Last Tuesday at the St. Lawrence debate I was very excited to announce a major policy initiative called GROW Housing Toronto. The plan would see the Moss Park Armoury replaced with an inspiring development that provides not only new affordable housing (based on proven mixed-income, rent-to-own and co-operative models), but also generates power, grows food and creates jobs. Even though the proposal is in a “conceptual” stage, many experts have contributed to GROW Housing’s design and, while not all of the details have been finalized, many have. Here’s the video of the announcement.
â€œItâ€™s tempting to let cynicism sink in,â€ says Green candidate Chris Tindal. â€œBecause these are just words.â€ Recently noting that the number of news stories regarding his hair (one) exceeded the number of news stories regarding his platform (zero), Tindal shows off something practical: GROW Housing Toronto, a design to replace Moss Park Armoury at Jarvis and Queen with affordable residences that fulfill urban environmental fantasies â€” including a Vertical Farm.
The conversation keeps veering away from the local, though, but Rae manages to reel it back by expressing how more people across Canada migrating to cities will be even more of a challenge than the immigration of a previous era. Tindal is pleased to hear Liberal talk of an environmental tax shift, noting there was no such discussion by Bill Graham when Tindal last did this election schtick in 2006.
But thereâ€™s a bit less Rae worship from Tindal this time around, pointing out that heâ€™s the only candidate on the St. Lawrence Centre stage that was there for the previous federal election.
â€œWe are hearing that people should vote Liberal to stop the scary spectre of Stephen Harper when you know this is a by-election,â€ snipes Tindal. â€œThe fact is, the Conservatives have no chance of winning â€” the best Don Meredith can say is that he believes in miracles. Youâ€™re slipping into the politics of fear, and I think there are more options than that.
â€œVote for me, and if you donâ€™t like me, you can vote me out â€” in a month â€¦ or a year â€¦ or a week â€¦ or a day â€¦ or however long this current government lasts.â€
Tindal also used his personal blog to refute Raeâ€™s assertion that there arenâ€™t Canadian military officers serving in Iraq as part of the American command, and even served up the evidence.
It’s extremely cold out today. Perfect for trying out your new Christmas sweater, eating a bowl of hot noodle soup for lunch, or curling up on a coach in front of whatever your couch is in front of. (So far, I’m two for three. During election campaigns, one does not find much time for one’s couch.)
It’s also a good day to remember that there are still tens of thousands of people in Toronto, including thousands of children, who are either homeless or too close for comfort. In a city and country as wealthy as ours, there’s no excuse for that.
Canadians rightly pride ourselves on our universal health care, and in recent years have considered introducing additional “universals,” including universal child care. It’s time to add universal housing to the list of things that make us proud as a nation.
And we can achieve universal housing throughout Canada. Not only can we afford it, but when full-cost accounting is applied it would cost government even less than the status quo. (As one simple example, one of my campaign volunteers works in a hospital emergency room where homeless people routinely come in complaining of some ailment. After a few hours the hospital staff realize that all the individual wanted was food. That’s a very expensive sandwich.)
There are a number of specific actions that Green MPs would take. In short, the federal government needs to provide more funding for affordable housing, and that funding needs to be used in a more creative and effective way. We don’t need to look far for positive examples. Here in Toronto Centre we have the St. Lawrence area, which Wikipedia calls “the model for the design and planning of new urban communities across North America.” Its successful mixture of market and subsidized housing has been duplicated around the world, yet we haven’t duplicated it in our own city.
Obviously, homelessness is also tightly linked to poverty, and the connections run both ways. Providing housing helps to eliminate poverty by giving individuals a stable base from which to seek employment and build confidence. We must simultaneously use new and realistic solutions to tackle poverty directly with a view to its elimination.
We can’t allow the lack of affordable housing in Toronto and other Canadian cities to continue. It’s time to move forward.