On Thursday, the Ford Government released its environment plan -- the one they claimed would be "better" than the previous Liberal government's plan. Martin Regg Cohn writes:
The premier’s climate-change strategy is certainly a change in direction: It scales back Ontario’s obligation to curb carbon pollution by more than 25 per cent — 30 megatonnes — at the very time reductions are most needed.
But it also reverses the onus: Rather than imposing a price on carbon pollution as a cost of doing business, the Tories are shifting the burden to taxpayers by making them subsidize big business.
Instead of polluters paying up, polluters are being paid off with $400 million in corporate carbon welfare that comes at taxpayers’ expense. Turns out that the premier’s famous “axe the tax” slogan served to disguise a bait-and-switch ploy that lets big business escape unscathed — taking the hatchet to taxpayer’s pocketbooks while slashing environmental protection.
The government claims its plan doesn't have to be ambitious:
The document begins by declaring “Ontario responsible for less than 0.4 per cent of global emissions,” as if our small population base somehow diminishes our moral responsibility as one of the planet’s highest per capita energy consumers (at the very time we are trying to dissuade the developing world from matching our unsustainable consumption patterns). It goes on to argue that Ontarians have already done their part by eliminating coal-fired power generation, putting us “on track” to meet our obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Eliminating coal fired power plants was Dalton McGuinty's idea. He had foresight. Ford has none. It would require him to tackle transportation:
The heavy lifting in this province remains carbon emissions from transportation, which might have been better addressed through a cap-and-trade scheme that redeployed billions of dollars in emissions allowances to invest in public transit.
Instead the Ford plan is straight out of the neoliberal playbook -- privatize profits and socialize losses:
A Progressive Conservative government that regularly rages against red tape is returning to a regulatory framework — and a reliance on tax dollars — for outcomes that could be achieved more cost-effectively through the magic of free-market solutions under cap and trade or a carbon tax (which use price signals to incentivize reduced emissions). The Tories are proposing the Ontario Carbon Trust, “ an emission reduction fund that will use public funds” to encourage compliance.
The new Carbon Trust bespeaks the Tories’ approach — trust us — that brings to mind the Russian saying, “Trust but verify.” For Ford, this is an ideological (and illogical) backflip that betrays the environment, burdens entrepreneurs, and breaks faith with his fellow Tories.
The latest report promises special exemptions for industrial sectors, while stressing: “This approach does not enforce a blanket cap on emissions across Ontario.”
The Environmental Commissioner, who just lost her job, called out the plan for what it is -- a con job:
Ontario’s independent environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, has decried the new climate proposal for being “one-third as ambitious” as the cap-and-trade program it is replacing. Saxe exhorted the previous Liberal government to do better, and she has encouraged the Progressive Conservatives no less since they took power, but their response was to announce her position will be eliminated.
The Tories not only axed the tax, they sacked Saxe.
The Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, used to favour a carbon tax. But, like Caroline Mulroney, when he joined Ford Nation, he sold his soul. There's going to be more hot air in Ontario. But then, Doug Ford knows a lot about hot air.