ECOSPECTIVE: Stewards of the land; Ramal


01/21/2008

Daniel O’Neail
I had not had a chance to sit down with Khalil Ramal since I congratulated him on defeating me in the Provincial election. Our schedules being so busy I was pleased that he was willing to come meet me at City Hall between meetings on Thursday (Jan. 17).

I wanted to know what inspired him to run for office, and where he placed the environment as a current concern, and was pleased with his honesty and candor.

Ramal came to Canada looking for new opportunities as so many people do from so many cultures, admiring Canada’s democracy, freedoms, and sense of justice. Like every other politician I have ever met, he wanted to make a difference, to bring about positive change in our society.

He has worked with some of our more sensitive members of our community inspiring him to work towards protecting the vulnerable. His own immigration gave him insight into the obstacles faced by new Canadians when they first arrive, and how hard it can be to navigate the structure and obstructions to become Canadians.

He compared this to the obstacles faced by the poor and underprivileged in our community, and the support the government can provide. He objected to the silo practices of agencies, the efforts have to “combine to provide for all.”

As a result he decided to get involved, he lacked faith in those who were in government at the time and decided to take on the challenge himself, winning a second term this past November. He admitted that his views are idealist, but he sees government as stewards of the land, to provide for this and future generations.

His government’s environmental platform was overshadowed in 2003 by the Walkerton water issue, and since has introduced the Clean Water Act, and dedicated the province’s largest conservation area in Northern Ontario called the Green Belt.

They have promised to concentrate on renewable energy, to allow for the closures of coal-fire plants, funding solar farms in Sarnia, and upwards of 700 wind impellers, as well as updating the Niagara power generation an extra 1000mws.

He said that this was also to reduce Ontario’s dependency on Nuclear energy. I asked if this didn’t conflict with the $40 Billion commitment to Nuclear his party promised?

He explained that they want to reduce the dependency by 10 per cent by 2020. As Ontario’s energy needs increase, the nuclear component will become less of the total production.

He also mentioned one of my favorite programs. We, as citizens, can sell energy back to the province in the form of solar at 42 cents per/kw methane at 25 cents per/kw and wind at 12 cents per/kw.

He also pointed our the investments made into new technology, such as a battery powered light that can stay lit for 6 hours, on a 6 minute charge. and hybrid cars and ethanol.

All good but I wanted his personal views on the environment, and asked him to expand on those and what importance he places on them.

“Stewards of the land” he repeated “our ancestors left this land to us.”

He went on to express his feelings that our technical improvements have abused our land in many ways, increased waste, and chemicals. After that it became a machinegun list of changes from paper bags to plastic, from returnable glass pop bottles to disposable plastic, the deterioration of natural foods, the increase of ‘fast food’ outlets and the prepackaged meals, and how these all contribute to the damage, and overload our landfills.

He protested the Landfill issue in letters, but since it was a private deal between 2 companies, there was little he could do. “Toronto should behave as a big sister, and lead by example, not bully the smaller communities.”

We briefly discussed the Gassification program I had been involved in to combat our local landfill issues, and he expressed support for this type of initiative.

The Big question still needed to be answered, Where do you place the environment in importance politically?

His honesty is greatly appreciated.

“Fourth” he said. “Poverty first, then integration, which are linked, then health, and the environment, and they are linked.”

Each of these issues have sub categories , such as education into poverty, immigration, into integration, and that many of the sub categories overlap, Ramal said.

They are all linked in the need for education, the community needs to be educated to understand the issues, so that all the linking factors can be addressed, he said.

As we sat in the dining room at the top of City Hall, I thought it appropriate, that while facing each other we both were able to look over, from different perspectives, the city for which we both care so much.

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