Environment

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Environment in the Cabinet

What cabinet changes happened in regards to environment?

Rod Phillips was named Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks. The title was changed to exclude climate change.

What’s Phillips record on the environment?

Phillips is a first time elected politician whose background is with large corporations such as Postmedia, Ontario Lottery and Gaming, and Morneau Sheppell. Digging through his campaign site, he did campaign on some environmental issues in Ajax around water conservation. In 2018, it is important to be wary of corporate interests and environmental impact. His office was also involved in a controversy where government employees were encouraged not to use the term “climate change” in documents, Phillips claimed this was a miscommunication (after public outrage). His office claims that a “climate change plan” is coming.

Will they work well with the federal government?

An initial meeting between Phillips and our federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna did not go well. The Ontario government has already pledged to pursue a lawsuit against the federal government (more on that under the “Cap and Trade” issue below).

Take Action!

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cap-and-trade

Cancelling Cap and Trade:

What is cap-and-trade?

Cap and trade is a market-based system that sets a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions while giving flexibility to businesses and industry in terms of how they meet their caps.

When a government introduces a cap and trade system the set a cap on the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters. By creating supply and demand for emissions allowances, a Cap and Trade system establishes a market price for greenhouse gas emissions. The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep the emitters (in aggregate) within their pre-allocated carbon budget.

Ontario’s Cap and Trade program:

Ontario launched it’s cap and trade program on January 1, 2017. We signed a cap and trade linking agreement with Quebec and California on September 22, 2017. It came into effect on January 1, 2018. Linking the carbon market meant that:

  • we will hold joint auctions of allowances with Quebec and California
  • allowances and credits issued by us, Quebec and California will now be accepted by any of the three cap and trade programs

Proceeds from Ontario’s Cap and Trade system were administered through an organization called GreenOn. After three trades, Ontario raised $2.8 billion in revenues from the market.

In Ontario, legislation was passed that required that every dollar collected through cap and trade must be invested – in a transparent way – back into projects that reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

Where we are now:

Update as of November, 2018: The federal government stepped in and introduced legislation to keep provinces accountable for implementing the federal carbon tax. Doug Ford and his party are against it claiming “it doesn’t do anything for the environment”, which is not true, in fact the 2018 Nobel Prize in economics science was awarded to a study on how carbon taxes are the solution we need. Ford, considering himself more of an expert than Nobel prize winners, has vowed to take this to supreme court. Which is incredibly interesting given that when it came to the Toronto municipal supreme court challenge, he said it was “insane” that a supreme court could overrule an elected official. You can read more about that on our governance page.

In his first week in office, Premier Doug Ford officially closed all programs that were funded through Cap and Trade (GreenON) and effective July 3, 2018, revoked the cap and trade regulation, prohibiting all trading of emission allowances. This included:

A statement from the premier’s office did indicate that “the government will decide on a case-by-case basis whether some initiatives previously funded by the program will be paid for using tax base revenue

On July 25, 2018, the Ontario government introduced Bill 4, referred to as the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018. The new legislation will implement the Government of Ontario’s commitment to wind down Ontario’s Cap and Trade Program, and indicated that the government will establish targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, and will prepare a new climate change plan.

The bill has been widely criticized.  It requires him to set targets but doesn’t say what they should be based on, it requires him to create a climate change plan but doesn’t set a deadline for the plan, and requires him prepare “progress reports” on the climate change plan on a “regular basis” without saying what a “regular basis” means.

What happens when we cancel Cap and Trade?

Cancelling the Cap and Trade legislation is not as simple as the soundbites might suggest.

According to the agreement between California, Quebec and Ontario, “A Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notice of intent to withdraw to the other Parties. A Party that intends to withdraw from this Agreement shall endeavour to give 12 months’ notice of intent to withdraw to the other Parties”. The Ontario government has not done this.

It remains unclear how much exiting the cap-and-trade program will cost Ontario, and what will happen with the nearly $3 billion in credits that companies have already purchased.

What are the financial savings or impact of this move?

The province says it estimates it will only have to reimburse companies for $5 million of the $2.87 billion that was invested into the Cap and trade market, but it isn’t hard to imagine that corporations who bought into the market will take some kind of action to recouperate their costs.

All this uncertainty to save the average household $260 in 2019, according to Ontario estimates. Of course, if a federal carbon tax is applied, it would wipe out those savings and ultimately cost Ontarians more than the original Cap and Trade scheme.

So, Ford has promised to fight the Federal government in court to challenge the requirement for provinces to price carbon by September 2018. The conservative platform budgeted $30 Million for the legal challenge, but how much this will actually cost is also unclear.

The likelihood of success is low. Under Canada’s Constitution and Canadian law, the federal government has a right to impose taxes as well as to regulate substances that are considered to be toxic. Constitutional law experts have publicly indicated that Ford’s plan is likely doomed.

So it sounds like there are a lot of legal issues. Any other lawsuits to know about?

The government has already lost a court battle from cases arising from the decision to cancel cap and trade.

In July, the Ford government also announced that it would unilaterally cancel 758 Green Energy contracts. The energy minister says this will save customers in the Canadian province $790 million (US$600 million). The day of the announced cuts sent shares of some clean-energy companies sliding.

Want more lawsuits? Some analysts and executives, have raised doubts about whether courts would allow the government to break the contracts, signalling the possibility of a protracted conflict over the issue.

The cancelled renewable energy projects were mostly small community-based projects, and represented the province’s last round of intended renewable energy procurements. The costs of litigation from their cancellation may far exceed whatever amount the province thought it might save.

I saw Tesla in the headlines about this, what happened?

Tesla Motors Canada ULC filed a lawsuit against the Ontario government, alleging it was the subject of “unjustified targeting” when the province cancelled the electric vehicle rebate program. A judge ruled in favour of Tesla in August.

What do the experts say?

Dianne Saxe is the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), a tough but fair watchdog over Ontario’s environmental, energy and climate performance, and guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR).

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) is the province’s environmental watchdog. Appointed by an all-party committee, the ECO is an independent officer of the Ontario Legislature tasked with:

  • Promoting and providing advice and assistance about the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR);
  • Reporting on the implementation of, and compliance with, the EBR; and
  • Reporting on Ontario’s progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy conservation and efficiency.

Dianne Saxe has been vocal in her criticism of the Province’s climate plan.  Ontario has gutted most of its climate-change programs,” she said in a statement. “Most of the cap-and-trade money was funding energy-efficiency programs in Ontario communities — in schools, in public housing, transit and hospitals, for example — that would have reduced (emissions) and saved millions of dollars in energy costs.”

Things to watch for:

Greenbelt Protection:

During the campaign, Doug Ford indicated he would allow some development in the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is 2 million acres of protected farmland and green spaces surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Sprawl development proposals are threatening to eat up productive farmland and destroy forests and wetlands.

The Greenbelt Plan permanently protects agricultural and natural land from development. Some municipalities and developers are pushing to shrink the boundaries, take land out of the Greenbelt or allow outdated development plans to go ahead which will erode the  greenbelt.

After serious blowback and opposition, Doug Ford did walk back his plan, and said he will “maintain the Greenbelt in its entirety” as Premier.

However, quite a bit of the farmland within the greenbelt is already owned by holding companies or developers, who will have a vested interest in loosening rules around development in that area.

Take Action!

  • The government of Ontario has posted Bill 4, the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, for consultation on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. This is your opportunity to submit comments on this sweeping act, which includes much more than the cancellation of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program. Bill 4 cancels Ontario’s current climate plan and greenhouse gas reduction targets, and commits to creating an entirely new plan and targets.
  • Ecojustice Canada is planning to take Ford to court, donate to their campaign here
  • Sign the Leadnow petition

Resources:

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Green Energy Act

What is the Green Energy Act?

The Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA), formally the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009, introduced in the Ontario legislature on February 23, 2009, is intended to expand renewable energy production, encourage energy conservation and create green jobs.

What is the conservative government intending to do with it?

Kill it. They are claiming that killing the act will help people with their hydro bills.

Will it lower hydro bills?

“It is largely symbolic, there’s no current investment going forward in green energy, there are no projects to cancel,” said NDP legislator Peter Tabuns, adding the Tory plan “doesn’t actually address the substantial problems that people have with higher bills.”

What is the impact?

The impact here, while largely symbolic, is sending a clear message that Ontario is not interested in green energy. Green energy is a 26$ billion dollar industry, and these types of moves may discourage companies from coming to Ontario.

Take action!

  • Sign up for the Environmental Defence Canada newsletter

Resources:

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Drive Clean

What is the Drive Clean Program?

The Drive Clean Program requires drivers with cars over seven years old to undergo emissions tests, to ensure they are still environmentally safe.

What happened with it?

Doug Ford scrapped the program on September 28.

Why was it cancelled?

The reasoning in the press release was that it “outlived its usefulness”. But Doug Ford has a long history claiming that there is a “war on cars”. He’s against the King Street Pilot Project, has been against many cycling initiatives, and has filmed himself ranting about the war on car while he was driving in congestion.

Take action!

  • This announcement came a few days before we launched, so we don’t have actionable items yet. However, feel free to groan, roll your eyes, or scream into a pillow.

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