As Ontario’s fiscal watchdog is set to reveal the financial impact of Premier Doug Ford’s decision to scrap cap-and-trade, the Progressive Conservatives insist they will have a replacement climate-change plan soon.
Environment Minister Rod Phillips said Monday the Tories would soon unveil their strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to extreme weather.
“Climate change is real. Our plan will deal with the impacts, unlike the previous government’s,” said Phillips, referring to former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s alliance with Quebec and California.
“Not the cap-and-trade carbon-tax plan that was rejected by the people of Ontario but a plan that works,” the minister said of the June 7 provincial election.
His comments came as Peter Weltman, the province’s financial accountability officer, is to release a review Tuesday on the cost of cancelling cap-and-trade.
Under that plan, businesses had emission limits — or caps — and those who polluted less could sell — or trade — credits for these to those who emit more pollution.
Gradually, an industry’s cap is lowered, creating an economic incentive to reduce emissions.
The two-year-old market-based program generated $1.9 billion annually for environmental initiatives such as retrofitting homes, schools and public buildings and subsidizing electric cars.
But Ford, who called the measure a “carbon tax,” is extricating Ontario from its pact with Quebec and California in favour of lowering gasoline and natural gas prices.
That $1.9 billion will no longer be coming into provincial coffers to bankroll environmental programs.
The premier is also prepared to spend up to $35 million in court to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national carbon-pricing scheme.
It is still unclear how the province’s forthcoming climate-change plan will slash emissions without any enforceable compliance regimen.
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, pointing to the dire warnings in last week’s United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change report, noted “Ontario once had a plan to mitigate climate change.”
“Then, the premier ripped up the plan and replaced it with nothing,” said Tabuns (Toronto Danforth).
But Phillips said the new government is trying to balance ecology with the economy.
“We need to understand the impacts of climate change, because it’s happening,” the minister said.
“Second, we need to deal with reductions in greenhouse gases, but reductions that provide a balance, a balance between a healthy economy and a healthy environment.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie