Climate Action in Toronto: Misdirecting Directions

Published Categorised as Personal

What gives you direction in life?

I follow opportunities. When they come, I assess but also go with my gut. For decades, I’ve been rowing towards full healing of my brain. I’ve given up, let my hands rest on the oars, then get going again. I’ve been sidelined or focused on things important to me like writing books, first Lifeliner then novels after I began to recover my ability to write fiction in 2009. I thought at the start it’d only be a few weeks then a few months then a year or two. Bwahahaha!

That was the same for this grinding retrofitting in Toronto track I’m on. It’s taken me out of the rowboat to fully healed brain into a vast desert without end.

It began because essential things like my furnace and stove were dying. At the same time, I was contacted about heat pumps, told about Toronto’s and Canada’s climate action loans and grants, learnt about where the solar industry is at now. And so thinking into the future, I stepped onto the climate action path.

It looked nice and green with people stretching helping hands out to me, offering the idea of others having gone ahead of me to tramp down an easy path to follow. Bwahahaha!

I did my due diligence, studied the path’s map, consulted guides like SolarTO and the city’s website. I had been looking into solar and green initiatives on and off since high school. I’d toured a CMHC off-grid house in the last century. I’d studied solar offerings every so often and rejected them as being too risky financially in relation to their benefit. But solar today has exceeded 20% efficiency plus the price has halved in only a few years. The city and Natural Resources Canada list acceptable companies and what to look for. It’s the right time to step onto this climate action path, I thought.

My direction was set by my energy audit. Their report gave objective test results, my home’s EnerGuide rating (not great to say the least), links to resources, and specific action steps. The city held webinars.

With my map and provisions, I walked along this green path, following where others had gone before, noticing they were all well heeled and healthy but not really thinking through what that meant because I’d gone over and over my budget and all the numbers given me. I had so much renovation experience from my former life. Retrofitting was new yet I wasn’t a complete greenhorn. I felt anxious yet could handle this. Bwahahaha!

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

I contracted with the contractors I could through Homeservice Club with their triple guarantee. I’ve been with them for eons. I get good service; people show up when scheduled; they don’t leave midway; if there are snafus, Homeservice takes care of it to customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately, retrofitting is still a niche kind of area and Homeservice has no retrofitting contractor in their coterie (aside from electricians who can install smart anything electrical). I stepped out from the comfortably shaded part of the path onto a more sparsely treed part and accepted a new map from others who suggested various people and companies who did excellent work. I checked their names against government listings. All seemed OK, and I walked confidently forward. Bwahahaha!

Although I’ve had unfortunate dealings with Toronto Hydro in the past, I relied on the retrofitters to deal with them since they had experience with all of Toronto Hydro’s hoops. What a mistake.

Although I’d moved to my HVAC contractor over 2 decades earlier because my former one had left us freezing after they’d red-tagged our furnace, I took a chance on a different company to install my heat pump because my HVAC company wasn’t ready yet to install and I didn’t want to wait (they’re doing dual fuel now, which is a colossal waste of money and introduces more parts to fail — cold climate heat pumps can keep Toronto homes perfectly warm down to -30). What a mistake.

I thought a loan was a loan. I didn’t investigate how government “loans” work. What a mistake.

At least I wasn’t the only one gobsmacked and tossed into a yawning hole on the path when we learnt we had to spend the money first then we’d get paid back. Fortunately, my mother had long taught me you catch more flies with honey and city staff were sympathetic to our plight and gave me deposit money and payments as I went along. But it took a lot of crawling and climbing, nails reddened, to get out of that financial hole. When I did, I discovered the trees had thinned, the path was disappearing, and I was entering a desert of information. When I looked back, a bramble thicket had grown upwards and outwards to block any reversing.

Phone calls, texts, emails consumed my energy, anxiety over the encroaching cold weather stole me away from doing what I liked: writing, reading, art, photography, puttering around. I managed to squeeze some in here and there; through sheer bloody-mindedness I finished Brain Injury, Trauma, and Grief: How to Heal When You Are Alone while tracking down whoever hadn’t shown up to work on the heat pump or solar or house battery (I eventually gave up on the latter, to my parents’ consternation as without natural gas anymore I no longer have the means to heat water or food on the stove in case of a power outage in winter; as I pointed out, the furnace wouldn’t start anyway as it needs electricity. Pilot lights are long gone).

As the path petered out, I set out across the desert towards a mirage of flowering trees and blue skies. The air I walked through cleansed my cells. My lungs inhaled deeply, happily, while the governments replenished the coins in my pockets. But I shivered and had to learn how to heat my home the new way. When I pulled out my power usage notebook I’d used to budget my bills a year earlier, Toronto Hydro snatched it out of my hand, ripped it up, and shoved an IKEA-style instruction sheet into my worn fingers.

After I complained loud and long to my Councillor, Toronto Hydro helped me with the sheet but huffed and puffed that it was all the other guy’s fault I lost credits and they weren’t about to change because they’re all for climate action. And I’m also writing because work I thought was completed last Fall and I’d paid for I discovered in the cold snap was not done; though it’s been promised, I’m still waiting. And I’m also writing because non-Homeservice Club contractors keep cancelling on me after they’re supposed to be here. And I’m also writing because a squirrel has rendered my solar power-less and I’m still waiting for restoration. Homeservice Club came through for me to get rid of the nest that the solar contractor was supposed to have done. I realized babies were about to be born and then I’d really be fucked. So I had to act. More money sucked up by this endless retrofitting desert.

The benefits of climate action are like a field of beautiful flowers scenting the air with pure oxygen, wrapping you in warmth. But the stress of learning how to use a heat pump because Canadian HVAC contractors don’t learn from those who’ve gone before in Norway and UK (hint: heat pumps don’t work on/off like furnaces); of staying on top of contractors daily or weekly month after month after month after year to get work done; of dealing with continual Toronto Hydro billing issues and trying to get answers from them instead of pass the buck and obfuscations; of incomprehensible government definitions of loans; of being helped by city staff, contractors, Toronto Hydro enough that you let down your guard and begin to trust then wham!

It’s soul sucking, leaves me on edge and crying, takes me away from that which feeds me. Renovations never left me like this month after month after month. It’s the endlessness of it all that cracks you apart. I have no complaint about the quality of the work, but getting it finished, not being taught how to use it and maintain it…

My advice? If you’re well off, don’t care about tracking power usage from either Toronto Hydro or SolarEdge inverters for your solar power, and have a support network to encourage and feed you through the many, many “where are you?” calls, then go for it. The benefits will make you feel physically better and good about helping the planet, your community, and yourself.

Otherwise if you depend on government grants and loans to fund it and are disabled or have no support network, the stress will break you.

Without low income and disabled human beings participating, climate action will fail. But no one is at all interested in helping us. When they finally face that fact, and solar and heat pumps become as standard over here as they are in Norway, Toronto Hydro stops obstructing behind a mask of enabling, and Homeservice Club has retrofitters on their roster, then I’d say go for it.

My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.



We don’t spam! We will never sell or share your data with anyone.