Premier Doug Ford and his Saskatchewan counterpart have vowed to reduce trade barriers between the provinces and reaffirmed their fight against Ottawa’s carbon tax as Ontario prepares its own climate plan that will rein in ambitious targets set by the previous Liberal government.
Mr. Ford welcomed Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to Queen’s Park on Monday to announce that the two provinces have signed a memorandum of understanding to start talks on reducing interprovincial trade barriers. The premiers, who are challenging the Trudeau government’s carbon-pricing plan in court, took the opportunity to slam the federal government’s plan.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ford will meet with federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer as they press both the political and legal case against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon-tax plan.
Ottawa will impose a levy on fossil-fuel consumption and rebate the revenue back to households. The federal tax will apply in four provinces – Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick – that either do not have a carbon price or did not meet Ottawa’s standards for one.
In a speech at Toronto Empire Club, Ontario’s Environment Minister Rod Phillips said the province is already “on track” to do its share in meeting Canada’s 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Currently, GHG emissions in the province are 22 per cent below 2005 levels, thanks mostly to the phase-out of coal-fired power undertaken under the Liberal government. Ontario has reduced its GHG emissions even as they climbed nationally since 2005, largely a result of increases in oil- and coal-dependent Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Former premier Kathleen Wynne had set a target to reduce GHGs by 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, far more ambitious than the federal goal.
Mr. Phillips said people in the province are already paying a steep price for the coal phase-out and should not be expected to do more than their share to meet a national objective.
Ontarians “are proud of doing their part, and want recognition for what has been achieved,” Mr. Phillips said. "And yes, they want polluters to pay, but not be penalized with targets that will make them uncompetitive globally, and kill jobs and investment in Ontario.”
As the province battles the federal government over its carbon levy, the provincial Environment Minister said he will release a “made-in-Ontario” solution that will focus on energy efficiency and joint funding with the private sector for GHG-reducing technology. The province is still sitting on $1-billion raised under the cap-and-trade system that the Ford government cancelled this summer, and that revenue must be allocated to emissions-reduction efforts.
It will also include efforts to adapt the province to the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as storms and flooding.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna argues the Ford government’s cancellation of cap-and-trade and the programs it funded will add 48-megatonnes to Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2030. She said it will be harder for Canada to meet its international commitments on climate “when you have Conservative politicians who don’t want to taker action on climate change.”
“In provinces that have not put a price on pollution, we’ve developed a plan that will put more money in the pockets of average people, at the same time creating the incentive to choose cleaner solutions,” Ms. McKenna told reporters in Ottawa Monday.
In commenting on the federal carbon tax, Mr. Phillips said it would require a levy of $150 a tonne – or 35 cents for each litre of gasoline – to get consumers to change their behavior. However, the federal government said it expected its levy – which kicks in at $20 a tonne in April and rises to $50 three years later – would reduce GHGs by up to 60 million tonnes by 2022.
“There’s lots of evidence that a carbon price of $20-to-$30 per tonne changes behavior," said Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa. "B.C.’s had a price in that range since 2008, and its emissions are down 7 per cent more than the rest of Canada – and its GDP growth has been stronger.”