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NEWS: Barlow on Japan’s WTO challenge to Ontario’s Green Energy Act

The Toronto Star reports today that, “Japan’s trade challenge Monday of the McGuinty government’s green energy program could mean lost jobs and higher clean energy rates for Ontarians.”

“Tokyo took its fight against the Ontario Green Energy Act, introduced in May 2009 and focusing on solar and wind power, to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva. The provincial Liberal program promises creation of 50,000 jobs for Ontarians within its first three years, and aims to make Ontario ‘a leading green community in North America.’ While Ontario is the target, the Japanese challenge is against Canada. Tokyo is expected to argue the Ontario plan violates international trade law by providing subsidies for solar and wind power development and unfairly favouring local companies for procurement.”

“Calling it a ‘test case globally,’ Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow told the Star it threatens policies designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. ‘Why should the Ontario taxpayer be paying high rates for clean energy if it is going to the profit margins of big corporations from Japan or Europe?’ she asked. …Barlow said: ‘(Given a WTO challenge can take years) it is the chill effect that matters. While a dispute is being settled, other jurisdictions are loathe to start any similar program or pass any similar rule.’ …Barlow said she sees a ‘perfect storm’ of events to strip the sovereignty of Canadian legislators, with Japan’s challenge the latest element. ‘We should be very worried,’ she said. ‘This challenge could constrain governments from introducing laws, practices and standards that reflect community values of Canadians on environmental sustainability, fair trade, local jobs and justice, and local economic development.'”

“(Barlow also) noted municipalities have been targeted in the ongoing negotiations for the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. …Barlow says the Green Energy Act is already under threat by the EU negotiations, pointing out the European Commission targeted the Ontario program in a leaked memo earlier this year, citing it as a bad example for the other provinces. ‘This is a dangerous and anti-democratic move on the part of Japan,’ she said. ‘The Ontario and Canadian governments should vigorously oppose this challenge at the WTO and halt (EU negotiations) until it is clear such programs are protected.'”

The Toronto Star article by national affairs writer Linda Diebel is at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/860491–ontario-jobs-threatened-by-japanese-trade-action. Our media release ‘Japan’s WTO complaint against Green Energy Act baseless but dangerous, says Council of Canadians’ is at http://canadians.org/media/trade/2010/13-Sep-10.html. The campaign blog ‘NEWS: Ontario’s Green Energy Act prompts trade concerns’ is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4541.