Mayor Tory's own Paris statement committing him to climate action. Mayor Tory voted against the motion to extend full funding for TransformTO. "This was a missed opportunity, but we are hopeful for the future," said climate activist Rosemary Boissonneau. "It's a historic first step for our city."

You can find background info at ClimateFast.ca

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Image: NadineM Media

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