Haliburton in 1946.

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Letter: Responding to warnings

To the Editor

Canada’s Changing Climate Report has issued a warning. Canada is warming at a rate twice that of the rest of the world. In response our governments need to immediately embrace measures that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and to plan for mitigation measures.

Unfortunately the Ontario government has cancelled the “cap and trade” system a market based system that puts a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases large industries can emit each year. The independent non-partisan position of Environmental Commissioner has been eliminated along with five related jobs. In a statement former commissioner Dianne Saxe said that “Ontario has gutted most of its climate change program. Most of the cap-and-trade money was funding energy efficiency programs in Ontario communities – in schools public housing transit and hospitals – that would have reduced GHGs and saved millions of dollars in energy costs.” The Financial Accountability Officer has stated that the loss of revenue exceeds the savings from cancelling the spending programs.

Since the cancellation of cap and trade 758 renewable energy contracts have been eliminated including a bioheat project aimed at heating downtown businesses in Haliburton. Similar projects had been planned for Minden and Highlands East. Business owners were projected to save 30 per cent of their heating bills and as well as saving energy the Haliburton project would have created five to six jobs – an environmental and an economic win for the community. Most of the cancelled projects across the province are similar – the loss of which will impact those employed by small businesses hurt small investors and halt the production of clean energy. Energy Minister Greg Rickford who described green energy projects as “unnecessary and wasteful” seems shockingly unaware of the long-term environmental and economic benefits.

The climate plan of the Ford government the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan requires heavy polluters to reduce their emissions to a specific target. These polluters are paid to reduce their emissions from a fund called the Ontario Carbon Trust which uses taxpayers’ dollars. There is no incentive to reduce emissions independently if a company can be paid by the public to do it. It has not been a success in Australia where it was previously used. In her final report Dianne Saxe describes the government’s climate policy as “very inadequate very frightening.”

Mr. Ford is quite willing to use tax dollars to pay polluters. This is in contrast to the Cap and Trade System that required the polluter to pay and to provide money for a green transition not relying on tax dollars. The Conservative government will contribute $400 million over four years to encourage energy efficiency. The Cap and Trade was able to invest $1.6 billion per year into new energy projects and conservation programs.

As a result of the inadequacy of the Conservative government’s climate plan Ontario will be subject to the Federal Government’s backstop carbon pricing. About 80% of consumers will receive a rebate large enough to compensate their extra costs and in some cases individuals or families who conserve energy carefully may actually end up with a profit. Carbon pricing has been shown to be the most efficient and cost effective way to reduce emissions. Why then would Doug Ford spend $30 million dollars of tax money to fight the federal government’s carbon tax? Where will this money come from- health? Education? Why is the Ontario government abdicating its responsibility to address the single most pressing threat to the health and economic wellbeing of its citizens? For the People? I think not!

Elizabeth Turner