City Program Aims to Build Green Economy
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City Program Aims to Build Green Economy

Green Acceleration Program looks to facilitate eco-friendly partnerships with the City.

A “green acceleration” program could bring eco-friendly business to Toronto, if a new city hall initiative is passed by council on September 30.

Among the items slated for the upcoming City Council meeting is the Green Market Acceleration Program, a two-year-pilot program that seeks to provide a structure for the City to partner with not-for-profit companies looking for help testing their green products and initiatives.

Currently, the City has no formal structure in place to partner with not-for-profit organizations, and consequently such initiatives are done on an ad hoc basis. GMAP would provide an opportunity for these companies to work with the City to test their products, which could contribute to the “green economy,” and generate jobs in the GTA.

The proposal has the potential to bring green business to the City, but could conceivably create complications too.

“It’s sometimes the smallest municipalities that are yelling the loudest…small and medium sized municipalities yell about it louder than we do,” says Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East). What’s the “it” that they’re yelling about? The importance of the ‘green economy.’

Carroll adds that GMAP could be “the kind of project that will put us on an even keel,” with those smaller, louder municipalities.

Rob McMonagle, a senior staffer with Economic Development & Culture, and Peter Remedios, who works in the Toronto Office of Partnerships, have been working on the project for two years.

“I think the primary issue when these companies approach the City […] is that City officials are often concerned with how much time their staff are going to be involved supporting these types of requests. There’s been a tendency in just saying ‘no,’” says McGonagle.

The TOP was established to address concerns that some companies were getting an “inside advantage” when engaging in purchases or financial transactions with the City; it acts as a legal regulating body to ensure that these dealings are fair and transparent. Yet, because of this, when a partnership with a company is not purely financial, there is no authority for City departments to set up an agreement. “That’s where we’ve stepped in,” says McMonagle. “We’re asking for authority from Council to enter a non-financial, legal agreement [with these organizations].”

While the GMAP would allow the City to partner with any not-for-profit organization, the pilots that McGonagle and Remedios have been conducting over the last two years have been eco-friendly–meaning that if the program were to be implemented, similar green enterprises could follow.

Projects piloted so far include a sawmill that was able to recycle wood from the City, and Toronto start-up firm Hydrostor, which was granted a site on Toronto’s waterfront to conduct water testing.

The program was presented to the Economic Development Committee on Friday, where some councillors had concerns about how it would function. “Can we all just move heaven and earth when the opportunities arise [for partnerships with green not-for-proftit organizations], without creating these spiderwebs of assistances,” said Carroll, later adding, “Can it just be folded into our regular operations?”

McGonagle says these are common concerns in policymaking. “Governments are often leery about trying new things, because they don’t want to spend money on something that might not work,” he says. But Carroll’s point still stands: is the program necessary to encourage greener partnerships in Toronto, or is it merely a needless complication?

The motion passed with an amendment that it be considered in consultation with the Director of Purchasing and Materials Management. It will be discussed at the upcoming council meeting on Wednesday September 30.