Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday November 12, 2021
Yes, Doug Ford’s government has a ‘cohesive plan.’ No, it’s not for the environment, critics say
Critics of the Ford government’s environment plan say a recent pledge to build highways in Ontario is the latest in a series of moves that signals it does not have a real plan to tackle climate change.
“We’re losing ground,” said Laura Bowman, staff lawyer with the environmental law firm Ecojustice.
Bowman said Premier Doug Ford’s government is making development a priority with its promise last week to build Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass, two controversial highways in the Greater Toronto Area. Critics say they’ll add more vehicles to the roads when they’re completed, which will pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and make it much more difficult to meet the province’s emissions targets.
The Progressive Conservative government counters by saying the new highways will help lessen gridlock and cut commute times, thereby cutting emissions from idling vehicles stuck for hours in traffic. But environmentalists don’t buy that argument and say the PCs do not have a history of taking the climate crisis seriously.
“The current government’s track record has been one of rapidly dismantling environmental protection,” Bowman told CBC Toronto Friday.
Since taking power, the PCs have made several changes to environmental policies, including the Endangered Species Act, scrapping carbon pricing and electric vehicle rebates.
But the government has also repeatedly said it is tackling the climate crisis. Environment Minister David Piccini is attending the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. His office said he is there to “build international partnerships for Ontario’s clean industry, explore emerging best practices, and contribute the province’s voice to the global conversation.”
When questioned about why its fall economic statement last week just mentioned climate change only twice, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy pointed out his government is investing $295 million to upgrade Ford’s Oakville assembly plant to make electric vehicles, matching the federal government’s contribution.
“That’s going to reduce emissions,” he said.
He also pointed to his government’s investments in expansive transit projects, namely in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The province is budgeting $61.6 billion for transit over the next decade, three times more than the $22.9 billion allotted for highways. (CBC)