Ford government’s climate change plan is not based on ‘sound evidence,’ auditor general says

Ford government’s climate change plan is not based on ‘sound evidence,’ auditor general says

Premier Doug Ford’s plan to fight climate change is not based on “sound evidence” and will fall well short of Ontario’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk warns in a damning new annual report.

Despite repeated assurances from Ford as recently as Tuesday that the plan is on track, an internal analysis by the environment ministry acknowledges that proposed measures won’t do the job, the auditor revealed in her massive report released Wednesday.

“Ontario is warming faster than the global average,” Lysyk said in her three-volume, 1,176-page report, noting the Paris Agreement target is to reduce emissions 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But the Progressive Conservative government’s calculations have been flawed on many levels, she said, such as the inclusion of impacts from renewable energy projects and the previous Liberal administration’s cap-and-trade program that were scrapped in the summer of 2018.

The environment ministry also projects sales of electric vehicles will rise to 1.3 million in 2030 from 41,000 this year but has “no policy mechanisms” to drive an increase after cancelling cash incentives for buyers and the installation of more charging stations more than a year ago, Lysyk found.

An end to cash incentives, which were bankrolled by the Liberal cap-and-trade program that generated $1.9 billion annually, has resulted in a drop of 53 per cent in the number of electric vehicles purchased or leased.

As well, “some emissions reductions were double counted and overstated” because they are targeted in more than one program, said the report.

The auditor general also found troubles in the health care system, court backlogs caused by a lack of modernization, higher rates of fatalities and injuries in commercial vehicle crashes and use food that is past its best-before date in nursing homes.

About 67,000 of the one million hospital patients discharged annually suffered some sort of negative health effects, the second-highest rate in Canada after Nova Scotia, Lysyk said.

Nurses who have been “repeatedly terminated or banned” for incompetence at hospitals are hired by other hospitals because of nondisclosure arrangements ahead of patient safety, she added.

“Because of concerns about potential civil legal actions, during an employment reference check hospitals may not freely share with potential employers a nurse’s complete and truthful employment and performance history,” the auditor wrote.

In long-term care homes, where 77,000 frail and mostly elderly citizens live, audits found diets were high in sugar and sodium and too low in fibre.

At some homes, there was 93 per cent more sugar, 53 per cent more sodium and 34 per cent less fibre than recommended.

“The high sugar content of menus can contribute to heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and cancer,” Lysyk said in the audit.

In a detailed look at five unspecified nursing homes, the auditor found some food was used after its best-before date — including liquid whole eggs that were three months beyond their expiry.

“Such food may still be safe but can lose some of its freshness, flavour and nutritional value,” the auditor wrote.

On climate change, Lysyk devoted a separate 180-page book on the Ford government’s challenges as it struggles to meet the Paris target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 17.6 megatonnes within 11 years.

As it now stands, the government plan has the potential to achieve reductions of between 6.3 megatonnes and 13 megatonnes, which would be just one-third to two-thirds of the goal. The environment ministry’s own analysis now estimates the initiatives in the plan would bring a reduction of about 10.9 megatonnes.

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The watchdog did not mention the Tories’ controversial gas-pump stickers that attack federal carbon-pricing measures or the province’s court challenge against them.

But Lysyk did criticize the government for spending $4 million on TV, radio and digital advertising blasting Ottawa’s plan.

“We took the view that a primary objective of this campaign was to foster a negative impression of the federal government and its carbon pricing policy,” she said.

Robert Benzie

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
Rob Ferguson

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