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TransportationClimate Change Table - National Consultations

Sixteen multi-stakeholder "Issues Tables"were created under the National Climate Change Process to identify andassess greenhouse gas reduction options within Canada, as follow-up actionto the December 1997 Kyoto Protocol. If ratified, the protocol will commitCanada to reducing greenhouse gases by six per cent below 1990 levels forthe period 2008-2012. 

The Toronto Hoof and Cycle Courier Coalitionwas invited to the Transportation Table's stakeholders meeting in Torontoon February 17, 2000. We made the following oral and written presentations.



February 17, 2000, Toronto Ontario

Given the list of invited stakeholders,we may again be dismissed as nothing more than poor relations at this get-together.We are the first to admit that our contribution to Canada’s transport industryis a highly specialized one - our focus being limited to the immediate,in-town, small-package market. We never have to address the weight, volume,or distance demands that regularly face you, our more ambitious cousins.

Still, as truly legitimate members of thisfamily, we deeply appreciate the opportunity to share our trench-levelperspective on today’s salient issue - the environmentally sustainabletransportation of Canadians and their goods.

Here, we feel we have much to offer, aswe represent the only branch of the shipping industry that has actuallyachieved that ideal goal of virtually zero emissions. And the members ofour guild have been quietly providing this pristine service for more thantwo decades, now. We would suggest that any further expansion of the non-motorizedsector of this industry would benefit all components of an integrated,more ecologically responsible transportation strategy.

Proactive measures to enlarge our sphereof operation, as well as the implementation of weather-proofed, pedal oreven foot-powered freight-ferrying vehicles (rickshaws), are just two ofthe logical, cost effective measures, that are, in our view, immediatelydoable. These sorts of simple, low-tech solutions, combined with a front-loaded,user-pay, tariff system for primetime downtown freight deliveries, woulddrastically reduce the perceived needs and desires that continue to encouragemotor vehicle drivers, to choke the very life out of our urban centers.

Cleaner fuels, the use of more fuel-efficientvehicles and further user-friendly improvements to our increasingly delicate,publicly-subsidized transit network – all are common sense measures aimedat reducing our society’s irresponsible dependence upon an automotive privilegethat must be re-evaluated in light of its real-cost damage to the commongood. The continued welfare all of world’s children depends largely uponour ability to admit and to overcome this most damaging and pervasive ofsocial addictions.
The achievement of such a goal will requiremajor adjustments in not only how our society moves, but why we move, aswell. It will demand of every citizen, corporate or otherwise, an honestself-appraisal of the impact, that one’s personal and professional activityvisits upon our increasingly fragile little planet.

Is all of our scurrying about as satisfyingas we have been led to believe?

Now, despite the radical anarchistic bikemessenger stereotype, we are not here to point fingers. We fully realizethat on the surface, our member’s hands seem relatively clean in regardto this issue. If the truth were told however, most of our troops are citydwellers, and therefore depend largely on motorized segments of the transportationindustry to provide the many necessities of life, available to the green-mindeddowntown resident. I may walk home carrying my groceries in a knapsack,but how do these goods get to the supermarket in the first place?

It would therefore be hypocritical of usto take an adversarial stance in this debate. We would much prefer to deconstructtraditional disagreements that only serve to exacerbate the problems athand, and offer whatever insight and assistance that the rest of the industrymight deem useful.    

That said, we strongly believe that muchof the irrational and self-destructive behavior evidenced by the drivingcommunity is directly attributable to two highly influential sources. 

The first, not surprisingly, is the autoindustry itself. Motivated primarily by the bottom line, these corporategiants flood the media with misleading images that perpetuate a carefullyscripted mythology, aimed at coercing buyers into their respective camps.Thinly veiled innuendo promising autonomy, security, sexual gratification,elevated social status, etc – all are traditional ploys that have helpedto define our auto-dependant age. 

Nowadays they are even trying to convinceus that “Everyone needs a mini-van”, but if questioned as to why they areproducing larger, less fuel-efficient machines, industry representativeswill readily tell you that they are merely responding to the demands ofthe market. Of course, they often fail to mention that they have createdthat market with billions of dollars in manipulative campaigns that despiteclaims to the contrary, are promoting a detriment to the common interestsof the majority. 

A disturbing industry trend focuses onan attempt to create the impression that there exists a privileged upperclass that is “built for drivers”, but it is yet another campaign thatcould really backfire, presenting auto-makers with much more pressing financialconcerns. Legal action aimed at having the automobile declared a dangerousproduct along the lines of tobacco or fire-arms, would greatly increasethe possibility of governmentally imposed constraints being attached tothe production and marketing of such vehicles. 

After all, given the environmental havocthey wreak and coupled with the carnage on our highways, how hard couldit be to convince a few truly ethical judges that these products are indeeddangerous. Especially when used in the way that the manufacturers suggestin stunt driver styled commercials, (notwithstanding the small print disclaimers.) 

Remember too, that big tobacco’s downfallwas triggered in part by the use of cartoon character, Joe Camel. The courtsconcluded that one purpose of such ads had been to impose a brand affiliationon potential customers whose youth barred them by law, from using the advertisedproduct. One has to wonder, given this scenario, just what fate might awaitthose responsible for the animated commercial that replaces the three littlepigs brick house, with that new symbol of security for today’s youth, anothermini-van.
As some of you may remember, another incrediblymisguided automobile ad was removed from the airwaves last year after ourorganization complained. An offensive tag line promoted car sales at theexpense of the environment, by questioning both the reliability and eventhe sanity of our membership, to wit, ”Why trust lunatic couriers whenyou can drive it yourself.” 

In response to this unprovoked attack,we called upon the industry to voluntarily reassess the ethics of theiradvertising practices. Quite frankly, we were amazed that such a multinationalgiant would be stupid enough to wantonly mistreat an already vulnerablelittle industry like ours. Especially since our efforts help to raise theircorporate image by helping to reduce overall urban auto emission levels.Since little or no improvement in these advertising standards seems evident,we humbly take this opportunity to echo last year’s plea.

The second powerful body that experiencehas convinced us is largely responsible for this country’s reputation asthe world’s worst per capita green house gas emitting nation leaves usin an even more alarming quandary than the auto business does.

For the past eighteen years, members ofour little guild have fought an exhausting battle with a seemingly ignorant,arrogant and vindictive arm of our federal bureaucracy- the Agency formerlyknown as RevCan. We have been dragged through three federal court appearancesas well as being subjected to countless in-house interrogations by thesadly flat, unenlightened minions operating the newly re-organized CanadaCustoms and Revenue Agency. And despite a Federal Court of Appeal’s three-judgeunanimous agreement with our argument that food is fuel for the enviro-friendlycourier and should be taxed accordingly, the Taxman continues to persecutethose who raised and pressed the argument. 

Throughout this odyssey, vehemently repeatedrequests for assistance have effectively gone unheeded in the governmentalhalls of Toronto, Ontario and tragically Canada as well. Consequently,the very real plight of one segment of our hard-working poor has been systemicallyignored, despite the incontrovertible fact that again, we alone actuallyachieve the stated goals of this very conference. Our membership accomplishesthis feat daily, through personal sacrifice – both physical as well asfinancial. If, as we believe, that we are all in this together, we canask nothing more…or less, of anyone in this room.


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