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Why Toronto voters should consider the Green Party

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written columns detailing why I can’t vote for any of the three leading provincial parties. I can’t vote for Tim Hudak’s PC party because his plan to upload Toronto’s subway lines would devastate public transit. I can’t vote for Andrea Horwath’s NDP because her plan to take the HST off hydro bills is regressive and funnels way too much money away from more important projects and programs. And I can’t vote for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals because she and her party need to be held accountable for their irresponsible decision on Scarborough transit.

So, through process of elimination, it’s come to this: I’m considering the Green Party.

Luckily, the Greens seem to have a lot to offer this time around. In his interview with Metro, party leader Mike Schreiner impressed with his refreshingly straightforward policy positions. I’ve liked that the party seems willing to take on issues — like the Catholic School Board, or transit funding — that other candidates seem to regard as straight-up political suicide.

But Schreiner is running in a Guelph riding, and I wanted a Toronto perspective. To get one, I decided to call up David Del Grande, the Green candidate for the Scarborough Southwest riding.

Del Grande is an interesting guy. He’s the son of Toronto’s former budget chief Mike Del Grande, though he doesn’t share his father’s politics. He’s a frequent transit user and lives a car-free life with his wife in east-end Toronto. He’s also a longtime poster and moderator on the Urban Toronto Forums, a popular online discussion board for people with an interest in architecture, infrastructure, politics and development. (Full disclosure: I also spent a couple of years as a semi-frequent Urban Toronto poster.)

And now Del Grande is a candidate for the Green Party of Ontario. I start off by asking him the obvious question: Dude, why?

“Extreme frustration,” he tells me. “The way I describe it is, a year ago, I could have supported any of the other big three parties. I was hoping they would all lay out a true transit vision that really spoke to this city and its from political interference. And, ultimately, they all let me down in various ways.”

Del Grande cites the controversy over the Scarborough LRT as a flashpoint issue for him. He was disappointed when what he calls a “purely political decision" led to the axing of a fully-funded line.

“It’s really a question that boils down to how to move people in a more efficient manner and how to move people where they’re living and where they’re going. The LRT perfectly satisfies those requirements from Scarborough. It gets built sooner, it’s less expensive, and there’s more stations.”

He’s concerned that the need for density along transit routes is often left out of the conversation. “It’s about building the right transit, in the right area, for the right reasons,” he explains.

The Greens aren’t afraid to talk about how to pay for that transit, either. They’re unambiguously in favour of those things we’ve been debating for more than a year: dedicated revenue tools. Del Grande is convinced that the city needs more revenue both to expand its transit system and pay for ongoing operating costs.

“The province has a huge role to play in the success of this city — especially when it comes to revenue tools,” he says. “Property taxes alone won’t just cut it. I think one of [Former Mayor David] Miller’s greatest accomplishments was bringing in the vehicle registration tax — you know, even though it was repealed — but also the land transfer tax. Basically the idea that we need more revenue.”

“We can’t keep dancing around the issue pretending that the city has sufficient funds, that it’s not a revenue problem, that it’s solely a spending problem — that’s just not true. So given that the city can’t fund itself, the province can be instrumental in that role in either providing additional funding or allowing [Toronto city hall] tools to fund themselves.”

That’s not a message we’ve hearing a lot this election. For his part, Del Grande partly chalks that up to a fundamental shift in politics — not just in Toronto, but across Canada.

“I see where we are today because the left is failing in a lot of ways. The neoconservative viewpoint — the standard of what it is the government should do and what it is they shouldn’t do — is somewhat taking over. And really we don’t have strong voices, and I’d say a strong sense of community in terms of taking care of one another, as we used to.”

Okay, but can the Green Party change that? What about those who see a Green vote as a wasted vote?

“You never throw away your vote,” Del Grande says, adding that his party also supports adopting proportional representation. “Every vote counts, in the sense that if a party gets 10 per cent support province-wide, even if they don’t elect a single MPP, what does that tell the other parties? It tells them that’s 10 per cent of the vote they could get. So maybe they’re going to adopt a Green policy. Maybe they’re going to shift their thinking a little bit more.”

For voters in Toronto facing a tough choice between three major parties with serious flaws, that’s something worth considering. After this campaign, a shift in thinking might be just what we need.