Challenging the climate crisis


The founder of Signature Electric, Mark Marmer, is challenging political leaders in Toronto to deal with our environmental crisis. Currently the city is scrambling to find the savings the Ontario Premier is looking for and the environment is not a priority. Many proposals have surfaced, all designed to save money.

One proposal was that developers can pay to proceed with development while harming endangered species and their habitats. The operative word here is PAY!

City Councillor Shelley Carroll (Don Valley North) included an article entitled ‘Toronto’s Groundhog Day’ in her latest newsletter that compared the solutions presented in the 2011 City audit by KPMG with today’s budgetary operations.

Read Mark’s full response below:

Dear Shelley,

I initially browsed through the information and then deleted it. Over the next day or two, the groundhog day piece gnawed at me and I felt the need to respond.

Frankly, the most wasteful part was the fee paid to KPMG. Clearly, they took on the project and needed to produce a report at the end. The fact that these ideas included less snow clearing, selling off city assets and a reduction in zero waste emissions targets should have been an embarrassment. I would have expected these kinds of ideas from a grade nine homework assignment. No disrespect meant to our Ontario grade nine students.

These are not efficiencies or improvements. They are just service reductions. We need to have broader and smarter ideas.

As an example, we should not have any city staff maintaining our parks, etc. While I would hope that the city staff and workers are making the best effort to complete these tasks as efficiently as possible they lack any competitive drive to find better ways to accomplish their tasks.

Private sector businesses have no choice but to find efficient ways to complete their tasks. They have competition and a bottom line need to be profitable. The reality is that the government simply does not have these two drivers. No private property would employ their own staff to maintain their grounds. They understand the need to outsource these functions to a third party through a competitive process.

These city tenders should be open to all companies, not just those affiliated with unions. This is, in fact, public money.

When we commission a study we need to give them an opportunity for broader problem-solving. I’m not sure that KPMG is the right source for this type of thinking.

As a city, we have decided that we will try and reduce waste by recycling and redirection. This involves trying to endlessly educate each and every Torontonian on how and what to place in what bin etc. I believe that even when Torontonians make best efforts to consume and implement this information we are left with the feeling that this is kind of a sham. We hear stories of shipping containers with our trash being shipped around the world. What are we doing?

In truth as a consumer, we can only deal with the packing waste to the best of our ability. We have very little control over how much and what type of packaging is used.

The real control of the quantity and type of waste is controlled by the manufacturers and vendors.

How about the audacious idea of turning the whole waste and recycling cost back to the vendors? We will remove the cost from our residential tax base and each manufacturer and vendor will be responsible for the full life cycle of their products and packaging. Once we attach a cost to these items I can assure you that we will soon unleash a torrent of brilliant ideas on how not just to recycle waste but eliminate it altogether.

If vendors are only interested in selling water or coffee (just two very simple examples) and the bottles and cups are someone else’s problem there is no incentive for them to make changes.

Let’s focus on the real solution which is a reduction in waste as opposed to the last resort of recycling the waste.

I challenge our leaders to immediately have the guts to deal with this part of the environmental crisis in a real and meaningful manner. The cost savings will definitely follow. Better yet we will start to take care of the planet that sustains us and our children.

Each politician should look forward and see what legacy they want to leave from their time in office.

Wishing you a pleasant weekend.

Mark Marmer