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No Carbon Tax and No Plan

In the hundreds of conversations I’ve had about climate change, hope, and stewardship, the talk inevitably turns to politics. Rightly so. There is a lot we can do in our own homes, but we also look for guidance and direction from our governments: local, provincial, and federal. Recycling and waste recovery programs tend to be local, whereas larger programs like green energy generation and carbon taxes are left to the provinces or the federal government.

I was surprised when I heard that our newly-elected Premier, Doug Ford, had cancelled Ontario’s cap-and-trade carbon program. I suppose it was the path of least resistance to fulfill his election promise to reduce gas pump prices and put more money into Ontarians’ pockets.

I was even more surprised at how abruptly Ontario has walked away from its clean air and climate change initiatives.

I was even more surprised at how swiftly the program was cancelled, and how abruptly Ontario has walked away from its clean air and climate change initiatives.

The cap-and-trade program generated revenue for the government, which it in turn used to create environmentally-friendly projects. The cancellation of Ontario’s program essentially halts all ‘green initiatives’ in the province. Every project, from wind and solar farms and biomass generators, hospital and school retrofits, zero-emission public transit, to electric car rebates. From Toronto to Ottawa, Sudbury to Windsor, the cancellation impacts farmers, school boards, municipalities and First Nations. In total, 758 renewable energy projects have been cancelled.

758 renewable energy projects have been cancelled in Ontario. 

Critics warned Mr. Ford of moving too fast. If and when the kill bill is passed into law, the Ontario government will likely find itself on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars as owners of these projects invoke contractual compensation clauses for work already completed.

Is this really putting money into the hands of Ontarians, or is it purely an ideological decision? Critics claim the decision was made with no public discussion or economic analysis, and the Ford government hasn’t provided any evidence to rebut these claims. This move will also terminate a partnership with the federal government that offered over $400 million to Ontario, based on the provision that the province participates in some form of carbon pricing. With no carbon plan, no money from the feds.  

With no plan in place to replace cap-and-trade, Ontario has effectively invited the federal government to impose its own carbon tax system on the province. This is not a surprise; the Trudeau government made clear that it would do just that.

Is this really putting money into the hands of Ontarians?

At the beginning of 2018, Ottawa’s new federal law intends to impose a minimum price on pollution on any province that does not have a carbon plan in place. This obviously does not sit well with Mr. Ford. He intends to take Ottawa to court, where he will challenge Ottawa’s authority to impose this plan on provinces. Ontario will be joining Saskatchewan in this fight. (Manitoba thought of joining too but, was advised by its legal counsel that it would likely be a losing fight.)

Was the cap-and-trade system perfect? No.

Does Ontario need a carbon tax? Yes.

Without a carbon tax, there is no mechanism to curb industrial emissions; it will be business as usual. And having no plan sends a message to the rest of Canada (and the world) that Ontario does not care about climate change or renewable energy. Certainly, not having Ontario on board will also make it more difficult for Canada to reach its promised climate goals.

Without a carbon tax, there is no mechanism to curb industrial emissions.

This is my issue with Mr. Ford’s plan. How is having no plan better than having a flawed plan? Sure, it may put a few more dollars in my pocket, but is that worth environmental inaction, and a further slide toward climate catastrophe? Mr. Ford’s decision to put money in my pocket pales in comparison to my desire to see a long term climate plan for my children’s future. I’ll gladly pay a tax today if I know that this money will be used towards creating an environmentally responsible Ontario tomorrow.

An editorial cartoon by Joel Pett was published shortly before the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen. It shows a presentation taking place: a guy on stage showing a slide with bullet points highlighting the benefits of fighting climate change: “energy independence, preserve rainforests, sustainability, green jobs, livable cities, renewables, clean water and air, healthy children, etc”.  The focus of the cartoon is a guy standing in the audience, asking, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”


When I talk about creation care, my final message is always “Do something!” Our faith calls us to action every day and each one of us has a part to play. We are challenged by Christ to care for what has been entrusted to us on this earth. We can do this at home, through our work, in our church, and in partnership with our governments. But we need a plan, and even flawed plans for the right reasons are still better than no plan, no reason.

One way to do something is to urge your Member of Parliament or House Representative to take a stronger stand on climate action. 

[Image by veeterzy on Unsplash]

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