By Rob Ferguson
Doug Ford says his first moves as premier will be to pull Ontario out of the carbon cap-and-trade system and to kill a 4.3 cent a litre carbon tax on gasoline.
“They’re gone, they’re done,” vowed the Progressive Conservative premier-designate, who assumes power June 29.
“Upon the swearing in of my new cabinet, at the top of our agenda, the very first item will be to pass an order to cancel the Liberal cap-and-trade carbon tax,” he told a news conference Friday.
Ford also suggested that his government would move quickly to block weekend price spikes at the gas pumps, but did not provide details.
The cap-and-trade system, which was implemented by outgoing Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, imposed a ceiling on greenhouse gas emissions by specified industries.
Companies have been allowed to buy permits at quarterly auctions to exceed limits. To date, the permits have raised $2.9 billion for programs aimed at reducing emissions in other ways, such as new technologies.
Critics say Ford has not outlined how his government would fight climate change, offered no details on a promised “orderly wind down” of cap-and-trade, or said whether the billions already collected from companies for emission permits in the coming years would be paid back from the provincial treasury.
“It was totally vague. He didn’t answer any substantial questions,” said New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth).
Greenpeace said Ontarians may save money on gas but will pay the price in other ways, such as flooded basements from increasingly heavy rainstorms.
“By abandoning action on climate change, Doug Ford is simply raising the extreme weather tax which is already wrecking homes, crops and public infrastructure,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist for the environmental group.
Ford, who has previously said he believes climate change is caused by human activity, maintained Wynne’s cap-and-trade program — which is run in conjunction with Quebec and California — is ineffective.
“The cap-and-trade and carbon tax does nothing for the environment. All it does is hurt small businesses and hurt families.”
Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence warned Ford is opening Ontario to lawsuits from its cap-and-trade partners for “basically trashing the market” without giving the required one-year notice of withdrawal.
“I don’t believe so. We looked into that and we don’t see a problem,” countered Ford, who is also planning a $30 million court fight to block the federal government from imposing carbon taxes in Ontario.
Asked about his government’s plan to fight climate change, Ford said “we are going to talk about that moving forward” and noted his platform earmarked more than $500 million for environmental efforts.
“It is unfortunate to see Mr. Ford’s sloganeering and back-of-the-napkin ideas continuing post-election,” said Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who was elected the MPP for Guelph.
Ford did not say when Ontario motorists will see the 10-cent per litre gas tax cut he promised during the election campaign. It would be achieved by eliminating the 4.3 cent per litre carbon tax and reducing the excise tax by 5.7 cents.