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Editorial: Blowing smoke on the climate file (Dec. 2018)

December 30th, 2018 · No Comments

After axing his predecessor’s carbon tax policies, the premier has offered the province a new climate change plan that asks more questions than it answers.

Repealing the cap-and-trade system also cancels the programs funded by its revenues, including rebates for energy-efficient renovations, transit projects, clean energy production like wind and solar, and a fund for energy-saving school repairs. The province is also on a legal collision course with Ottawa, which requires every province and territory to implement a carbon-reduction plan. Provinces and territories who do not establish a climate action plan will have one imposed on it.

Not one for waiting, Doug Ford’s provincial government threw the first punch this month, when it launched a lawsuit against the federal government claiming it had overstepped its constitutional authority. This suit should not come as a surprise — Ford campaigned on it. The province has set aside $30 million to fund the legal offensive, but legal experts think it’s a doomed initiative given that the federal government has broad taxing powers and climate change crosses provincial borders. For her part, Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney declined to speculate on the government’s chances in court, saying only that it was something the Progressive Conservatives had promised to do.

It would be totally pointless to sue Ottawa without presenting an alternate solution, so the provincial government has also announced its made-in-Ontario solution: a 53-page document that devotes less than half of its content to climate change. The bulk of the document deals with what are termed climate drivers like encouraging litter reduction and makes recommendations for ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Basement waterproofing is one example.) Bizarrely, Ford’s pledge to take over the Toronto transit system is included as a climate pledge rather than the thinly-veiled attempt to regain control of the city that failed to elect him mayor.

We note that Ontario has made significant progress on its climate change goals, thanks largely due to the elimination of coal-fired power plans. Progressing further will mean tackling other low-hanging fruit, like industry polluters and the automotive sector, but that’s a tougher row to hoe. The coal plants did not fight back. Try telling someone that their giant pick-up they just bought, used primarily for their suburban commute, is going to go the way of the dodo.

It’s alarming the extent to which people choose gas-guzzling pick-ups and SUVs over smaller fuel-efficient cars. British Columbia is confronting that head-on by announcing programs that will require all new cars and light trucks to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040. Ford’s plan has expressly exempted the entire auto sector from his climate change strategy and only mentions industry to suggest the government would consult on target reductions in carbon emissions, and if industry should not meet the targets, it would be “fined”. Well at least it’s not a “tax”.

Governments should lead by considering the interests of the whole, not by adding up the preferences of each citizen. Ford says he was elected “for the people”, and the residents of Ontario collectively need a climate change strategy that will have a real impact on climate change, not one that is composed solely of smoke.

 

READ MORE EDITORIALS: 

EDITORIAL: This premier is not for the people (City Election 2018)

EDITORIAL: Eight weeks lost to Ford’s madness (October 2018)

EDITORIAL: A lost cause worth fighting for (Aug./Sept. 2018)

EDITORIAL: Reclaiming our city (Summer 2018)

EDITORIAL: City staff ignore bike lanes (July 2018)

EDITORIAL: The market has no moral compass (Election Special 2018)

EDITORIAL: Lessons to be learned from Excessive Force (Spring 2018)

EDITORIAL: A social contract is a precious thing (March 2018)

EDITORIAL: Intolerance leading to Quebec’s decline (Dec. 2017)

EDITORIAL (Nov. 2017): Student safety suffers as trustees cave

EDITORIAL: Pandering to religious intolerance (October 2017)

EDITORIAL: Bike lanes, good for business (Fall 2017)

EDITORIAL: Don’t sacrifice safety for political gain (August 2017)

Tags: Annex · Editorial