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EDITORIAL: Ford “proud” of cancelling green energy contracts (Dec. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · No Comments

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is cancelling 758 renewable energy contracts, including a newly constructed wind farm in Prince Edward County, a move that will cost the Ontario taxpayer at least $231 million. The PCs are not only hard pressed to justify the move from a fiscal perspective, but it also makes no sense from a political vantage point when the electorate is increasingly concerned about climate change. 

The revelation of the cost of ripping up green energy contracts came as the official opposition NDP Ontario Energy Critic, Peter Tabuns, noticed a strange line item in the recently released public accounts for the Ministry of Energy – a $231 million expense for “other transactions”. The NDP got disclosure on this from the Legislative Library, not the government who was not forthcoming to his requests for information.  If Ford is so “proud” of the move, it’s surprising his government sought to hide it.  One explanation for this is that the expense flies in the face of the Ford government’s claim that ripping up green energy contracts wouldn’t cost Ontario families a dime. 

What’s worse from a pure dollars and cents analysis is that only 215 of the 750 projects have so far applied for relief from the government for the contracts’ cancellation. This is eerily similar to how the former Liberal government estimated the cost of cancelling a gas plant contract. First they said it would cost $230 million and then the auditor found it cost more than $1 billion at the end of the day. Breaking your promises made in contracts is not cheap. It also signals it’s not safe to do business with Ontario as the province on a political whim will tear up contracts unilaterally and without due process. 

Paying companies to tear down green energy infrastructure is bad policy and bad optics almost anywhere unless you like wasting tax dollars and don’t believe in climate change. To help explain their move, Ontario’s Minister of Energy Greg Rickford enters from stage right. In the legislature on November 25, Rickford, in response to questions about scrapping the projects, quotes one of his “favourite periodicals” Climate Change Dispatch to justify the government’s actions. The website says its mission is to “deconstruct” climate change theory propagated by former U.S. Vice-President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and asks for donations to help “fight garbage science”. 

A day later, Rickford tried to distance himself from his comments: “I believe in climate change and I believe in literature that supports a balanced article that points out both sides of the same coin.” Rickford did not provide an answer to reporters questions when asked whether he agrees that human activity is contributing to climate change.  His comments came on the same day the UN released its annual Emissions Gap Report. The 168-page document compiled by 57 leading scientists from 33 institutions across 25 countries to act immediately, within next decade, to limit global warming to 1.5 degree C or 2 degree C by 2100. “By now, we know all we need to know. The science is pretty clear, and very frightening” said one of the contributing authors. “But we also know we have the technological options that are needed.”  

Clearly Premier Ford and Minister Rickford are not subscribing to the United Nations’ news feed, and are instead in a lock-step battle with a long-gone political foe. Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner described Rickford’s choice of briefing material as “incredibly reckless”. Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said, “If we have a minister of energy who doesn’t believe that humans are responsible for climate change, that’s a pretty serious problem.” We can’t agree more, but it goes a long way to explain how the government finds itself ripping windmills out of the ground and spending millions of tax dollars for the political pleasure of doing so.

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