Canada’s cities are about to add millions of new residents. They can’t all drive to work

Overall congestion rate across Canada. Vancouver remains the most traffic-congested city in Canada Credit: TomTom Traffic Index

Canada has recently been the fastest growing country in the G7, with a population rising at double the pace of the United States and United Kingdom, and four times that of France and Germany.

According to Statistics Canada’s projections, our country could have 48.8-million people by 2050. And that’s the agency’s “medium” growth projection; under a high-growth scenario, there could soon be 56-million Canadians.

Nearly all of these future residents are going to live in this country’s handful of big cities. That means millions of new urban dwellers – and millions of new commuters.

If we want to raise the quality of life in Canada’s cities, rather than choking on our growth, we will need better planning, so that cities build up more and sprawl out less. As part of that, we need a lot more of the key piece of infrastructure that makes city life possible: mass transit.

There is, unfortunately, a stark contrast between the size of urban Canada’s coming population boom, and the history of delay, denial and underfunding that has marked too many attempts to build badly needed public transit. Our creaking transit systems aren’t up to the demands of the present, let alone the future.

How much bigger are our cities about to become?

Let’s start in British Columbia. The province’s demographers expect that B.C., with 5-million people today, will grow by 1.3-million by 2041. More than three-quarters of those new residents are expected to make their homes in the Lower Mainland, a.k.a. Greater Vancouver.

That’s an extra million people in Canada’s third largest city, in just two decades. It’s the equivalent of the entire population of Prince Edward Island moving to Vancouver, every three years. Before a child born today has graduated university, the Vancouver area will have added nearly as many people as currently live in Saskatchewan.

No, a million more people are not all going to be able to drive to work.

Or consider Alberta. Over the next quarter-century, according to the Alberta Treasury Board’s projections, the province expects to add 2.3-million people – 80 per cent of them in Edmonton, Calgary and the corridor between the two cities. That would mean urban Alberta growing by two Nova Scotias or four Newfoundlands.

In Quebec, the Institut de la statistique projects the province will add 1.1-million people between 2016 and 2041, nearly three-quarters of them in Greater Montreal. The Montreal area already has as many people as Alberta; over two decades, it will add the population of Winnipeg.
And then there’s Toronto. Every day, it becomes more of a global megacity.
Toronto is ranked the 47th worst traffic in the world

According to Ontario’s projections, the Greater Toronto Area will grow from nearly 7-million people to 10.2-million by 2046. Add the horseshoe of growing communities around the GTA, from Niagara to Kitchener-Waterloo to Barrie and, by 2046, what we’ll call the Greater, Greater Toronto Area will have 14.6-million people, up from 10 million today.

That’s an extra 4.6-million residents, more than the population of Alberta, soon to be making their homes within roughly 100 kilometres of the corner of King and Bay streets.

And that’s Ontario’s “medium” growth estimate. There’s also a high-growth scenario. Under that projection, by 2046, the GGTA might have nearly 17-million people. That’s like dropping five Manitobas into the Toronto region, or six Saskatchewans, or one-and-a-half Albertas.

Try to imagine millions of new commuters, all trying to drive to work on the GTA’s already gridlocked highways. It can’t be done.

Canada’s growing population is, in most respects, a success story. The economy will have no trouble creating jobs for all our new citizens, and there’s a good chance the country will end up not just bigger but more dynamic. Boom times and swelling confidence accompanied earlier periods of high population growth, such as during the spike in immigration before the First World War, or the Baby Boom after the Second World War.

But all this growth comes with challenges and downsides. Unless municipalities, provinces and the federal government prepare for our nation’s future as a bigger and more urban country, by planning, funding and actually building public transit, and a lot more of it, the quality of life in Canada’s big cities is at risk.  SOURCE

Let’s talk about socialism: The term has largely lost its power to scare, and that’s a good thing

Let’s talk about socialism: The term has largely lost its power to scare, and that’s a good thing
A Medicaid office employee works on reports at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

The term socialism is getting tossed around loosely these days, usually as an epithet intended to demonize or ridicule mainstream Democratic politicians. But with more and more people expressing curiosity about the term, it’s time to move beyond name-calling.

“America will never be a socialist country,” President Trump vowed in his last State of the Union address, a line he has repeated to crowds at his rallies. The sentiment has been echoed by other conservative politicians, who often frame the choice as “socialism vs. freedom.”

That old-fashioned red-baiting approach, familiar to those of us who lived through the Cold War, doesn’t seem to be working these days. A Harris poll from earlier this year found 40% of Americans claiming they would rather live in a socialist country than a capitalist one, which echoes a Pew poll in which 42% of Americans (including 65% of black Americans and 52% of Latinos) said they have a “positive impression” of socialism.

The level of interest in socialism represents deep skepticism that our current, consumer-fueled capitalist system is equipped to tackle big questions like climate change, crumbling roads and bridges, inadequate health care and the stunning levels of economic inequality that have left so many families homeless, broke, bankrupt or under-employed.

To put it another way: How bad has economic inequality become in America? Bad enough that four out of 10 people are willing to at least consider an entirely new way of organizing society.

“I became a socialist first by having a sense that so much of this world is the result of accidents of birth,” is how Bhaskar Sunkara put it. He’s the editor of Jacobin, a Brooklyn-based magazine and website, and the author of a new book, “The Socialist Manifesto” (our full discussion is the latest episode of my podcast, “You Decide”).

“We take for granted that someone born in New Rochelle or White Plains or Pleasantville is going to have a radically different life outcome than someone born 20 miles south in the Bronx,” says Sunkara. “We take that completely for granted, even within neighborhoods in the city — and in other countries, that’s just not the case, because they provide a bedrock of social rights.”

At a minimum, says Sunkara, government ought to provide basic services like public transportation, good schools and free healthcare. MORE

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Is the Hail Mary Our Planet Needs

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ breathtaking Green New Deal, with an advertised price tag of $16.3 trillion, is aimed at nothing less than saving the planet from the worst consequences of global heating.

Bernie Sanders' Green New Deal Is the Hail Mary Our Planet Needs
Charlie Neibergall / AP

The plan aims to create 20 million new, well-paying jobs. It should be noted that one possible outcome of big Federal R&D monies and a rapid shift to renewables would be to revivify the US industrial sector, which has fallen to only 12 percent or so of the US GDP. Although the price tag seems formidable, Sen. Sanders points out that climate inaction will cost $34 trillion (I would add, at the very least) by 2100.

Yuval Rosenberg at the Fiscal Times quotes the response of the centrist Third Way think tank, which appears to represent mainly investment bankers, as criticizing Sanders’ plan on a number of points. They lament that he sidelines nuclear energy and carbon capture, and that his goal of getting rid of gasoline vehicles by 2030 is not realistic. If you reason back from these positions, what is being said is that moving quickly off coal, oil and gas is undesirable. Who would say that? Big coal, big oil and big gas, the profits of which are beloved of investment bankers. Likewise, big nuclear.

So let me explain why the critique from Third Way is pernicious. First, there is no such thing as affordable, safe, carbon capture. It is a unicorn. Even if CO2 could be captured, storing carbon dioxide gas would be extremely dangerous. When CO2 leaked from under a lake in the Cameroons, it killed thousands of people living on its shores.

Second, nuclear energy is useless in our new energy regime. Wind and solar will be the backbone, and they are intermittent. The sun doesn’t shine at night, wind often calms during the day. Until we get Big Battery capacity (which is coming rapidly), you need a baseline source of power that can be easily phased in and out. That is either hydro where it exists, or natural gas. It takes way too long to power down a nuclear plant and then power it back up. It is useless. Not to mention that the nuclear waste cannot be safely disposed of and poses very long term contamination problems. Not to mention that the plants can melt down and damage riparian ecosystems. Worst of all, nuclear-generated electricity costs 11 cents a kilowatt hour. New solar and wind bids are being let for less than 3 cents a kilowatt hour, even cheaper than coal.

As for taking transportation electric quickly, of course that can be accomplished. Maybe it won’t happen in a US dominated by Big Oil, but Sanders intends to push those corporations aside and institute a Federal industrial policy that can make things happen. The analogy is what Franklin Delano Roosevelt accomplished during World War II, when US industrial capacity vastly expanded and 16 million men were mobilized and Social Security was implemented.

These things aren’t as hard as they look, though admittedly it is a massive undertaking. In the US, 17.2 million light vehicles are sold annually, so in ten years that is 172 million. There are 272 mn. light vehicles on the road. So I conclude that the market replaces 64% of the vehicle stock every decade (helped by planned obsolescence). Therefore, if you require that all new vehicles be electric, you’d switch out 64% of the gasoline cars in a decade. (Chine already today makes an $8000 EV; so can Detroit if they’re incentivized). Putting in more public transportation and incentives for using it would make many of the other vehicles redundant. Trade-in incentives could mothball those that are left. The Obama administration already did a small version of this sort of buy-back, taking older polluting gas guzzlers off people’s hands for a rebate on a new vehicle. Trump’s tax cut on billionaires cost trillions, and over a decade his increase in the war budget will also cost trillions. The US spends more on war than the next 14 countries combined, and is expected to spend $7 trillion on “defense” over the next decade, even though we have no peer powers. Nobody thought those things impossible or fantastic.

Britain spends $45 bn. a year on defense and it has 1/4 the population of the US, so that is as though the US spent less than $200 billion a year on the Pentagon. We could go down to that and save a trillion dollars every two years for useful and productive things instead of for bombs to sell the Saudis to drop on Yemeni children. The US military is among the biggest carbon-emitting organizations in the world, so maybe we could cut those emissions, too. Bernie’s plan would be paid for in this way alone in about 32 years.

The plan is set to pay for itself over 15 years in these ways:

Making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.

Generating revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.

Scaling back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.

Collecting new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.

Reduced need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.

Making the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.

The selfish and greedy elites of the US Establishment will attempt to kill this plan just in the same way that they are killing the planet. It will only succeed if the public rallies to it, urgently seeking to limit the damage to their children’s and grandchildren’s lives done by carbon dioxide, methane, and the rest. SOURCE

 

Grassroots movement to address climate crisis


Organic farmer Brenda Hsueh introduces the Green New Deal to people in her barn at Black Sheep Farm outside of Scone. PAT CARSON

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres does not talk about climate change, he talks about a “climate crisis,” adding that “we face a direct existential threat.”

The Paris Agreement on climate was signed by 195 nations, including Canada, in 2017. On April 2, 2019 the Government of Canada announced in a news release that Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the global average. The report added that Canadians are experiencing the costs of climate-related extremes first hand, from devastating wildfires and flooding to heat waves and droughts.

In January of 2019, the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) reported that climate change is linked to depression, anxiety and stress disorders in Canada.

There is a grassroots movement afoot to address the climate crisis in Canada and it’s called the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a political idea to tackle the climate crisis.

There have been more than 150 Green New Deal town hall gatherings across Canada this month alone, in cities like Toronto and Vancouver and smaller communities like Barrie and Wiarton. On May 25 there was one in a barn on a farm outside of Scone on Grey Road 3.

“In part it comes out of the LEAP manifesto and a lot of different progressive groups wanting to push society to make changes, not just on climate issues, but on social justice issues too,” explained Brenda Hsueh, an organic farmer who hosted the event at Black Sheep Farm.

Hsueh decided to take up the challenge of hosting a town hall because as an organic farmer most of her work is done in isolation and she wanted to see who else in her community was as angry and frustrated with society’s lack of action on this major issue.

Twenty-four people from different walks of life and different ages, including several local organic farmers, showed up as concerned as Hsueh about the climate crisis and the need for action now.

The Green New Deal calls on workers, students, union members, migrants, community organizations and people all across the country to gather and design a plan for a safe and prosperous future for all. It is a vision of rapid, inclusive and far-reaching transition, to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity and meet the demands of the multiple crises.

In her opening remarks, Hsueh asked people to be “mindful that we are gathered today on the traditional land of the Three Fire Confederacy of the Ojibway, Potawatomi and Odawa people.”

Before beginning small group discussions she explained the concept of “green line” statements as a way to identify what people want to see and support in communities and the country. “Red line” statements identify what people do not want to see or support. The statements might be about labour, Indigenous peoples, food, disabilities, public transportation, health, agriculture, war, youth and faith to name just a few social justice topics. MORE

RELATED:

Kelowna town hall meeting attracts crowd pushing for action on ‘climate crisis’
Guelph: Community creates shared vision for Green New Deal

Ottawa takes first step with climate emergency declaration, bold action must follow

Prince Edward Council has not declared a climate emergency. Why not? Do they really expect citizens to avoid climate change? Climate leadership is conspicuously missing.

How does this motion measure up to Extinction Rebellion’s core demands?

Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Twitter
On April 24, Ottawa City Council voted in favour of an eight-point motion to declare a climate emergency.

Extinction Rebellion, an international grassroots climate justice group, argues that governments must declare climate and ecological emergencies, and work with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. The Ottawa motion lacks language about communicating the urgency for change to the federal and provincial governments, as well as to city residents.

The group also demands that governments act immediately to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. Ottawa’s motion only calls for the city to adopt a target of a 45 per cent reduction in 2010 levels by 2030.

Extinction Rebellion’s third core demand is the creation of a Citizens’ Assembly to lead decision-making and inform the government on climate and ecological justice. While the Ottawa motion calls for the establishment of a Council Sponsors Group, there is no clear indication of how the broader public would be able to meaningfully participate in this process.

What should the Council Sponsors Group, as created by the Ottawa motion, demand?

  1. The City of Ottawa should commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, a key demand made by Extinction Rebellion.
  2. The City of Ottawa should commit (as the City of Vancouver is considering) to a target of two-thirds of trips in the city to be taken by walking, cycling, and public transit by 2030.
  3. Given that transportation accounts for more than 30 per cent of Ontario’s carbon footprint, the City of Ottawa should commit to improving public transportation across the city and piloting free public transit (as has been considered in other international cities, including Bonn, Essen, Herrenberg, Reutlingen, and Mannheim).
  4. Given Ontario Premier Doug Ford has just cancelled the 50 Million tree planting program, the City of Ottawa should commit to an ambitious tree planting program. Paris committed to planting 20,000 trees between 2014 and 2020.
  5. The City of Ottawa should endorse (as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and numerous other cities have already done) the international Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration that pledges to enact regulations and/or planning policy to ensure new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings by 2050.
  6. The City of Ottawa should explore innovative ideas being pursued by other cities including: green streets and pocket parks to catch and absorb excess rainwater (Copenhagen), initiatives to support energy-efficient retrofits (Melbourne), and the promotion of local food production (Quito has set a goal of producing 30-40 per cent of its food locally).
  7. To pay for some of this, the City of Ottawa should send a climate accountability letter to Exxon, Chevron, Shell, and other fossil fuel corporations to demand they pay their fair share of the costs that cities are incurring because of climate change. The City of Victoria’s motion on this (passed in October 2017) called on other municipalities across Canada to pass similar resolutions.

It is also vital that the City of Ottawa find its voice on the issue of the approval and construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure. MORE

What happened when Oslo decided to make its downtown basically car-free?

It was a huge success: Parking spots are now bike lanes, transit is fast and easy, and the streets (and local businesses) are full of people.


[Photo: Åsmund Holien Mo/Urban Sharing]

If you decide to drive in downtown Oslo, be forewarned: You won’t be able to park on the street. By the beginning of this year, the city finished removing more than 700 parking spots–replacing them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches–as a major step toward a vision of a car-free city center.

Without those parking spots, and with cars banned completely on some streets, few people are driving in the area. “There are basically no cars,” says Axel Bentsen, CEO of Urban Sharing, the company that runs Oslo City Bike, the local bike-share system. The city’s changes are designed, in part, to help improve air quality and fight climate change, but the difference in the quality of life is more immediate. “The city feels different faster than you can feel the difference in [cleaner air],” he says. “You can see that you’re actually reclaiming the space and can use it for other purposes than parking cars.”

But while business owners initially worried about the city creating a ghost town that no one would visit, the opposite seems to be true; as in other cities that have converted some streets to pedestrian-only areas, the areas in Oslo that have been pedestrianized are some of the most popular parts of the city.  MORE

 

CITIES ARE TUCKING CLIMATE CHANGE FIXES

Image result for free transportation las vegas

Las Vegas is expanding its self-driving shuttle experiment

Cities across the US are rethinking their policies on homebuilding and transportation. Minneapolis lifted a longstanding, exclusionary ban on multifamily housing. San Francisco joined a few other cities in ending requirements that new developments have a minimum number of parking spaces.

Policymakers from big cities in Oregon and California have proposed statewide revisions to local zoning rules, making possible denser, multifamily homes and public transit. Communities like Austin and Berkeley, typically suspicious of new development, elected city council members with YIMBY-like platforms. (Citylab had a good roundup of the 2018 action.) And now the new governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has released a budget with a $1.3 billion goose to housing construction in cities.