Video spreads false claims about Mississauga 15-minute city plan
A TikTok video with more than 167,000 views claims Mississauga, a large Toronto suburb, is planning to limit its residents' movements and their right to own gasoline-powered cars. This is false, according to city officials, Transport Canada and independent experts -- the "15-minute city" redevelopment plan seeks to make neighborhoods more walkable but has no restrictive measures.
"This is pure control," says the speaker in a February 13, 2023 TikTok video warning against plans to redesign parts of Mississauga, Ontario, a city of more than 800,000 people.
The three-minute video has been shared across social media, including in a Facebook post that warns: "The plan is to put ALL of us in these 15-minute cities, including the people who are currently living in rural and suburban areas."
Screenshot of a TikTok post taken March 7, 2023
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken March 7, 2023
The posts are the latest in a series of conspiratorial claims about "15-minute cities," an urban planning concept credited to Carlos Moreno, a professor at Paris's Sorbonne University.
"The 15-minute city is not about confining or restricting, but about freeing up time for citizens," Moreno told AFP on March 2. "It is not about preventing movement, but about giving everyone the choice to move. It is about stopping the long and tiring journeys that are forced by the current urban model."
He said claims that such cities will limit movement are "manipulation" and "lies."
"People are free to go where they want when they want," he said.
Mississauga is planning projects for the downtown area and other neighborhoods based on the 15-minute city concept. But a spokesperson for the city disputed the characterization in the social media posts.
"The idea of a 15-minute city is not new; it is how people have been living in cities, towns and villages for hundreds of years," the spokesperson said in a March 7 email. "In fact, many areas of our city, such as Port Credit, Clarkson and Streetsville, already operate like a 15-minute city."
One project called Connecting Cooksville would redevelop a 5.5-acre (2.2 hectare) site to include 2,000 new residential, retail and commercial spaces in addition to a public library and an urban forest -- all connected to regional transit.
The Mississauga spokesperson told AFP the plans will:
"not prevent the use of a car"
"not include travel 'zones' or restrict travel outside of Downtown Cooksville, or any other area"
"not introduce travel fees for residents, businesses or visitors when leaving or entering any neighborhood across the city"
"not involve the use or development of digital currencies"
"not implement or feature any digital ID programs"
AFP took a closer look at three false claims in the TikTok video.
Claim: "You will be limited to traveling out of your 15-minute district 100 times a year, and if you exceed that 100 times a year it is $56 per trip."
This is false; city officials say no such fee is planned, and urban planning experts say this is not part of the concept.
David Gordon, professor of urban and regional planning at Queen's University, said the claim is "scare-mongering."
"The 15-minute neighborhood concept is about providing more mobility options for residents," he said in a March 6 email.
Raktim Mitra, associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, agreed.
"These numbers and assumptions are baseless," he said on March 7, noting the 15-minute city is "not a concept that is supposed to be regulatory -- it's a design concept."
Mitra, director of the university's School of Urban and Regional Planning, said the approach requires thinking in a less auto-centric way but is not meant to restrict how far people can travel.
"At the core of this concept is the idea that if we build a community where our daily necessities are in close proximity, then we can reach those destinations easily without having to depend on cars for our everyday needs," he said.
Claim: "For any homeowners, they will be setting up what's called a 'smart grid.' You will be getting or be asked to complete a registration where you have to get a $40,000 loan in order to upgrade your home into a more solar efficient house."
Natural Resources Canada does have a nationwide Smart Grid Program that began in 2018, but it invests in utility-led projects to reduce emissions. The initiative is not linked to plans to build mixed-use communities in the greater Toronto area.
Natural Resources Canada also works with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to administer the Canada Greener Homes Loan program, which provides interest-free loans of up to $40,000 to help make homes more energy-efficient.
But the program is "completely optional," according to a statement the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation emailed to AFP on March 7.
Claim: "What they are going to be doing from now, 2023, until 2025 is they are going to get rid of any gas cars."
In 2021, Canada's federal government announced a "mandatory target" for all new cars and passenger trucks to be zero-emission by 2035.
"We're investing in consumer rebates, charging stations, business tax breaks and industry transition costs to make the shift to zero-emission vehicles as seamless as possible for drivers, workers and entrepreneurs," Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of the environment and climate change, said at the time.
But Transport Canada told AFP the sales target does not prevent people or businesses from using gas-powered vehicles they already own.
"It is our expectation that internal combustion engine vehicles will represent a significant portion of Canada's total vehicle stock for several years," said Katherine Proulx, an agency spokeswoman, in a March 7 email.
All of AFP's reporting on misinformation in Canada is available here.