Western Chorus Frogs: A Ribbetting Victory (by U. Khan)

With all the news regarding the future of the European Union in the last week, you might have missed an important event here in Canada. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change recently unveiled an emergency order against a proposed housing project in Quebec to protect the habitat of the Western Chorus Frog. This is a landmark event, because it is the first time the Federal Government has issued an emergency order pertaining to a project on privately owned land. The move has been criticized by the Quebec government, but hailed as a victory for species protection by many environmental groups. The emergency order goes into effect starting July 17th 2016, and covers an area of 2km2 in La Prairie, Quebec.

frog(An image of the Western Chorus Frog. Source: Montreal Gazette)

How does the federal government have power to make this decision?

The Species at Risk Act (SARA) of 2002 is the primary legislation in Canada that protects various species from extinction. The Emergency Order provision of this Act allows the federal government to create an emergency order when they feel a species is at imminent threat. In the case of the Western Chorus frog, the government stated that over 60% of the suitable frog habitat in the region was destroyed between 1992 and 2013. The federal government also felt that the current measures in place were not in accordance with those laid out in SARA and thus decided to step in.

The following actions are prohibited in the area of the emergency order:

  • Removing the soil or any vegetation in the area
  • Draining or flooding the ground
  • Altering the surface water in any way
  • Using Fertilizers or Pest Control in the area
  • Operate a Vehicle off road

Failure to comply with the order can lead to various penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.

The emergency order has been used once previously in the case of the Great Sage Goose in Alberta. The protections offered under that order only applied to federal and provincial crown lands, compared to private lands in this case. So it comes with no surprise that the Quebec government is unhappy with the decision. The Minister of Environment for Quebec David Huertal has said that the provincial government had already protected 83% of the area under the emergency order, and the federal government’s plan did not collaborate with the province. He also said that the government made its decision without using a balanced approach.

mapThis map indicates the region of La Prarie, Quebec where the emergency order regarding the Western Chorus Frog will be in effect. Source: Species at Risk Registry

This might cause you to wonder, should the government impose a protection order on private land?

In my opinion, an emergency order should be kept as a last resort when all other methods to protect a species have been exhausted. The Species at Risk Act gives the government the power to step in when the provinces are not doing a good job at protecting species. The Species at Risk Registry, which contains information regarding wildlife species at risk, indicates that the frogs were expected to be extirpated from their habitats by 2030 if growth in the area was left unchecked. Thus the government had to make a decision if it wanted to protect the species. It should be encouraging to all of us that our government is looking out for species at risk and trying to protect them for future generations.

If you would like to get involved and help save species at risk, there are a number of things that you can do. You can visit the Species at Risk Public Registry and get informed about the species at risk in your area. After getting informed, you can make sure you are in compliance with any regulations that might be in effect in your area, and try to preserve the habitat of any species in danger. Habitat loss is a major cause of species going extinct and preventing it could go a long way in saving species. There are also public consultations held by the government where concerned individuals can give their input about how to ensure critical habitats are protected. Lastly, you can educate others about the species at risk and motivate them to also get involved.


(Potentially) Exciting Environmental News

The Liberal government is kicking it into high gear with environmental law. In the past week, Minister McKenna has made 3 huge announcements:

  1. The federal government is reviewing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (which was gutted by the Conservative government). See Chapters 1 and 4.
  2. The federal government is reviewing the Fisheries Act (which was gutted by the Conservative government). She Chapters 1, 4, and 6.
  3. The federal government is invoking the emergency order (safety net) clause of the Species at Risk Act to protect the western chorus frog inside the province of Quebec. This is the second time since the Species at Risk Act passed in 2003 that this clause has been used (the first was for the Sage Grouse in Alberta and Saskatchewan). See Chapter 5.

That is an impressive week. Right now it is too soon to call it as “successful” week since the government is only REVIEWING the assessment process and the Fisheries Act. However, I anticipate changes are afoot. And I will keep everyone posted on these developments. A post on the western chorus frog is forthcoming – check in on Monday for that post!

Something Close to Home (by A. Koundourakis)

Just this past Thursday, the Federal government committed to amending the Rouge National Park Act. They have agreed to extend the park’s size and protect its natural integrity for the next decade, while also providing long term security for park farmers by lengthening their lease agreements. Rouge National Urban Park is a combination of natural, cultural and agricultural landscapes containing several exceptional features: there is a large biodiversity of over 1,700 species of plants and animals; one of the oldest working farms in the GTA; Carolinian forests; the only campground in Toronto; the region’s largest marsh; beaches; fantastic hiking trails; and human history dating back to 8,000 B.C.E., which includes some of the oldest known Indigenous sites and villages in Canada.

Since 2012, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has been pushing the Ontario Liberal government to transfer over 9,000 acres that it owns in Scarborough’s Rouge Valley, yet this was only met with arduous conditions. Subsequently, there was a several year standoff whereby the Conservatives have fought against a defiant Liberal front for park land transfer. Prominent conservation groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation, Ontario Nature, Environmental Defence and Friends of the Rouge Watershed advocated against the transfer of land due to the concern over the Conservative’s vision for Rouge Park as a place where nature and farming had equal protection. There was serious reluctance to transfer lands over because of their abandonment of a nature first mentality. There were continuously amassing concerns over the wellbeing of the natural park as it was viewed that, to the Conservatives, nature and farming were mutually exclusive.

However, on Thursday June 9, the Federal Liberal government rewrote the law governing Rouge National Urban Park. This change came after talks between the province, park stakeholders and Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna, where she said that amendments to the Rouge National Park Act will “ensure that the ecological integrity of the park is the first priority.” Trudeau’s Liberal government has committed to match the Conservative’s proposed contribution to Rouge Park of $170.5 million over 10 years and $10.6 million a year after that. Further, federal authorities will offer greater assurances, which include leases of up to 30 years to farmers who continue to lease park land. On Saturday June 18, the Ontario government reaffirmed its commitment to transfer 6.5 square kilometres of land to Parks Canada as well as relinquish reversionary rights to 15 square kilometres of additional lands that were purchased by Ontario and subsequently transferred to Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.


(Trudeau & his family at “Paddle the Rouge” – photo is from Trudeau’s twitter feed).


Brad Duguid, the province’s minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure (he also happens to be a Scarborough MPP), called the amendment “a significant improvement.” He is also the man who refused to hand Rouge National Park over to the Harper government and had been a direct player in the current approval of the transfer. He further called the legislation “a significant improvement that both elevates ecological integrity as the guiding principle, yet remains sensitive to agricultural interests in the park.”

Now, for all those of you who haven’t been to Rouge National Park, GO! It’s beautiful and an amazing date destination and only an hour away. I’ve never been a dinner and a movie date kind of guy, and frankly don’t know if people still do that anymore. This park is breathtaking and I really recommend it for anyone. There are plenty of things to do, for example when the plan to expand the park was announced the Trudeau family was attending an event called ‘Paddle the Rouge’. But back to the story at hand, what’s the big deal about this amendment, why does it matter to any of us? Because the remarkable features of Rouge National Park that each of us can observe and enjoy are being expanded upon and transferred into Federal jurisdiction, they will come with stricter regulations whose goal will be to protect the diverse list of species living there. When you enter any National Park in Canada or even a hiking trail, you’re a guest in someone else’s home. To increase their square footage allows you to enjoy their home that much more and longer and ensures that the residents are still there. It’s not the trees, grass and water that we enjoy when we’re at any National Park, it’s the relationships between each species and what they produce that we are able to enjoy. You either get something or nothing. I think that protecting it is important to Canadians.

Also, Rouge National Park isn’t just nature, it’s also agriculture. By increasing lease term agreements from 1 year to 30 years, it provides much more security for farmers who were unsure whether or not they would be welcome to continue growing crops the following years. Now unless there was some reason why the Harper government didn’t want to extend these terms that I couldn’t find, I can only see this being a positive for residents in the GTA. The park holds some of Canada’s best Class 1 farmland, which is among the rarest and most fertile land in the country. This Class 1 farmland accounts for 70% of the park itself. For those of us concerned with job supply, increased security will increase the demand for new hires in the agriculture industry. Furthermore, as local food becomes increasingly popular for their freshness and low transportation costs, increasing the job security for farmers should become a priority. Farmers feed cities, and I don’t slap the hand that feeds me.

Microbeads: The Cleansing Contaminants (By U. Khan)

If you look through the personal care products around your house, you will likely find a product that contains microbeads. Microbeads are plastic particles that are 0.1nm-5mm in size. They are used as an abrasive in personal care products like facial scrubs, cosmetics, and toothpaste. Microbeads are commonly made from polyethylene, a plastic material and are terrible for the environment. They are too small to be detected by water filtration system and commonly end up in lakes and rivers. Once in the water, microbeads are ingested by fish and other aquatic species. The danger to the environment is not from the microbeads itself but from the fact that microbeads accumulate toxic chemicals as they move through the water. These chemicals can then make their way into the food chain and harm humans and animals.

The federal government has long proposed a ban on microbeads. The first attempt to ban them was started by John McKay when he introduced bill C-680 that would prohibit the sale of microbeads smaller than 5 mm. Another bill C-684 also proposed to have microbeads listed as a toxic substance under the Canada Environment Protection Act and prohibit their sale and importation. Unfortunately the bills could not proceed before the dissolution of the parliament for the 2015 elections. The current government has also expressed its interest in banning the use of microbeads in cosmetic products. This plan is currently in the public consultation phase, and the government was accepting public opinion on the ban until March 10th this year. The current government proposal is to ban the manufacturing and import of microbead containing products by 2017, and ban the sale of these products by 2018. A survey done by the Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association of Canada (CCTFA) found that currently members of the association use between 30kg/year to 68,000 kg/year of microbeads in their products.

Canada is behind our neighbour on the issue of plastic microbeads. The United States already created a law last year that prohibits the manufacturing of products containing microbeads from July 1st, 2017, with the aim of phasing them out in the next 2 years. Although some might argue that the microbeads have a useful purpose and the government has no right to ban them outright. I think that there are other alternatives to microbeads that can be used as an abrasive material in cleansing products. This article by the Huffington post explores some of these alternatives, which include biodegradable as well as rice-based cleansers. The negative impact of these microbeads on both marine and human health is immense as found by various research studies. Therefore, the government should go forward with the ban as it is the best plan forward for the environment.

What can we all do to help solve this problem?

The biggest impact we can all have on this issue is to not buy products that contain these microbeads. Consumers have a lot of power and if we collectively decide to not buy these products, businesses will have to listen and stop creating them. Loblaws has already stated that they will stop making products that contain microbeads by 2018. We can also try to look for innovative solutions for cleaning up the bodies of water that already have a large quantity of microbeads. Students at one Mississauga high school recently created a new filtration system for microbeads. The students won the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Award for $ 50,000 to develop the idea and create the filtration system. The system works by making water containing microbeads flow through a charged tube and having the negatively charged microbeads attach to a positively charged plate that can be removed from the water. This shows that there is something we can all do to help keep our lakes and rivers free of microbeads.

Say No to Site-C

Things are heating up with Site-C. At the time I wrote The Canadian Environment in Political Context there was not too much to say/guess about the Site-C dam in British Columbia. So it is only briefly mentioned in Chapters 8 (Energy) and 9 (Indigenous Politics). But now over 300 scholars have signed a statement AGAINST Site-C. I don’t need to say too much about it here because there is already a great webpage that explains everything. Check it out:

site c

Blue-green Algae: A Colourful Menace (By U. Khan)

If you have ever walked beside a lake or river in the summer, you might have noticed a blue-green color in the water or surrounding rocks. This gel like substance floating on top of the water is a group of microorganisms known as cyanobacteria or commonly referred to as blue-green algae. Blue-green algae are plant like organisms that grow in bodies of water, and require nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen to survive. When these algae bloom, they use up the dissolved oxygen in the water and cause fish and other marine species to die. The can also produce toxins that contaminate water supplies and are deadly to marine life. The problem of algal blooms has been reoccurring in various lakes and rivers across Canada since the 1970s, and has yet to be solved.


Satellite view of the algal bloom in Lake Erie on July 28th 2015 Source: NASA

Lake Erie has become notorious for its algal blooms. In 2014, 400,000 people in Toledo were without tap water for two days due to algal blooms in Lake Erie. In 2015, Lake Erie witnessed another large algal bloom. These events have put a lot of attention on the problem of algal blooms in the region, and have put increased pressure on the government to deal with these problems. Earlier this year, the Ontario government released the Ontario Great Lakes Strategy 2016 Progress Report. This report is a review of the Ontario Great Lakes Strategy, a document published in 2012 which laid out Ontario’s efforts to preserve the great lakes. One major accomplishment of the government in the years since the creation of the Ontario Great Lakes Strategy is the passing of the Great Lakes Protection Act 2015. This act has created new monitoring programs for water quality, and allowed the government to set specific targets in improving the water quality in the great lakes. Another major sign of progress is the Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement signed in June 2015, with includes a bi-national goal to reduce phosphorous emissions into Lake Erie by 40% of 2008 levels by 2025. A key issue in targeting algal blooms in the great lakes is the fact that there are multiple jurisdictions in the area. Agricultural run-off from Michigan and Ohio contribute a large share to the total phosphorous levels. The fact that this agreement involves both Canada and the US is a great move. A study by the University of Michigan University has found that although the current goal is tough, it is achievable if large changes are made by a widespread number of actors. I believe that the content presented in the Progress Report is an indicator that the government has taken steps to deal with the problems of algal blooms, but the fact remains that most of the ideas are targets for the future and actual work needs to be done on the ground to achieve these targets.

Outside of the great lakes, algal blooms have also been an issue in Lake Winnipeg. The problems associated with algal blooms in this region are not only health related but also economic. Fishing and tourism provide many jobs for local businesses and are most affected by algal blooms. According to a 2013 study, the levels of phosphorous in the lake are above the recommended limit in both the northern basin as well as the southern basin of the lake. Projects funded by the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Fund have done well to reduce the amount of phosphorous seeping into Lake Winnipeg. As of March 2015,14800kg of phosphorous runoff per year has been stopped from entering the lake and its tributaries.

So what does it all mean?

Algal blooms result from access nutrients being present in a body of water. These access nutrients are most often the result of agricultural runoff. Algal blooms have negative effects on both local environments as well as commercial activities wherever they occur. The government needs to take a more proactive approach in dealing with these algal blooms. The recent blooms in both Lake Erie as well as Lake Winnipeg after record lows were achieved in the 1990s show that the government has not made it a priority to reduce algal blooms. The creation of new legislation is a great sign that the government is finally moving in the right direction on this issue. A collective effort between all the different ministries and aboriginal communities as well as local communities needs to occur for a healthy water system. There also needs to be cooperation between Canada and the US in this matter as water is a shared resource between our two countries.

Something’s fishy about the oceans (By A. Koundourakis)

At the World Wildlife Fund Annual Oceans Summit, the Federal government released that they are investing $197.1 million over five years to increase ocean and freshwater scientific research and monitoring. The Minister of Fisheries, The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, announced the Liberal government’s marine conservation targets of protecting 5 percent of Canada’s marine and coastal areas by 2017 and 10 percent by 2020. In the 2016 Budget, there was an $81.3 million investment over five years to be allocated to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada to support marine conservation activities. Also, there will be a $42.4 million investment over five years to continue work on developing new National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas.


Dominic LeBlanc, Catherine McKenna and Carolyn Bennett at the WWF Annual Oceans Summit (http://news.gc.ca/web/Dha.do?mltmdid=6060)

Whether this target is considered ambitious or not, this investment in the longest coastline in the world is extremely important because we depend on our oceans for a healthy environment and economy. Canada has unrivalled ocean and freshwater resources, and we need to protect and expand our marine regions in order to reach our conservation targets. Furthermore, by protecting the coastline, we are helping to protect our oceans, which provide half of our oxygen production and regulates Earth’s temperature. Not to mention the economic significance it carries through the fishing and tourism industries. Needless to say, every Canadian will be impacted by this investment in marine protection as it is extremely vital to maintain and improve our quality of life.

The Federal government has a five point plan to achieve their conservation targets. These include:

  • Advance the work already underway in areas progressing towards establishment including the proposed Lancaster Sound NMCA and five proposed Oceans Act MPAs: Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reeds, Anguniaqvia Niqiqyuam, Laurentian Channel, Anns Bank and Banc des Americains.
  • Establish new, large Oceans Act MPAs in pristine offshore areas.
  • Establish additional Oceans Act MPAs in areas under pressure from human activities.
  • Identify existing and establish new other effective area-based conservation measures, particularly to protect sensitive sponge and coral concentrations.
  • Examine how the Oceans Act can be updated to facilitate the designation process for MPAs, without sacrificing science, or the public opportunity to provide input.

The Liberal government’s approach to meeting their targets would be guided by three principals: science-based decision making; transparency and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous groups.

The understanding and protection of marine ecosystems relies on our ability to bring complex and diverse sources of information that are based on the scientific method. These are then dependant on further peer review. Furthermore, other sources of information can be sourced from traditional aboriginal knowledge and by industry and local knowledge.

In order to meet our conservation targets, Canada will require full cooperation of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, industries, academics and environmental NGOs. The collaboration of actors and stakeholders will provide opportunities for Canada to reach its conservation targets.

Traditional aboriginal knowledge will be used to highlight the importance of an area and its resources to the traditions and economies of local communities. The Liberal government has announced that it will respect treaties in existence and support the advancements of modern treaties that are under review.

According to the National Post, during the event Shell Canada President, Michael Crothers, also made an announcement that corporations will be working in cooperation with the government to meet the targets. For example, Shell is voluntarily contributing their Lancaster Sound permits for marine conservation in the arctic. These permits cover 8,600 square kilometres north of Baffin Island. This announcement is particularly noteworthy, because protecting Canada’s Northern waters would ensure that dozens of Arctic species would have year round safety for the very foreseeable future. This is a considerable win for the future of the ecosystem. David Miller and Devon Page, the CEO of WWF and executive director of Ecojustice, respectively, remarked that this is a massive win for their organizations, both of whom were fighting for preservation of the region. This cooperation between industry and government highlights the importance of the mutual understanding that marine ecosystems must be protected. Hopefully, it’s an indication of more cooperation between industries and governments to come.

So, here’s my two cents. For anyone that read my blurb about myself, I’m all for anything related to protecting anything water. I drink it, I swim in it, and I depend on it every day of my life. The Earth depends on it; oceans regulate global temperatures and provide ecosystems for organisms that produce oxygen for us to breath. Life as we know it was created in the ocean. It is our responsibility to protect it.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Cousteau family and their contribution to protecting the ocean. Also, for anyone interested, this kid named Boyan Slat started a massive venture to clean plastic out of the ocean. He designed nets that sit on the ocean’s surface and they passively scoop up plastic. The benefits from his company have the same benefits as Canada’s coastal investment. For example, reaching the conservation targets will save hundreds of thousands of aquatic species that call the coastline their home; the cost of pollution and damages will be reduced due to the protection policies; and finally, human health will be improved due to the reduction of bioaccumulation from the chemicals that are killing ecosystems.

Perhaps the Liberal government could follow Slat’s example and look towards a global collaboration of governments and corporations to improve the marine environment. I have no doubt that international water treaty is a tricky legal subject, however, the Federal government could lead the world by looking beyond our own borders and into much more polluted parts of the world.








Science Based Detection – A Scientific Breakthrough (by U. Khan)

Chapter six in the book The Canadian Environment in Political Context explores the subject of chemical, air, and water pollution. One of the major air pollutants is the compound Sulfur dioxide (SO2). You might have heard of this compound as a cause of acid rain. It is also detrimental to human health and can cause many health problems like respiratory illnesses, breathing problems, and even cardiovascular issues. People most affected are children, the elderly, and people with asthma or breathing problems. The major sources of SO2 are coal based power plants, utilities, and smelters. All in all, this pollutant has a negative impact on human and ecosystem health and it is imperative to know the amount of SO2 being released into the environment.

A recent article published in the journal Nature GeoScience has found a new technique for measuring emissions. The new space based method for measuring emissions has allowed for emissions to be calculated with greater accuracy. Satellites provide data from areas that would otherwise be inaccessible. The raw satellite data is than analyzed using specialized software to estimate concentrations of SO2 emissions. The research study is also interesting because it has a Canadian contribution; the research was conducted through collaboration between NASA and Environment and Climate Change Canada. The data was collected by Ozone Monitoring Instruments onboard the NASA satellite AURA, which launched in 2004. According to NASA, the study revealed 39 unreported sources of toxic sulfur emissions. These emissions combined compose almost 12% of the entire sulfur emissions of the world and thus have serious impact on the scientific models calculating effects of sulfur emissions on the environment. The majority of the unreported emissions are from areas in the energy rich Persian Gulf, with some sites in Russia and Mexico. There is some uplifting news however, as the data that showed decreasing SO2 emissions across the globe.

Data from the journal article that categorizes countries by percent of missing SO2 emissions. Source: Chris McLinden/Environment and Climate Change Canada

So where does Canada stand in the all of this?

The study found that Canada actually did not have any missing sources of emissions. According to the lead scientist, this can be attributed to the fact that in Canada emissions are measured directly from smoke stacks rather than through estimates as may be the case in other countries. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, 93% of coal based power plants have a continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) installed. This system can continuously monitor emissions data. Since coal based power plants are a large source of SO2 pollutants, this allows for efficient measurement of SO2 emissions. Canada and the United States have done well to decrease emissions in the past few decades, with Canadian emissions decreasing 58% between 1990 and 2010.


Graph showing Canada’s SO2 emissions from 1980-2010. Source: Environment Canada 2012

The implications of this new space based method are enormous. First, it will allow for global emissions inventories to have accurate data. This data can be used to determine the harmful effects of the emissions in different areas of the globe. Second, scientists believe that this technique can be used in the future to detect other pollutant compounds from space. Lastly, this data can be used to hold nations accountable for their emissions. Countries can no longer hide or misrepresent their emissions data. With the massive decline in SO2 emissions occurring in Canada and the US, countries in the wealthy Persian Gulf must also do more to reduce emissions and create a clean air future.

Sorry Coal, Natural Gas Is Here To Stay (by A. Koundourakis)

In my last blog post, I wrote how the Globe and Mail got their hands on a 57-page document outlining Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, titled “Cabinet Confidential.” The goal was to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. In that document, it outlined how Ontario would wean residents off of fossil fuel powered homes by 2030 (natural gas included). Taken directly from the article; “New building code rules will require all homes and small buildings built in 2030 or later to be heated without using fossil fuels, such as natural gas. This will be expanded to all buildings before 2050. Other building code changes will require major renovations to include energy-efficiency measures. All homes will also have to undergo an energy-efficiency audit before they are sold.” The code change costs do not include the $1.32 billion in incentives to phase out natural gas heating in homes. All one needs to do is type “Wynne Natural Gas” on Google and you would get page upon page of newspaper article backlash on the subject.


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne insists that the province will not ban the use of natural gas to heat homes as part of its climate change action plan. (CODIE MCLACHLAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS) Watch video here. 

However, last week the Liberals released a statement during a joint press conference with Rachel Notley and Enbridge CEO Al Monaco stating that “We are not banning natural gas and have no intention to force people off natural gas.” She stresses that they will work to extend natural gas lines to rural and northern communities in order to promote economic development. Her intention is completely opposite of what was reported by the Globe and Mail’s article last week.

This retraction or falsely reported climate change strategy will reduce the greenhouse gas reduction estimate, while also largely reducing Ontarian debt which would have resulted in the policy’s implementation. I wonder what new policy the Liberals will implement to counter the omittance of the natural gas switch and how it will affect Ontarians.

At the press conference, Al Monaco had warned the public that an investment to switch households from natural gas to electricity would cost Ontario $200 billion – or about $4,500 per Ontarian based on average use. It would also triple electricity costs, which currently are among the highest in the country. So much for the $7 billion climate change plan from last week, but hey, what’s an extra $193 billion underestimate? (Not particularly related to the story, but I was driving home from work this afternoon and a commercial came on the radio advertising Ontario bonds. Planning something big, Premier Wynne?)

To give you an idea of how much electricity prices are, I have provided a table below showing price by major Canadian city:


Average Price of Electricity by Major Canadian City (Hydro Quebec)

What is most peculiar about the statement by Premier Wynne is that she said “I want to directly address the critics who jumped on last week’s false media reports suggesting that our plan will ban natural gas in Ontario. That is not true.” However, the Climate Change strategy draft released by the Globe and Mail contains a preamble signed by Premier Wynne. I do also want to stress that the plan was still to be fine-tuned so they are well within their right to withdraw or add policies, however a $200 billion price tag is a gross miscalculation. The Oakville coal plant scandal comes to mind again.

The relevance of this press release by Premiers Notley and Wynne stretches farther than climate change and financial calculation. In my last post I also mentioned how there were tensions within the party. Assuming this plan was released by disagreeing party members, is this something that they wanted us to see?





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.