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Wynne’s cap-and-trade plan under fire, still refuses to reject Energy East pipeline


The Ontario government is coming under fire on its proposed cap-and-trade program.

The Toronto Star explains, “Under the cap-and-trade system, businesses have greenhouse gas limits — or caps — and those coming in under theirs can sell or trade credits.” Economist Jeff Rubin has commented, “Carbon taxes work to reduce emissions while being fiscally neutral at the same time. Cap-and-trade schemes, in contrast, are designed to foster a perception that emissions are going lower without actually doing much environmental good. At the end of the day, the main beneficiary is the provincial treasury. For a premier looking to paint a new source of revenue in greenwash, it’s a perfect choice.”

The newspaper adds, “The price of fighting climate change will be an additional 4.3 cents per litre for gasoline and $5 a month on the average natural gas bill. …The new scheme will bring in an additional $1.3 billion to the treasury, but [environment minister Glen] Murray emphasized that by law all the money must go toward climate-change initiatives so there shouldn’t be an adverse effect on consumers. …Some funds will go toward rebates for retrofitting homes and buildings to make them more energy efficient, additional public charging stations for electric cars, among other initiatives.”

But while people will face those increased costs as of January 2017, more than 100 large industrial “trade-exposed” emitters will get free permits to produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at roughly current levels next year. The Globe and Mail notes, “The ‘free allowance’ approach is meant to be ‘transitional only’ to give industry time to adjust, and would be reviewed in 2020. …[But] a recent report, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission – a think tank of private-sector economists – suggested Ontario’s manufacturing sector ‘is mostly unexposed to competitiveness pressure from carbon pricing.'”

NDP leader Andrea Horwath says, “When we see the first things government is doing is going to impact everyday folks, and yet big polluters get to take a bit of a vacation in terms of their participation, that’s very sad. We want to see fairness.” And Green party leader Mike Schreiner says, “The Liberals are sending the wrong message by giving big polluters a free ride.”

The Ontario government is promising to reduce GHG emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 37 per cent by 2030. And yet it has so far refused to reject the 1.1 million barrel per day Energy East pipeline that would facilitate a 40 per cent increase in tar sands production, emit about 32 million megatonnes of carbon pollution a year upstream, and even more carbon pollution downstream. In a joint media statement after a meeting with Alberta premier Rachel Notley last month, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne stated, “We appreciate that there is a need for a way to get Canadian oil, which is allowed under Alberta’s new emission cap, to overseas markets.”

Premier Wynne said this despite more twenty-five Anishinaabe First Nations (whose traditional territory is situated in northwestern Ontario) opposing the pipeline and the Ontario Energy Board, which the Wynne government had tasked to review the pipeline, saying the environmental risks of Energy East outweighed its potential benefits.

In Jan. 2015, Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White stated, “I do not want to be the grand chief who consented to a pipeline that’s going to destroy 30 per cent of the fresh water in Ontario, in Treaty 3 territory. …I came here to let everyone know what Energy East is all about… In unity in Treaty 3 we will be the ones to stop this. Our communities, our youth, our leadership are being called on by other nations. …TransCanada whatever you wanna call it, are there for the dollar signs, and nothing about the land, nothing about how we survive.” And in Aug. 2015, OEB vice-president Peter Fraser concluded, “What we have found is there is an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project and the expected benefits for Ontarians.”

Toronto-based Council of Canadians organizer Mark Calzavara has stated, “Premier Wynne is not listening to Ontarians or the Ontario Energy Board. Energy East is a risky plan that will only benefit Big Oil, not the people of Ontario. For the safety of our communities, waterways and climate, Premier Wynne must say no to Energy East.” And Ottawa-based energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue notes, “Getting oil to tidewater and further expanding the Alberta tar sands is our past. We must shift to finding ways to support impacted oil workers and their families while prioritizing investments in truly sustainable solutions like public transit, renewable energy, energy conservation and energy efficiency.”

Next week, federal and provincial first ministers will be meeting in Vancouver to discuss climate change. The Council of Canadians is calling on them to “leap” forward by committing to achieving a 100 per cent clean economy by 2050, respecting the inherent rights and title of Indigenous Peoples, and by rejecting new infrastructure that locks us into increased extraction for decades to come.