NOW's editorial board met with David Miller on October 27. Here's what he had to say:
What are you doing to rid us of the Portlands energy centre?
"It's pretty tough. There's a provincial law that says they can put power plants wherever they want and they're not subject to any municipal authority. From my perspective, it's a complete failure of imagination. There's so much we can do to manage electricity demand and conserve. We've only just started. This past summer, electricity consumption on the really hot days actually went down because of the Toronto Hydro program where they turn the temperature down on your AC. The Portlands Energy plan fails to capture what Torontonians are - environmentalists."
What other moves is the city making to conserve energy?
"We're bringing forth an electricity strategy in March, part of the fight against climate change. It's about empowering residents to minimize their consumption of electricity, and when they do consume electricity, to get it from green sources wherever possible. We can be a catalyst. If you put a solar panel on your roof and sell into the system [grid], it's only going to work from a practical point of view if whole blocks get together. We can make that happen through our BIAs. The city should be a leader. It can be a leader."
You mention green energy, but the city has done little to meet its green energy target of 25 per cent.
"That's not all entirely our fault. The system made it very difficult, but it was just very hard to get green sources back then. But we're taking strides, and if you look at what's happened over the last three years with environmental issues in general, there's been enormous progress. We're the only city in Canada to have green building standards."
Are those going to be mandatory?
"Not at the beginning, but once we sort through them and see what works, we'll be able to make them mandatory."
The Toronto Environmental Alliance has criticized the city for stalling on its smog plan. What's your reaction to this?
"I found the Toronto Environmental Alliance report card this year quite bizarre. To say that because the smog plan isn't fully revised and implemented, the city deserves a C-, I thought, Boy, why don't you fight your enemies, like Stephen Harper?' All our buses run on biodiesel. The flexible TTC pass means that we have 40 million more riders since I became mayor. Yes, the smog plan was a bit delayed, but unfortunately I live in the real world at City Hall."
Why haven't you committed to shutting down the city during smog days?
"I haven't thought through whether we can just shut down the downtown core. I'll have to give that some consideration. The solutions to smog are about changing people's behaviours and getting people on bikes and public transit and out of cars."
There's a lot of criticism about the bad design of many new developments. Are things going to change?
"Until a couple of months ago, we didn't have an Official Plan in place. It's a really powerful document because it's going to steer our growth, and everybody's bought in so I can stand at council and marshal the votes. The City Of Toronto Act will help us on design review - it will force new projects to work. We have a much stronger position because the law says we now have authority over design. Before, if developers didn't want to cooperate, they could go to the OMB and get [a city ruling] overturned."
Many of these condo towers don't include mixed housing. How will you fix this?
"That's the one thing that hasn't been settled at the OMB. Our policy in the official plan is that 20 per cent of all development has to be affordable, and the developers are fighting that. It needs to be a city for everyone; it's about opportunity and housing. We're trying to do proactively what we can. About a month ago at Don Mills, we gave developers tax breaks over 20 years in exchange for rent-geared-to-income in the building. We're revitalizing Regent Park to make sure there's a continuous supply of affordable housing. I promised a thousand units; this year we reached 900, so we didn't quite reach the target, but it's 900 more than were built four years ago."
Your partnership with the corporate sector for mentoring at-risk youth was disappointing. What happened?
"The one place I haven't succeeded as I would have hoped is jobs for young people. We had a start, but the Board of Trade couldn't do it. Their target was 1,000, but they got 100 jobs. We provided 1,000 city jobs in the 13 priority neighbourhoods and the Board of Trade couldn't. It's awful. What I'm trying to do is create partnerships to invest in young people and neighbourhoods. In Malvern, Centennial College partnered with us to bring about free education opportunities. We've hired some youth outreach workers. [Then there's] our program with the carpenters, where if you live in Toronto community housing, they will train you to be an apprentice by working on the housing in which you live."
The bike lane network is not expanding as fast as it should - what's happening on this front?
"My plan the first three years was to put way more money in it. That didn't create the bike lanes we'd hoped, predominantly because of local community opposition. Councillor Case Ootes is still fighting to take out bike lanes. It's appalling. So my approach this time is going to be different. We need to think strategically about which routes we really need and try to get the entire route. We have to marshal the cycling community to work with neighbourhoods so [more bike lanes] become politically feasible. Mobility isn't about moving cars or buses; it's about people. You experience a city through your feet."
Many are concerned about how the city moved the homeless from City Hall. Surely the city can't provide homes for everyone it's targeting on the street?
"We didn't move people off Nathan Phillips Square in the way people are so upset about. Not a single person was told to leave. But they all were helped. The philosophy before I was mayor was to make sure people don't die on the streets and bring them blankets and food; the philosophy now is to make sure they get the help they need to get a home. But there are real clouds on the horizon. We're using federal Supporting Community Partnerships money. It runs out in March. The Harper government has given no indication that it will continue."
What is your biggest obstacle?
"The downloading of the Harris era. This year, $731 million out of our budget was for services the provincial government used to pay for, which is why I spent so much time playing at international relations as mayor. We're the only city to have an agreement with the federal government about transit, housing and immigration. Unless the city is properly funded, we will have police and social services and that's about it - everything else will get squeezed out."
If you get re-elected, what do you think your legacy will be?
"My view is that the city grows organically, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. What I'm hoping to do is make sure that in every neighbourhood people have a real chance. There's been [news] on [the riots in] France these last few days. We shouldn't take for granted that we're a peaceful, equitable society. In 2004 we started creating a safety plan, and ensuring that newcomers can have a real opportunity to access the professions and trades. My view of the city is we become Torontonians in public space, which is really important in a city of newcomers. So that's why we have the Clean And Beautiful initiative. The fact is, I've done everything I said I would. I've been the mayor I told people I'd be. The downloading of Mike Harris has been a real obstacle. I'm optimistic, though, because we have public-interest partnerships and we're now in a much better legal position to steer the city through the City Of Toronto Act. My strategy is pretty straightforward: we need the province and the federal government to pay for responsibilities that are properly theirs."