We need climate action, not climate opinions



Joel Harden
MPP Ottawa Centre

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Friday, September 15 was the global climate strike, led by the Fridays for Future movement, and I joined hundreds of neighbours on Parliament Hill to make our voices heard on climate action.

I faced tough questions from local students about the inaction of our elected officials. I don’t blame them for their frustrations,

Like them, I’m tired of politicians saying “they get it” on climate change, only to rebuff attempts at serious action. Seth Klein calls this the “new climate denialism” – it’s a way of noting an emergency while committing to nothing of substance. That’s our problem in Ontario.

The unfolding Greenbelt fiasco is a fitting case in point.

Much has been said about Premier Ford’s “madcap” plan – I am citing words used by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner – to remove 7,400 acres from the Greenbelt so powerful developers with ties to his government can earn over $8.3 billion in profits. But many forget this is also a plan to build huge homes on sensitive ecosystems made worse by climate inaction.

Mirroring the Greenbelt fiasco, the premier is likely aware of this but choosing to ignore the problem. Just as his government’s own housing task force told him that building homes on the Greenbelt was unnecessary, he has been sitting on a report for eight months that details how Ontario is suffering from rising temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions. You may have read this far, only to yell: “OK Joel, I get it, this stinks. But what can be done?”

That’s a worthy question, and I hear you. I’m also proud to say I remain a climate optimist if we focus our energies in the right place. Holding the government to account isn’t enough.

Five years of service as an MPP has confirmed for me that our microphones are frequently pointed in the wrong direction. Politicians get all the attention when we should be listening to folks at a community level.

That’s why I’m biking to Toronto for Ontario’s first-ever #SafetyRide, and I can’t wait to hear from people along the way about dangers faced by vulnerable road users. We will be talking about Bill 40, The Moving Ontarians Safely Act, and listening to local concerns.

While training for this event, I’ve seen many interesting things by the side of the road.

For example, a few weeks ago I was in Kitchener for a meeting with my MPP colleagues in the Official Opposition. On a morning ride before our discussions, I saw a sandwich board outside a small business with these words: “The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.” – Paulo Coelho.

Wow, I thought. That gets to the heart of so many things for me, particularly when it comes to our climate emergency. Actions speak so much louder than words to inspire change.

I want to know why road safety and climate action are important to you. Send my office your thoughts at JHarden-CO@ndp.on.ca – I’ll read every word you write.


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