Prepared by Kim Perrotta, MHSc, CAPE Executive Director, January 7, 2019
Since coming into power in June 2018, the newly elected Ontario Government has been rapidly dismantling the environmental policies, programs and regulations that have been developed to protect the environment, fight climate change, and improve public health.
Gutting Action on Climate Change in Ontario
In the fall, the Ontario Government passed Bill 4 which repealed Ontario’s cap-and-trade program. Established under the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Act, Ontario’s cap-and-trade program was a pivotal piece of Ontario’s comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan. The cap-and-trade program was a carbon pricing system that encouraged reductions in climate emissions by requiring big polluters to pay for their climate emissions. The revenue generated from the program was used to reduce climate emissions from other sources such as homes, farms, schools, hospitals, trains and cars. With the passage of Bill 4, the incentive to reduce climate emissions has been removed for big emitters, while the revenue to pay for programs directed at smaller, dispersed and/or publicly funded sources has disappeared.
In December, the Ontario Government also passed Bill 34 to repeal Ontario’s Green Energy Act. This Act was set up to encourage and support energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the development of renewable energy sources across the province; actions that would, over time, reduce climate emissions, air pollution and healthcare costs, while cultivating new jobs, technologies, and businesses that support a low carbon economy. At the same time, the government shut down contracts for 752 renewable energy projects that were slated to begin.
On November 29th, the Ontario Government released its new Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan; a plan that was supposed to replace the previous Climate Change Action Plan. The new climate “plan” is 19 pages in a larger environmental plan. Those pages contain a series of statements that are broad and vague with few details about how emission reductions will be achieved, monitored, encouraged or enforced.
The new “plan” also weakens Ontario’s climate reduction target. At a time when the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Lancet Countdown report on health and climate change are calling on countries to make deeper cuts in climate emissions to avoid the most catastrophic outcomes for humanity, the Ontario Government is proposing an emission reduction target that is about one third of Ontario’s previous target. The previous plan aimed to reduce Ontario’s climate emissions to 113 Megatonnes (MT) per year by 2030, while the new plan would reduce climate emissions to 143 MT per year. This is far from what is needed if we are to keep global temperatures from increasing beyond the 1.5 degree target. (For more information, click here to see comments by the Clean Economy Alliance.
Reducing Transparency & Oversight for Environmental Impacts
On December 6th, the Ontario Government also passed Bill 57 the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act. Counter to its name, the new legislation will, among other things, amend the Environmental Bill of Rights, eliminate the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, which has been in place for 25 years, and substantially reduce transparency and oversight of environmental impacts that occur as a result of provincial decisions. (For more information, click here to see the critique by the Canadian Environmental Law Association.)
Undermining Protection for Water Quality, the Greenbelt & Transit-Supportive Communities
On December 6th, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 66 – Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act. This Bill would allow municipalities to pass “open-for-business planning” by-laws, which would allow them to circumvent provincial policies and their own Official Plans when making decisions about how their communities are developed. The “open-for-business” by-laws would allow municipalities to ignore provincial policies that have been developed to protect ground water, preserve agricultural land, and foster walkable and transit-supportive communities. These provincial policies help to improve the quality of life, protect public health, improve air quality, and reduce traffic congestion. They also help to reduce climate emissions, preserve greenspace, and save taxpayers’ money.
This Bill should remind all of us about the Walkerton Inquiry, which identified overzealous provincial deregulation, budget cuts and staffing reductions as major contributing factors that resulted in seven deaths and thousands of illnesses among Walkerton residents who drank contaminated municipal water. (For more information, see comments prepared by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and the Pembina Institute.)
Speak out for People and the Planet
It is important to speak out. Let people know that you are deeply concerned about climate change. Tell them we need an ambitious climate action plan that exceeds the target that was in the former climate plan. Tell them that we need an independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Tell them that Bill 66 threatens the health, safety and quality of life for people in Ontario.
- Submit comments on the proposed Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan on the Government’s public consultation page.
- Call or e-mail your Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) (click here for a list of MPPs)
- Send letters or articles to your local newspapers.
Related Letters, Posts & Press Releases:
- CAPE Letter-Standing Committee-Bill 4–Cap-and-Trade Cancellation Act – Oct 9, 2018
- CAPE Letter-Minister Phillips-Ontario Climate Plan–Nov 4, 2018
- CAPE Action Alert-Ontario Climate Plan–Nov 5, 2018
- Generation Squeeze Media Release-Hockey Moms, Commuters, Doctors & Kids Defend Carbon Pricing in Court – Nov 30, 2018