Canadian public health chief urges action on carbon footprint

Image copyright Mary Koekkoek Image caption Koekkoek believes older people are at risk of respiratory problems related to C02 emissions

Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair has questioned a policy designed to reduce the city’s carbon footprint – and pointed the finger at the gas-guzzling cars that people are still driving.

Mary Koekkoek is calling for Toronto to stop charging drivers for using existing roads, a policy she says is leading to a nasty respiratory problem.

She spoke about her concerns at a public meeting of Toronto’s public health committee.

Older people, she argued, are at risk of respiratory problems related to car fumes.

Do some people consider driving a tax?

“What this policy sets up is that we are trying to discourage people from driving a car, but we are not discouraging them from walking a few blocks around to the store to get a loaf of bread,” she said.

“So our tax burden is actually being transferred to the driver of the car, but it is on the passenger of the car, because this policy does not allow us to tax the vehicle.”

“The implication is that people have the free choice to keep driving a car if they wish, and I do not see that having any kind of positive effect whatsoever.”

She added that she was particularly worried about the 5- or 10-minute walks people do across to different locations to buy groceries.

“This is costing us to make it much more difficult for us to walk around to the store for something as basic as bread,” she said.

“It seems to me that a commonsense policy change for the city of Toronto would be to have people pay for the roads they use.”

Does that mean stopping people from driving cars in the city?

“That would be more of a free-choice policy,” said Dr Koekkoek.

“We have to try and look at what we are doing, and what we have done in the past is people were encouraged to walk, but it was not funded, in effect, by the city itself.

“And what we have done in the city of Toronto is that people are simply being charged by the city of Toronto, so it’s not a pay-as-you-go policy.”

She was frank about her politics:

“I believe that I am in favour of the environment, and in favour of Toronto, and so I don’t think that has really any effect whatsoever on me,” she added.

“I can still pay my property tax, I can still buy my carbon offsets, I can still buy my trash baskets, I can still get my coal ash out of my disposal.”

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