Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ontario Systematically Dismantling Climate Action and Environmental Protections

Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government in Ontario is a climate and environmental nightmare. They have systematically dismantled the province's climate initiatives including withdrawing from the national carbon pricing plan. They are currently legislating an end to environmental protections for wildlife. They have even forbidden the use of the words "climate change" by government departments.

This government's resistance to climate action was evident from the start of the PC's mandate. In addition to withdrawing from the national carbon pricing scheme, the province has cut home efficiency incentives and cancelled rebates for electric vehicles. They are also in the process of ending protections for the provinces endangered floral and fauna.  According to Ford's most recent environmental plan Ontario will scale back its provincial emissions reduction targets by 30-megatonnes.

The provincial conservatives are putting profits before people and prioritizing industrial competitiveness over climate action and public health.  However, the PC's refusal to support cleantech is undermined the economy.  Although some of the province's dirtiest industries will benefit the economy will suffer now and in the future.

Ontario’s environmental commissioner, Diane Saxe, leveled a scathing indictment against the Ford government's environmental record and for ending the province's climate programs. A report by Saxe calls the Progressive Conservative's moves "bad for our environment, bad for our health, and bad for business." 

Killing the carbon tax


Immediately after he was elected Ford announced that that he would withdraw from Canada's national carbon pricing scheme. They also filed a motion in court to try to stop the national carbon tax.

Ford has referred to the national carbon tax as a "cash grab" saying it does "nothing for the environment." The fact is carbon pricing works and Wynn's cap and trade plan used money raised by big polluters to pay for climate and environmental action. Under Wynn the economy grew and greenhouse gas emissions fell to their lowest levels since reporting began in 1990.

The carbon pricing scheme that Ford loves to malign will actually provide a small windfall for most Canadians. According to a new report by Canadians for Clean Prosperity the average Ontario family would pay an extra $239 in 2019 in direct and indirect costs while receiving a $350 rebate.

The provincial government is expected to use a $400-million carrot rather than the stick to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province. Thanks to Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government the province is already almost three quarters of the way to its emission reduction goal. However, the lax climate efforts of the PCs make it hard to see how this will enable the government to achieve the target of 30 percent emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 2005.

The economic costs of inaction


This government is not only undermining climate action they are hurting the provincial economy. Although the plan won't do much to reduce emissions it will slash jobs and kill investment in Canada's cleantech sector. The result will be that green tech companies will not come to Ontario and many of those already in the province are likely to leave. This will not only hurt the low carbon economy (eg clean energy, efficiency and EVs), it will have a sizable impact on the larger economy. It is economic malpractice for a government to ignore a growing global market worth an estimated $7.5 trillion a year. It will also harm innovation and future economic prospects as the province will become less competitive and fall behind other regions.

Although Ford has rejected his predecessor's support for renewable power, a report from Simon Fraser University think tank Clean Energy Canada exposes the folly of the Progressive Conservative's policy stance. The recently released study stated that clean energy is one of Canada's fastest growing industries in the country.

The longer the province waits to align its economy with climate realities the more it will cost.  "It will cost much more if Ontario doesn’t start getting ready, and no one is sure who will pay," said Saxe. "Ontarians tell me they are ready to act on climate change, but the government needs to lead. Our window for action is closing — soon it will be too late." 

Assault on wildlife


At a time when we are faced with a troubling new report that shows how humans are destroying wildlife at a prodigious rate the Ontario government is trying to gut the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Ford government's assault on biodiversity is similar to actions take by the Trump administration.

"Nature and biodiversity around the world is declining at an unprecedented rate, so now is not the time to be weakening our legislation," said Emily Giles, senior specialist for species conservation at WWF-Canada. 

The 20 page assault on biodiversity was buried in an omnibus housing bill known as Bill 108. The sweeping changes to the ESA would de-list species, slow the process and ignore good science. It would also allow developers to 'pay to play' by circumventing accountability for endangering wildlife by contributing to a conservation fund. The bill is so devastating that Environmental Defence called it the "doomsday scenario" for endangered species in the province.

"It really is a doomsday scenario for endangered species in this province," said Kelsey Scarfone, program manager at Environmental Defence Canada. "It’s basically been whittled down to nothing. They might as well have just cancelled it." Justina Ray, president and senior scientist of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada called said the amendments made Ontario's ESA, "an empty shell of an act."

The Ford administration has even killed a program to plant trees forcing an Ontario nursery to destroy 3 million trees. The "50 Million Tree Program" would have seen 50 million trees planted in the province.

Banning reference to "climate"


In a move reminiscent of former prime minister Stephen Harper, Doug Ford's office has banned government agencies from mentioning climate change online. The social media coordinator for Ontario Parks told staff that consistent with a directive from the premier's office they were "not allowed to mention climate change in social media content." A similar directive was issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

The actions of this government have not gone unnoticed by the electorate. As reported by CTV news the support for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives has "collapsed". According to a recent poll Ford is less popular than his predecessor and his party is in third place behind both the Liberals and the NDP. 

Related
Canada is Warming Faster than the Rest of the World
Green Party Win in BC Foreshadows the Importance of the Environment
The Shift to the Right and Hope on the Road to Ruin

1 comment:

The Green Market Oracle said...

Fatima Syed wrote this list on June 9th 2019

Here's a comprhensive list of Ford's climate and environment related cuts in his first year in office:

Environment

Cancelled Cap and Trade
Ended electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program
Cut 700+ green energy projects
Shut down White Pines Wind Project
Proposed cuts to protections of species at-risk
Removed electric vehicle chargers from GO station parking lots
Slashed 50 per cent of flood management funds given to conservation authorities
Eliminated funding for 50 Million Tree Program
Ended Drive Clean, a mandatory biannual emissions test program for vehicles and light-duty trucks more than seven years old
Axed the Green Ontario Fund, which provided funds through cap and trade to help make properties more energy-efficient
Rolled back sex-ed curriculum
Removed $100-million budget for school repairs (due to cancellation of cap and trade)