New Changes to Canada’s Food Guide and the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

The federal government is preparing to unveil its long-awaited update to Canada’s Food Guide, the first such overhaul in ten years. The new guide is expected to place greater emphasis on plant-based foods, not only for their health benefits, but also for the sake of environmental sustainability. Most notable is the downgrading of animal products such as red meat, and the removal of milk and dairy products as a separate category which the guidelines suggest must be limited due to their high fat, sugar and/or salt content.

The current guide has been criticized by researchers and dietitians alike on a number of fronts:

  • The inclusion of dairy products as a distinct food group;
  • Counting juices as servings of fruits and vegetables;
  • The reliance on serving sizes that can be difficult for people to interpret and measure;
  • Its failure to reflect Canada’s diverse cultural landscape.

During the process of re-drafting the Food Guide, industry-commissioned reports were excluded for consideration. Instead, a series of public consultations were organized across the country and Canadians were encouraged to provide feedback on the draft guidelines.

A plant-based diet places greater emphasis on plant sources such as vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts and legumes. This being said, limited amounts of lean meats and low-fat dairy products are still recommended. Numerous studies have linked plant-based diets to decreased risks of cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and a reduction in LDL cholesterol. Why? A diet rich in plant foods is naturally low in saturated fat, high in fibre and low in sodium and added sugar.

Not only are plant-based foods a key determinant to human health, they also contribute to biodiversity conservation and environmental sustainability. The new guidelines acknowledge that our current food system places stress on the environment, particularly the consumption of meats and animal by-products. The draft states, “Diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact.”

A shift towards more plant-based foods is achievable and here’s how:

  • Begin by eating more plant-based meals you already eat.
  • Change one meal at a time or one ingredient at a time.
  • Initiate a 50/50 switch and replace some of the meats with legumes – for example, only add half the amount of beef you normally would to a recipe and top up with lentils.
  • Eliminate animal-foods you don’t eat often.
  • Choose whole grains over white varieties – e.g. brown rice or spelt pasta.
  • Replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat (e.g. ice cream, high fat cheeses and butter) with foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat (e.g. nuts, seeds, and avocado).
  • Consume a variety of differently coloured vegetables and fruits, and buy season-specific produce.
  • Stock your kitchen with plant-based foods you want to eat.
  • Don’t forget, canned and frozen vegetables are nutritious too, but be sure to choose options that are low in sodium and sugar.

 

Wynne Liberals block bill to ban pre-pay hydrometers

In December 2017, Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government prevented an NDP bill which would have immediately banned pre-pay hydrometers in Ontario. Pre-pay meters force individuals to pay for their electricity before they can use it. Hydro One included a plan to use pre-pay meters in their application for increases for the next few years. Pre-pay meters can potentially lead to disconnections of electricity in the winter if the electricity bill has not been prepaid. Disconnecting electricity in Ontario in the winter is currently illegal.

“Today, we had an opportunity to do the right thing and put an end to the privatized Hydro One’s attempt to force families to feed the meter or face having their electricity cut off,” said Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP. “By rejecting this bill, Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government have sided with the privatized Hydro One and let families down once again.”

The Ontario NDP has also announced their plan to bring Hydro One back into public hands while bringing hydro bills down by about 30% for residents and businesses, and ending mandatory time of use pricing which charges people different rates depending on the time of day.

“Hydro prices are out of control thanks to years of Liberal mismanagement and their sale of Hydro One, a plan that Ontarians strongly rejected,” said Tom Rakocevic, Ontario NDP Candidate for Humber River-Black Creek. “If allowed, these new pre-pay hydro meters could leave many out in the cold.”

The Ontario Liberals sold Hydro One in 2015 which has resulted in a large increase in the hydro bills of Ontarians throughout the province. They had originally opposed selling off Hydro One during the previous Ontario PC government.

 

Elections Ontario not taking action on low voter turnout

In 2015, the Downsview Advocate featured an article illustrating the lack of accessibility to provincial voting locations in the area. Unfortunately, years later and with an election this summer, the issue remains unresolved. While Elections Ontario has recently completed an outreach effort to deal with accessibility to polling stations, with regards to ramps and other similar issues affecting people with disabilities, it did not properly address the low number of voting locations in the riding.

The west part of Downsview is now a riding called Humber River–Black Creek (formerly known as York West – the name was changed by Elections Ontario, although the boundaries have remained the same). This area had the second lowest provincial election turnout across Ontario.

Humber River–Black Creek has one of the province’s highest tenant populations and to account for this during municipal and federal elections, larger buildings have polling stations in their lobbies. As expected, tenant turnout in municipal and federal elections is much higher than provincial elections in relative terms. Elections Ontario knows this. Humber River–Black Creek only has 45 polling stations as compared to the neighbouring ridings of York Centre and York South–Weston which have 66 and 65 polling stations respectively. These ridings have almost 50% more places for residents to vote as compared to Humber River–Black Creek.

When this was brought to the attention of Elections Ontario in 2015, there was no response. Now, a few years later, with an election around the corner, it would be timely to see a response. Voters deserve ease of access to voting stations, and Humber River–Black Creek deserves the same standard as neighbouring ridings. This is unacceptable and those responsible in Elections Ontario need to take immediate action.

To see the 2015 article on low voter turnout, visit: http://www.downsviewadvocate.ca/2015/02/arent-people-downsview-voting/