Doug Ford’s environmental plan falls woefully short
Some people argue quibbling over semantics — the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text — is trivial. Not always.
Consider the Ontario government’s just-announced plan to fight climate change. Environment Minister Rod Phillips says the plan doesn’t include a carbon tax.
Ontario’s environment watchdog — a position the government has announced is being cut — says the province’s plan will impose a carbon tax on industry despite government assurances it would not do so. She argues, credibly, that introducing mandatory standards on Ontario’s largest polluters does, in fact, put a price on carbon. Just not for everyone.
Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe is right, but don’t expect the government to admit that. Doug Ford will never admit to putting a price on carbon for industrial polluters, any more than he will admit his plan falls short of what is really needed. But both things are true.
No one is going to argue against tougher regulations for big polluters. But it’s worth remembering that all of the province’s worst polluters don’t produce as many harmful emissions as comes from buildings and transportation. And those sectors are not even noted in the plan.
Another key feature of the Ford plan offers incentives to the private sector to help Ontario meet its goals. How will those incentives be funded? By the public treasury, of course. So no matter how you slice it, taxpayers are funding industry that wants to become more energy efficient. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that. But even the most staunch conservative cannot deny that this amounts to taxpayers investing in greenhouse gas reduction. As they would, say, with a carbon tax.
The Ford government says this plan means the province will meet GHG reduction targets agreed upon by world leaders in the Paris Accord. Under that international agreement, Canada has committed to reducing emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030. Thanks to the efforts of the previous government in eliminating coal-fired generation, Ontario has already reduced emissions by 22 per cent. So if this plan could achieve an additional eight per cent reduction, Ford and friends could fairly claim Ontario has done its part, although in large part due to the previous Liberal government.
Here’s the rub for Ontario taxpayers. Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is not impressed. She called the Ford plan “backwards” and suggested Ottawa will push ahead with plans to enforce a carbon tax.
Ford still insists he and other conservative premiers will fight the federal tax, even though constitutional legal experts say there is no chance they can win in court. Meanwhile, Ottawa has plans to send rebates to individual Ontario taxpayers drawn from carbon tax revenue, a move polling suggests will lesson or even defeat public resistance to the new tax.
So Ford spends $300 million on a no-win court battle. Ontarians get a carbon tax in addition to industry incentives, which taxpayers are also paying for. And don’t forget that Ford’s killing of the cap-and-trade program has cost, so far, $3.5 billion in public investment for infrastructure like schools.
Ford says he will ensure Trudeau is defeated in the next election. But the leader doing the most damage to the province and its taxpayers right now isn’t Trudeau. It’s Ford himself. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)