The environmental commissioner, whose job was eliminated when the political climate changed at Queen’s Park, warns Ontario is not doing enough to conserve energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In her last-ever report to the legislature, Dianne Saxe on Wednesday blasted Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government for failing to slow the use of carbon-emitting fuels.
“As climate change gathers speed, conserving energy must mean burning fewer fossil fuels,” Saxe told reporters at Queen’s Park as she tabled her 175-page report.
“Ontario is 75 per cent dependent on imported fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. This dependence is bad for our economy, for our climate, and for our health,” she said, criticizing the Tories for ending wind-power contracts and conservation programs.
The environment watchdog’s position was scrapped — along with those of the provincial children’s advocate and the French-language rights commissioner — as part of Ford’s cuts in last November’s fall economic statement.
“This is a proud, but sad day,” said Saxe.
“On Monday, my office will be eliminated. The auditor general may, if she chooses, carry on part of my work from her own point of view,” she said.
“In light of her very different expertise, experience, and interests, I wish her well.”
Indeed, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s past reports suggest her focus is more on value-for-money audits than environmental programs.
In her 2016 annual report, Lysyk demanded estimated cap-and-trade costs be prominently displayed on monthly natural gas bills even though the government at the time had said it would average out to $5 a month.
Unusually for an independent officer of the legislature, the auditor even commissioned a public-opinion poll — at taxpayers’ expense — to see if Ontarians wanted to be reminded of such a charge.
Lysyk also wanted the Ontario Energy Board, an arm’s length regulator, to reverse its decision it had that such disclosure was unnecessary.
Since being elected last June, Ford’s government has extricated Ontario from its cap-and-trade climate change alliance with Quebec and California, which put a price on carbon.
That brought in $1.9 billion annually to the provincial treasury for environmental programs such as subsidies of electric cars.
But Ford, who had campaigned against what he called a “job-killing carbon tax,” scrapped it, reducing gasoline prices by 4.3 cents a litre.
His government is spending $30 million in court fighting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon-pricing measures that take effect Monday.