By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
With the frequency of natural disasters steadily increasing across Canada, environmentalists are urging all levels of government in Ontario to take proactive measures in limiting potential damages.
Beaches-East York MPP Mary Margaret McMahon, who had her private members bill (Bill 56) shut down by the legislature at Queen’s Park in March, said that she is alarmed at the frequency of climate emergencies, and cited the recent deadly flooding in Nova Scotia.
“We’re seeing it in our own backyards,” said McMahon, who is a Liberal MPP. “We’re seeing it in Nova Scotia. We’re seeing the forest fires; smelling and breathing the air in Ontario. We need bold and brave climate action now.”
McMahon’s Bill 56 revolved around raising awareness about flooding issues. One way in which she proposes to achieve this is by proclaiming the first week of every March as Flooding Awareness week.
She also suggested that an infographic, developed by Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, be sent out with residents’ municipal property tax bills. This info, she believes, would help residents avoid costly damages from extreme weather.
According to reports from the University of Waterloo, about 70 per cent of people who received such information implemented two or more changes in their homes to mitigate flooding damages.
Although the Private Members Bill was rejected by the majority Progressive Conservative government of Ontario Premier Dough Ford, McMahon said she remains focused on getting the information out to the residents of the province.
“We’re going to send it out,” she said. “We’re going to keep Beaches-East Yorkers in the know and help mitigate their basement floods. We have the support from other mayors across the province so we’re just going to work with local municipalities in spite of the government not helping.”
McMahon, a former City of Toronto councillor for the Beaches-East York ward from 2010 to 2018, made climate activism a key part of her campaign when she ran for the Liberals in the 2022 provincial election. She said she is hoping that environmental issues become less of a partisan debate among politicians and residents.
She told Beach Metro Community News that she was surprised her bill was denied because she had previously spoken with members of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party at Queen’s Park – who she said showed support for the bill.
“I spoke to 122 out of 124 MPPs face-to-face,” said McMahon. “I got so much support and all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from underneath me.”
In light of recent disasters, McMahon is once again urging Ontario’s government to take proactive measures against potential extreme weather that has caused Canadians a lot of avoidable damage – both physically and financially.
She is also calling for the release of the Climate Impact Assessment Report from the provincial Minister of the Environment. The multi-sector climate change impact assessment was introduced in 2020 and was supposed to take about two years to complete. However, the final report has met multiple delays.
“We need it now, and I wonder why they’re not releasing it,” said McMahon. “My guess is that the information would be quite alarming.”
Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a Liberal MP who officially announced his bid for Ontario Liberal Party leadership recently, is also sounding the alarm about the impacts of climate inaction.
In a press release on Tuesday, July 25, he highlighted the continued damages climate emergencies have caused Canadians.
“The costs are enormous—to our economy, to our health, and to a sustainable future for our kids,” said Erskine-Smith in the press release.
In response to growing demands for climate action in Ontario, Erskine-Smith announced his Climate and Clean Economy Plan which he hopes “will attract global investment, create good jobs for workers, and reduce emissions across Ontario’s economy”.
The plan aims to Reduce Ontario’s emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2040.
This, he believes, can in part be achieved through deployment of zero emissions vehicles as well as budgeting for their supportive infrastructure. Erskine-Smith’s plan also emphasizes the importance of investing in “climate-resilient infrastructure” as well as providing support for municipalities in “their own climate adaptation efforts”.
“The people of Ontario want serious action now on climate change,” said Erskine-Smith. “Under my leadership, we will have North America’s most ambitious climate plan to attract global investment, create good jobs for workers, lower energy bills, protect more greenspace, and build a cleaner and safer future for our kids.”
— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.