Sunday, January 22, 2006

How Will the Federal Election Affect the Don?

While there are many opinions as to how things will go on Jan. 23, I haven't heard any discussion about how the result will affect the Don River. That's mostly because there is no direct connection between Federal politics and the Don River environment. Most of the legislation affecting the river, the valley, the parkland, the infrastructure, is either municipally or provincially regulated. Most of the land is owned by either the TRCA or the city. The only Federally owned property I know about is a small chunk of land in the Don Mouth area. Most of the funding is provincial or municipal. The only direct funding is EcoAction which is administered by the Federal Ministry of the Environment.

Since there is no direct connection that leaves only indirect effects. For example, the city is in a bind over funding for TTC capital improvements, ie. new buses, trains, and streetcars. They need money from the provincial and federal governments for the bulk of this money. A deal worked out between the city and the Feds last year did see some money for new buses. As long as the Feds continue to supply money for these kinds of things, it could mean that the city is more willing to direct other funds towards things like wet weather flow plan programs.

Another pot of federal money may be in jeopardy depending on what happens tomorrow. Currently the city receives 1.5 million dollars to administer the Streets to Homes program. This is a very worthwhile program that provides support for homeless people to move into permanent homes. We recently had a discussion with them about targeting homeless people setup in the Don, a problem that has long been neglected. Whoever wins tomorrow may have different ideas about renewing these funds.

So what will be the best result for the Don? I don't want to push any particular political agenda but I think the best result will be a minority Liberal or Conservative government with either the NDP or the Greens holding the balance of power. That way the pro-environment parties can hold the governing party's feet to the fire to ensure that environmental and social issues are properly addressed. Any trickle down affect will likely be good for the Don.

So make sure you vote tomorrow because we need people to fight for the Don, a forgotten issue in this election. If only trees could vote...

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