In amidst all the high-voltage casino, sole-source, diversity, campaign finance audit talk, I came across this little nugget of a notion. Our Horizon. A grassroots initiative push to have warning labels put up at gas pumps alerting those filling their tanks of the damage they are inflicting from behind the wheel of their cars. Like the warning labels now legislated on cigarette packs with the graphic details of the harm done by smoking.
Yes, Councillor Norm Kelly. Smoking does have deleterious effects on the health of smokers regardless of what you may’ve read.
Now, I’m not going to get into the efficacy of such measures. Go through the group’s website, decide for yourself. I just want to point out one aspect of the plan.
“Municipalities in Ontario have the legal authority to require gasoline retailers to put warning labels on gas pumps similar to those found on cigarette packages. Municipalities are able to do this under the authority of their licensing powers and general health and welfare powers found in the Municipal Act.”
We often – and I don’t necessarily mean the royal ‘we’ – we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke fairly regularly bemoan the lack of control over local matters by the duly elected municipal government. Take for instance last week’s ruling on Mayor Rob Ford’s conflict of interest appeal. Did city council have the power to order the mayor to pay back the donations raised for his football foundation? Or in the discussion over the last couple days about extending voting rights to non-citizen residents. Can the city unilaterally go ahead with that or will it need to go to the province for a green light?
In many facets of governance, municipalities are not in control of their destinies.
This tends to make many of our local reps a little gun shy when it comes to moving in any direction that might interfere with senior levels of government. It’s also a very convenient excuse to not do anything if that’s your particular political bent. Immigration is a federal responsibility. What can we do about it? Childcare is the provincial jurisdiction. Our hands are tied.
Climate change? (Keep it zipped, Councillor Kelly.) That’s hardly under our umbrella. Isn’t there some sort of world government that deals with that?
Just this week I came across a book written by Alex Steffen, Carbon Zero: Imaging Cities That Can Save The Planet. I have not read it yet and certainly it seems to be dealing with big ticket initiatives like design and zoning but it suggests cities, despite their lowly stature on the wielding of power scale, can punch above their weight when it comes to contributing to even global matters. When it comes to something like climate change (don’t want to hear it, Councillor Kelly), it’s essential that they do if Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy are any indication of what the future holds.
What good will warning labels at the gas pumps do? Hard to say at this point. But what harm is there to it? If even just a few motorists feel a prick of conscience, however fleeting, that there are other costs to their dependence on fossil fuels than just the price adding up in front of them, why not? It’s within city council’s powers. Let’s have a debate.
— labelly submitted by Cityslikr