Enough is enough! Mike Schreiner has waited five months for the PC Provincial government to announced their plan to act on global climate change, so he and the Green Party came up with one of their own. They think it’s going to work out so well for Ontario that they’re giving it away for free!
“I’d be happy if they were to steal all 50 ideas from our strategy, they can even steal more ideas at our website,” said Schreiner in an announcement from the media studio in Queen’s Park Wednesday.
“I don’t care who gets credit tackling this crisis, I just want this crisis solved.”
The plan includes measures to reduce emissions in buildings though a green retrofit program; aggressive action on transportation pollution including investments in mass transit and getting more electric vehicles on the road; a redirection of business development funding to new economy companies; and, the government’s commitment to being carbon neutral by 2050.
Schreiner said the plan is science-based, and that it includes a carbon tax saying that pollution pricing is essential, and the “foundation that you build a plan upon.”
“This plan is realistic, it’s possible, doable, and it’s essential that Ontario confront the climate crisis we’re facing because we can’t afford to not address it,” he added.
Easier said that done.
Wednesday was Schreiner’s day to ask a question in Question Period, and he directed it towards Rod Phillips the Minister of the Environment.
After not getting the answer he wanted from the minister on protecting Ontario’s greenbelt and whether the Ford government’s climate plan will have targets that meet Canada’s obligations to the Paris Treaty, Schreiner asked the Speaker to directly debate Phillips on the matter in the evening session.
“I think the minister should be held accountable on both of those [questions] and we’ll give him an opportunity to answer those tonight,” Schreiner said after Question Period.
Back in the media studio, Schreiner confessed that his dealings with Phillips have been a mixed bag.
“I’ve been both encourage and discouraged by those meetings,” he said. “I’ve been encouraged by his openness to the ideas we’ve presented and his willingness to listen, but I’m also disappointed that he’s made it absolutely clear to me that they’re interested in any idea that doesn’t lead to pollution pricing.”
“The Green Party Leader and Kathleen Wynne’s party are all about the carbon tax,” Phillips explained to the media in a scrum after Question Period. “They were very focused on taxing Ontario families, we disagreed with that, we ran on that, so we’re not going to apologize for doing the things we find effective for the environment.”
Schreiner called it a “myth” and “false political spin” that carbon taxation harms families and the economy saying that the five best performing economies in Canada have pollution pricing except Ontario, which now does not.
Schreiner also criticized the legal exposure of the Province due to the “reckless” way that cap and trade was repealed, and for the “waste of $30 million of your money to fight a politically motivated campaign against the Federal government”
He also cited new figures he attributed to the Insurance Bureau of Canada that say climate-induced extreme weather events have cost the province $1.2 billion in the first nine months of this year adding, “climate change is nature’s tax on everything.”
“A responsible government would have a plan, we wouldn’t have to wait months and months for a plan, particularly a government that considers itself a supporter of fiscal responsibility, “ Schreiner said. “Given the costs of the climate crisis, no responsible government would repeal what is in place without a replacement plan.”
A plan though is coming.
“We’ll bring that plan forward at the end of the month, we’re still gathering that consultation, it will have targets and people will get to see our approach to them,” Phillips said. “We have talked, in the past for example, about an emission reductions fund, and we’re looking at a variety of models.”
One of the models Phillips mentioned was the New York Green Bank, a market-based finance lender that takes money from private sector investors for various clean energy projects. So-called green banks have been started in several U.S. states, the U.K., Australia, Malaysia and others.
According to Philips, the Federal government plan suffers from a logical fallacy of paying people to reduce their carbon footprint. “I think most people understand the logic of a tax as a disincentive, but they also understand that [the rebate] is defeating their own purpose,” he explained. “So when they talk about actually returning more money and not changing your behaviour, people get confused.”
The last day for Ontario residents to give their feedback to the Provincial government on their climate change plan is Thursday. Other opposition parties aren’t holding their breath for good news though.
“I know they’re talking a good game, but what they’ve chosen right now is Justin Trudeau’s plan,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath after Question Period. “They’ve chosen to go with the Federal government’s plan, which takes any control away from our province in terms of the revenues that get collected from carbon pricing, and that’s the decision that Doug Ford has made.
“It’s a triple problem,” she added, “people are going to pay more, our air and land and water are going to get more polluted, and we’re going to have no say over the cost that’s going to be hitting families.”
Schreiner too has concerns. He’s pleased to see the Federal government move forward despite challenges from provincial governments in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but he doesn’t like the growing list of exemptions, or the fact that the dividends to help Canadians make the transition aren’t coming in their own dedicated payout like the provincial HST cheques. Still, he’s got hope.
“I will continue to push the minister to take action,” he said. “I will continue to engage the public and encourage people to speak out, and I’m going to continue to work with people across the political spectrum.”