Climate change is engulfing municipalities; why aren’t Mississauga mayoral candidates prioritizing it?
Feature design by Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

Climate change is engulfing municipalities; why aren’t Mississauga mayoral candidates prioritizing it?

This is the second in a series ahead of Mississauga’s June 10th mayoral election, highlighting the key issues facing voters. Today’s topic is climate change.  


Extreme temperatures. Violent weather events. Reduced air quality. Distressed watersheds. 

The impacts of climate change are felt at the local level, where the toll of human-induced atmospheric disruption is impacting almost every department at City Hall. 

But as Mississauga residents decide who will lead the municipality during this critical period, the lack of information around climate policies is a glaring concern on the campaign trail. 

None of the top-polling candidates mention climate change or sustainability initiatives on their campaign sites — plans related to denser housing and complete communities are framed under the topic of affordability, though smart growth certainly is a key for municipalities grappling with the overwhelming effects of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. 

Instead, many of the candidates are much more committed to “streamlining” the development process and “cutting red tape”, mimicking the PC government, to get homes built faster.

To offer voters a better understanding of future climate policies that candidates are proposing at the local level, The Pointer reached out to Stephen Dasko, Alvin Tedjo, Dipika Damerla, Carolyn Parrish and George Tavares to find out what they would prioritize to make Mississauga a more sustainable city.


Mass flooding and ice storms have crippled Mississauga on at least three occasions over the past 11 years.



The City of Mississauga has received accolades for its environmental initiatives; many of which were championed by former mayor Bonnie Crombie as part of the transformation away from its sprawling past to an urban centre featuring complete communities and sustainable transportation. 

With Crombie now at the helm of the Ontario Liberal Party, her successor will have to lead Mississauga’s continued efforts to safeguard against the dire economic and social consequences of climate change.

As the owners and operators of more than 60 percent of all public infrastructure in Canada, municipalities will need an estimated $5.3 billion annually for local adaptation measures including infrastructure that can withstand the reality of climate change.

This year, 44 percent of Mississauga’s budgeted projects, including park acquisitions, electric-vehicle charging stations, enhanced sidewalk infrastructure, building retrofits (solar panels, LEDs, insulation, heat reflection etc), hybrid bus purchases and many other initiatives are directly related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, totalling $263 million.

Research into the future of local planning shows that climate change is the number one issue facing municipalities.   

Mississauga has strengthened its efforts over the past two years by recommitting to its interim greenhouse gas emissions target of a 40 percent reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. Last month Council approved a strengthened set of Green Development Standards (GDS) that greatly improved on the City’s previous standards implemented in 2012. The new GDS bring Mississauga in line with neighbouring municipalities as they prepare for a vastly different future.

The City is also beginning the process of updating its Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), with a new strategy set to be implemented in 2025. The prioritization of green buildings and clean energy is one of the key themes of the CCAP and will be one of the major challenges facing the next mayor.


Buildings make up the largest source of Mississauga’s greenhouse gas emissions.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


Buildings make up the largest portion — over 50 percent — of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Council has been told this over and over again by staff and New Majority, an advocacy group whose members have been campaigning for an updated set of Green Development Standards. 

“If you're going to be listening to developers, as official stakeholders, you should hear from future renters and homeowners as well,” Kaneera Uthayakumaran, a volunteer with New Majority said in a delegation to council in 2023. In a recent interview with The Pointer, Uthayakumaran emphasized that current generations are facing the consequences of poor decisions made by previous ones and GDS is one concrete action that can make Mississauga more sustainable.

Mayoral candidates have expressed their support for the updated standards, but few explained how they would prioritize, adapt and enhance the initiative.

“A lot of the main criticism, or at least feedback we've been getting is that [GDS] needs to be taken to the provincial level, or this isn't something that is within municipal hands, but we've been able to show that so many others have been able to implement it,” Uthayakumaran told The Pointer. “So it's really just making sure that we're doing as much as we can, to prevent future generations from needing to put in all that extra effort.”

Dasko, who represents Ward 1, home to Lakeview and Port Credit, has worked with the developments of Lakeview Village and Brightwater. Specific building materials and types of sustainable energy systems have been used to create communities built for the future. He emphasized the importance of timber frame construction that is currently being used for some buildings in the Brightwater project and the use of district energy at Lakeview.

District energy is relatively new to Ontario, using water sources to heat and cool structures, and the project at Lakeview, which will use effluent from the adjacent G.E. Booth wastewater plant to generate energy, is particularly novel. Dasko said he would ensure the technology is championed in other areas such as downtown, where the City is currently exploring the use of district energy. 

Tedjo says he will guarantee funding to support the current Green Development Standards while also continuing to update them with the “best and brightest” the industry has to offer “to make sure Mississauga is ready for the future”.

Going beyond GDS for new buildings, Tedjo said he will also direct staff to work on a performance standard for existing buildings that will mandate Mississauga’s most inefficient structures be retrofitted to reduce energy consumption. 

“We're helping people build more housing, while planning for the long term development of the city moving forward, making sure that we have those complete, walkable, sustainable communities that people want to live in and over and over again, say that they desire here in the city,” he said on The Pointer’s What’s The Point? podcast. 


Mayoral candidates say they want to distance Mississauga’s planning approach from sprawl development.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


Tavares expressed support of Mississauga’s GDS and emphasized ways the City can incentivize greener and more sustainable development. He is proposing implementing a feedback loop which will consult with industry players, including developers, but also community groups like New Majority, to continuously evaluate and update the City’s GDS as a living document. He said this will allow the City to quickly identify any outdated approaches and incorporate new and innovative solutions on a rolling basis as opposed to updating the entire set of standards on a 10-year basis. 

The City’s new GDS presented in tiers, with Tier 1 initiatives starting as mandatory standards and Tier 2 and Tier 3 being optional. As time progresses, Tier 2 will become mandatory and eventually so will Tier 3.

Tavares told The Pointer that he supports offering incentives to developers to reach these higher tiered standards sooner. These incentives can include tax breaks, expedited permitting processes and density bonuses, he told The Pointer. 

“This approach fosters a collaborative environment where developers are motivated to innovate and contribute to our collective efforts in creating more environmentally-friendly communities,” he said. 

Uthayakumaran told The Pointer the adoption of the new GDS was a big win, but needs to be prioritized post election. 

“It's mainly about making sure that we're doing as much as we can with the things that we have access to,” she said.

Infrastructure resilience and adaptation to climate change also have to be prioritized. Much of the City’s stormwater system and broader water infrastructure is outdated.

In 2013, torrential rains flooded underpasses, submerged streets and swamped basements, causing extensive damage to thousands of homes as large amounts of water with nowhere to go rushed from concrete roads, sidewalks and driveways, overwhelmed stormwater systems that were largely ineffective. It was the costliest storm in Ontario’s history, causing $932 million in damages. 

Various organizations like the Canadian Climate Institute have published widely about the cost savings associated with prioritizing nature-based and climate resilient infrastructure. As municipalities already grapple with financial uncertainty, working to adapt critical infrastructure will avoid crippling the City’s coffers.

Parrish said she will continue to work in collaboration with City staff and the conservation authorities to ensure there is no development in watersheds where construction should not happen and that stormwater infrastructure is kept in top shape using, and improving on the City’s unique stormwater charge which is based on the amount of space on a property that sends rainwater into the municipal system. 

Damerla pointed to her platform commitments which include a residential stormwater charge rebate that will save residents up to 50 percent, incentivizing them to install things like rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavers. 

Damerla also expressed her support to continue with the City’s One Million Tree campaign. In 2013, the City pledged to add an additional million trees to its urban canopy by 2032. These would add to the existing two million trees owned by the City and contribute to natural cooling to avoid heat dome effects and excessive energy use for air conditioning.

The response to The Pointer by each of the five candidates and information used in their campaigns, while acknowledging climate change as a serious issue facing Mississauga, lacks detail to assist residents in understanding exactly how each of them will tackle the most critical challenge facing the municipality. 


The creation of new greenspaces and enhancing the tree canopy is a critical issue for all candidates.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


Trees and greenspace were priorities of other candidates as well. Mississauga’s Park Plan which was released in 2022, shows that while the City as a whole is reaching its target parkland provision of 1.2 hectares per 1,000 population, that parkland is distributed unevenly across the City with some neighbourhoods, like Streetsville (0.7 hectares per 1,000 residents), Clarkson Village (0.6 hectares per 1,000 residents) and Sheridan (0 hectares per 1,000 residents), having little to no parkspace.

Tavares told The Pointer as mayor he would look to prioritize the creation of parks in these communities that have a lack of greenspace by ensuring cash-in-lieu funding from developers is used to create greenspaces in areas where development is planned. 

In order to catch up on the growing deficit of parkspace across the city, Tavares also said he plans to identify and repurpose underutilized land within the city for park development.

“This may include converting vacant lots or other unused spaces into green spaces that benefit the community,” he said.

Parrish said she supports the creation of more parkspace but wants it to remain as natural as possible. Instead of constructing play structures, soccer fields and baseball diamonds with artificial lights, she wants to see dedicated greenspaces that offer opportunities for the human benefits of forest bathing while also contributing to a larger urban tree canopy which can improve things like air quality. 

Tedjo has also committed to enhancing the urban tree canopy and the city’s walking trail systems as part of the beauty that attracts people to outdoor spaces throughout the municipality.

“That’s why I am fully committed to the ongoing expansion and enhancement of Mississauga’s trail system and will prioritize improved connections between them,” he said. 

Dasko is already championing low impact development in his ward, with the bioswale system at Brightwater which will contribute to safer stormwater retention, and overseeing the creation of 145 acres of waterfront park space that will revitalize the once industry-heavy southern portion of Mississauga, into a space that can be used for people to enjoy the outdoors. 

If elected mayor, Dasko said he will create these spaces across the city with strategic planning that benefits the majority of the population.

One of Mississauga’s most recent accolades for sustainability initiatives was for its swift transition to a hybrid electric bus fleet. MiWay boldly stated in 2019 that it would no longer be purchasing any conventional diesel buses and that all new purchases or replacements would be hybrid electric or zero emissions. The City then received funding from the federal and provincial governments, triggered by the City’s own funds, to purchase 358 hybrid electric buses between 2022 and 2027. By the end of this year, 58 percent of the MiWay fleet will be hybrid electric.

But hybrid electric buses alone will not enable MiWay and the City of Mississauga to reach the goal of net zero transit emissions. Though the buses produce less carbon emissions, they still have a conventional internal combustion engine. The procurement of hybrid-electric buses is one step on the way to transitioning to full zero emissions transit. A staff report suggests procurement of fully electric or battery fuel cell buses could begin in 2025 once greater charging capacity is available.

Tavares told The Pointer he is supportive of expanding the City’s public transit system emphasizing the importance of decreasing the reliance on the car and getting people excited about more efficient transit.

“Instead of looking at the buses as a different way of traveling. I want them to look at that as a positive way of traveling,” he said, “It’s important to understand  the change from car dependency to transit. It's going to take some time, and the mentality has to change.”

However, without rapid advancements in the electrical infrastructure in place, and without funding from upper levels of government, he cannot support the staff recommendation to begin procuring fully electric buses in 2025. He said without these caveats, the cost of implementing the plan would likely result in excessive tax increases, something he does not support. 


Nearly 60 percent of Mississauga’s bus fleet will be hybrid electric by the end of the year.

(The Pointer Files)


Both Dasko and Damerla said they support the staff recommendation but gave no insight as to how they would go about securing the funding or what they would do to ease budget pressures.

Tedjo said in order to continue the swift transition to a more sustainable transit system, without placing undue burden on taxpayers, he would utilize tools like the federal Zero Emissions Transit Fund and other federal and provincial grants where necessary. He also acknowledged that while transit is a more sustainable form of transportation, not all Mississaugans are willing to give up their cars. To support a cleaner car culture he would leverage funding for the implementation of more EV chargers across the city.

Damerla, Parrish and Tedjo have all worked in upper levels of government — Damerla as a Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, Parrish as a Liberal MP and Tedjo as a public servant in the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities. All five candidates said they would work to foster strong relationships with both the provincial and federal governments to ensure proper funding for sustainability. They will prioritize collaboration on Green Development Standards and lobbying the provincial government to implement some of the standards in the Building Code. 

“As Mayor, I will work with other levels of government to fund infrastructure at the municipal level. Areas to prioritize include reduction in greenhouse gases, a commitment to develop district energy and other methods of heating and cooling such as geothermal,” Dasko said.  

An analysis of Mississauga 2023 capital budget by The Pointer found that 57 percent of the budget was dedicated towards measures and initiatives that could be considered either climate mitigation or adaptation. In 2024, the City stated that 40 percent of its capital budget is dedicated to environmental initiatives. 

Tedjo has campaigned on freezing taxes for the current term, raising questions about how key sustainability initiatives will be funded.

Parrish said she is proud of her track record on naturalizing property and protecting greenspaces and will ensure these initiatives are supported through future budgets. 

“You mandate it, you work it into the budget, and you build a budget around it,” she said. 

“[Climate change] seems like such a big issue that we need funding from people higher up, but the main thing is that other municipalities have been able to show that they've been able to invest in these initiatives,” Uthayakumaran said. 

While Tavares did not speak directly to municipal finances, he would implement a program to provide training to municipal staff and engage community members to enhance climate literacy and action across the City. 

“[We will] collect feedback from the community and stakeholders to continuously re-evaluate and adjust strategies as needed.”  


New Majority (formerly Future Majority) has delegated numerous times to Mississauga Council for support of strengthened Green Development Standards.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer Files)


Community engagement was mentioned by all five candidates.

“It was effective to have youth at the council meetings in deputations and one on ones with city councillors. At the last meeting on April 8, it was cited multiple times how effective it was to have youth constituents care about their city and show up and meet with elected officials,” Amanda Munday, a staff member at New Majority, told The Pointer. “And so, for us, what we're really looking for is will the candidates running in the election speak to you and will the next mayor continue to consult with youth because we've seen how effective that is and how important it is for the vibrancy of Mississauga and for climate.”

Tavares said the more engagement with residents and businesses, the bigger the knowledge base, which is important when it comes to creating solutions. 

“How can we do that more through the lens of the municipality and support what's happening in the city? I'm happy to do that. Because I'm super invested in the future of the city and the people who live in the city,” Tedjo said.

As the June 10 election nears, sustainability will be a focus for some voters.

“Being able to know that we can make change at that local level and getting feedback from some counselors and even some of the candidates running that they are able to make those changes is really reassuring,” Uthayakumaran said. “It's not only up to places like the federal government or provincial governments that are often pretty hard to reach for young people. But rather that we are able to connect with climate engagement and make those changes at a local level. I think that's why it's so important that Mississauga gets involved.”



Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @rachelnadia_

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