At the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Sustainable Innovation Conference on November 6, 2018, the Honourable Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks spoke to three key priorities that the government will focus on in its soon to be released ‘Made in Ontario Environment Plan’.
What are the three key priorities that the government says it will focus on in the pending ‘Made in Ontario Environment Plan’?
1. Improving Affordability for Families:
Premier Ford has focused his first six months in power on touting policy and legislative changes that will “save families money”. Bill 4 (the repeal of cap-and-trade), the elimination of the drive clean program, the removal of the Environmental Commissioner’s Office and the Fall Economic Statement Restoring Balance all reflect this sentiment. The government has made it clear that achieving economic efficiencies will be the primary objective of any decision made “for the people”.
Another key focus of the Ford government is to diversify and improve Ontario’s economy by ensuring potential investors know “Ontario is open for business”. The Ford government believes the province’s economy is not operating at full potential, particularly due to its elevated debt-to-GDP ratio. To address this, Ford has committed to reducing red tape, repealing parts of Bill 148 including those that raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, tax reforms, and focusing on Northern development including Ontario’s Ring of Fire mining region.
At the Sustainable Innovation Conference, Minister Phillips claimed that the government will focus on balancing a healthy environment with a healthy economy. The Ford government believes Ontario is already a leader in climate change, since closing its coal-fired power plants, which led to the biggest single reduction in carbon emissions in North America. The government also believes that Ontarians can simply not afford cap-and-trade or a carbon tax. New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have echoed these claims through their opposition to the federal carbon tax.
Either way, the federal government says it will impose a carbon tax on any province that does not have at least a $20 per tonne price on carbon emissions by January 1, 2019. A recent National Post article provided the following breakdown of how Ontario stands to be affected by a federal carbon tax next year:
- Average cost per household in 2019: $244
- Average rebate in 2019: $300
- Average cost in 2022: $564
- Average rebate in 2022: $697
- Support for small businesses and affected sectors over next five years: $1.45 billion
3. Becoming more resilient to climate change:
The Minister recognized that Ontario needs to be positioned as a leader in climate change and is considering an Ontario Emissions Fund that would leverage private sector dollars to accomplish the province’s environmental objectives, focusing on where new technologies can accelerate progress. The implementation of an Emissions Fund is not a new concept – Australia has one that “provides incentives for Australian businesses, farmers, land holders, and others to adopt new practices and technologies and reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions” (Australian Government). According to Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy, the fund provides a broad range of opportunities to reduce emissions across the economy. By engaging in these projects, businesses, state governments, local councils, land managers and others can earn Australian carbon units that can then be sold to the Australian Government.
However, critics caution Ontario, with evidence that the Australian approach has not been effective. The CBC recently released an article outlining their take on what to expect from the Ford Environment Plan, here they cited a report by Australia’s Climate Council titled Australia’s Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which suggests there are flaws in the country’s current approach to reducing GHG emissions. The report claims that if other countries follow Australia’s footsteps “the global average temperature rise could reach 3°C and up to 4°C”.
After extensive review of all the data collected and provided on both sides of the debate, OSPE has concluded that climate change is real, and it’s impacts will be devastating to communities, the economy, and to generations to come. On November 23rd, 2018, the US government released it Fourth National Climate Assessment, which detailed the serious impact of climate change and which aligned to our own findings.
OSPE’s own recommendations, which are supported by many economists, are that a price on carbon is the most effective way of reducing emissions, and that the Cap and Trade Program had the potential to provide economic incentives to Ontario businesses. (Please refer to OSPE’s report Engineering a Cleaner Economy). Our requests to meet with representatives from Premier Ford’s Office and the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks have gone unanswered.
We expect that the Ford Government will release the ‘Made in Ontario Environment Plan’ before the end of this month, and OSPE’s Environment Task Force will be providing a response to this plan in the new year.
What do you hope to see from the ‘Made in Ontario Environment Plan’? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.