Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow has unveiled an executive team that could lean heavily toward implementation of the city’s TransformTO climate plan—including an appointment that “could finally jolt Toronto Hydro into action on climate change,” according to one news analysis.
Chow announced her slate of deputy mayors and committee chairs August 10 with a pledge to “bring a deeply collaborative style of leadership to city hall” and a “renewed purpose to deliver the kind of change that the people demand,” Global News reports.
Climate and energy hawks on the list include veteran councillors Gord Perks as chair of the powerful planning and housing committee and Paula Fletcher as the city’s designate to Toronto Community Housing Corporation and CreateTO, a relatively new agency launched in 2018 to manage Toronto’s real estate assets.
Councillor Jamaal Myers, who the mayor described as a “longtime transit advocate”, will “provide strong leadership as a transit rider and voice for Scarborough” as chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, while councillors Shelley Carroll and Alejandra Bravo will head up the budget and economic development committees, respectively. And newly-elected councillor Dianne Saxe, a leading environmental lawyer and former Ontario environment commissioner, takes over the city’s seat on the Toronto Hydro board.
“The utility was never really in the spotlight during the administration of former mayor John Tory,” urban analyst Matt Elliott writes for the Toronto Star. “But it’s always been clear that Toronto city hall can’t achieve its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2040 or other parts of its TransformTO climate change mitigation strategy without a lot of work from Toronto Hydro.”
In its 2022 Climate Action Plan report, the local utility acknowledged that about 75% of the emissions reductions in Toronto’s 2040 net-zero strategy “depend on Toronto Hydro carrying out this existing mandate as an Expanded Electricity Distributor.” But “it’s not clear that Hydro has been doing enough, or working quickly enough, to really help Toronto achieve its strategy,” Elliott states.
“When I was commissioner and I was comparing utilities, Toronto Hydro was not one of the leaders, and we need you to be,” Saxe said, in what Elliott recalls as a “withering” assessment of the utility’s performance last month.
“For Chow, putting a councillor with that kind of perspective and expertise on climate change policy on the board of Toronto Hydro is a sign that this is a city hall that will pursue a different set of priorities than the previous administration,” Elliott says. “Saxe has also pushed for a forthcoming review of how to incorporate Toronto’s climate change goals into the salary and performance pay reviews of all CEOs who work for city-owned corporations.”