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EDITORIAL: The hidden cost of Conservative climate plans (Oct. 2019)

October 17th, 2019 · No Comments

As they look to win votes in Ontario, federal Liberal candidates point to Doug Ford as a sort of warning about the dangers of casting a vote in favour of the Conservative Party of Canada. It seems even the Conservatives are buying into this narrative, as party leader Andrew Scheer brought Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to Ontario to give his campaign a boost this month. The distraction does little to veil the similarity between Conservative leaders, particularly when it comes to their climate plans. 

Since scrapping the Wynne government’s carbon cap-and-trade program, the Ontario government has found itself embroiled in court battles.

In September 2018, a coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greenpeace Canada in response to the Ford government’s decision.

“The Ford government’s first action when it stepped into office was to gut a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, without offering any immediate alternative,” said lawyer Charles Hatt, in a statement. “We’re suing to remind the premier that winning an election does not give his government carte blanche to ignore the statutory rights of Ontarians to be consulted on major changes to the laws and regulations that protect them from climate change.”

While government lawyers argued that the Ontario Conservatives had campaigned on the promise of cancelling the program and reducing the price of gas by 10 cents a litre, two out of three Ontario Superior Court judges determined a political campaign doesn’t count as consultation. Amir Attaran, a lawyer for Ecojustice, told the National Observer that the decision will likely pave the way for disgruntled investors in the cap-and-trade market to launch their own lawsuits against the government.

Meanwhile, the Ford government went to court to fight the implementation of the federal carbon tax. Ford called carbon pricing a “cash grab”, and as explained by Jim Karahalios (founder of a website called axethecarbontax.ca), tried to persuade the court to accept less stringent carbon targets than those set by the federal government. The strategy failed with the court’s decision that deems the imposition of the federal carbon tax constitutionally sound. Dogged as ever, the Ford government has promised to keep fighting the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

“We have seen the very real costs on the people of Ontario,” said Ontario Environment Minister Jeff Yurek after his government filed its appeal to the Ontario court’s decision.

Clearly, the legal costs are lumped in with environmental costs, and are not being tallied. Never mind the ecological costs – economists say the GDP is going to drop as temperatures go up.

It looks unlikely that a Scheer-led federal government would do the calculations much differently. Out on the campaign trail he’s promising to put more money in Canadians’ pockets by scrapping the carbon tax. If he ends up as the next prime minister, Ontario and other carbon-tax opposing provinces will save money on legal fees, but we’ll all pay a bigger bill in the long run.

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