Cabinet Confidential: Ontario Climate Change (Koundourakis)

Who wouldn’t be interested in nabbing a free product before the official release date? The Provincial government of Ontario is on the cusp of releasing a bold $7 billion plan to combat climate change, and The Globe and Mail got their hands on a leaked version of it. A 57 page document, labelled “Cabinet Confidential”, contains 80 different policies. Each policy was grouped into 32 action plans, with varying price tags and an estimation to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This partially released document is still under review, however, and will be fine-tuned, according to the National Post, by June 9.

Ontario plans to phase out natural gas for heating and, provide incentives to retrofit buildings. Also, it will offer rebates to drivers who buy electric vehicles. Gasoline sold in Ontario will contain less carbon than current gasoline on the market. It will introduce improved building code regulations which will require all new homes by 2030 to be heated with electricity or geothermal energy systems.

Financially, the plan includes:

  • $3.8 billion for grants, rebates and subsidies to retrofit buildings and move them to geothermal, solar and other forms of electric heat. This plan will be administered by a Green Bank that will provide financing for solar and geothermal projects.
  • $285 million for electric vehicle incentives. This will include rebates of up $14,000 for every electric vehicle purchased; a $1,000 rebate to install home charging platforms; the complete removal of the HST off electric vehicle sales; a subsidy program for low income households to exchange their older models for new electric vehicles.
  • $176 million in incentives for fuel retailers to sell biodiesel and offer 85% ethanol blended gasoline, with further incentives for natural gas to contain more renewable content.
  • $280 million in subsidies for school boards who buy electric buses and trucking companies to switch to lower carbon trucks.
  • $354 million for funding for the GO rail network.
  • $200 million to build more cycling infrastructure at GO stations.
  • $375 million for R&D into new clean technologies. Hitting closer to home in this regard is a $140 million plan to develop a Global Centre for Low-Carbon Mobility at an Ontario university or college to develop electric and low carbon emitting machines.
  • $1.2 billion to help factories and industries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • $174 million to make governments carbon neutral. This means that governments will produce a net zero carbon emission.

The plans that will result in the largest emission cut will occur in 2020. The estimated greenhouse gas emission cuts are as followed:

  • When buildings will move towards more energy efficient code, is an estimated three million ton reduction;
  • When industries become more fuel efficient, is an estimated 2.5 million ton reduction;
  • A lower carbon fuel standard will result in an estimated 2 million ton reduction;
  • The renewable content requirement for natural gas will result in an estimated 1 million ton reduction;
  • Transferring buses and trucks to LNG and electricity will result in an estimated 400,000 ton reduction.

Compared to other plans from other provinces, such as Alberta’s which provides a more top-down approach, Ontario’s policy provides much more detail. The levels of granularity in the plan are much stricter in terms of how the plan must be administered. In order to be given any of the incentives or subsidies, there is a rigorous and detailed outline that must be followed.

Once completed and combined with the upcoming cap and trade, the action plans are expected to cut Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Greenhouse gas emissions will drop to 15% below 1990 levels by 2020, 37% by 2030 (which is a more ambitious plan than our current National plan laid out by the Conservatives) and finally, 80% by 2050.

Considering the title of the document is “Cabinet Confidential”, it stands to reason that the Globe and Mail managed to get their hands on a leaked copy of the list of policies. This leak may reveal that there is dirty laundry within the Liberal Party. The report was drafted by Environment Minister, Glen Murray, who neglected the advice and consultation of other cabinet ministers. Tensions were further raised, at the Economic Club, when Minister Murray scolded the auto industry for not playing a more prominent role in combating climate change. The minister’s lack of cooperation has led to the tensions within the party subsequently leading to the leak, possibly by the neglected cabinet members. It should be interesting to see future policies where more cooperation between the party members will be required, especially if these tensions persist. Could this be leading to an implosion of the Liberal Party of Canada?

A particular interest of mine is economic policy. Yet, environmental policy will more affect my future quality of life, not only as a citizen of Canada, but as a human being. Ontario already sustains one of the largest sub-national debts in the world, yet we are willing to invest more money in what looks like subsidies and incentives for consumers to become more eco-conscious. I hope this $7 billion investment will result in a greener future for myself and future Canadian generations. In my opinion, good economic policy in the future will get us out of this debt, but current environmental policy will provide us a world to do so. Premier Wynne wrote that “It’s a transformation that will forever change how we love, work, play and move”. In this case, Premier Wynne is correct; this will affect the lives of Canadians and to an obvious extent, the world.




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