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Jeff Yurek, Ontario's Environment Minister, seen here outside the Legislature in Toronto in November, 2018, acknowledged more needs to be done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, however said his government still intends to challenge the federal carbon tax in court.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Ontario’s Environment Minister said conservative parties haven’t been vocal enough on climate change, as he acknowledged more needs to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after a rebuke from the province’s Auditor-General.

Still, Jeff Yurek said his government will continue its court challenge to the federal carbon tax, which he argued remains an issue of provincial jurisdiction.

Mr. Yurek’s remarks come a day after Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk said Ontario’s climate-change plan is “not yet supported by sound evidence,” will likely miss its emissions-reduction targets and is predicated on some programs – such as subsidies for electric cars – that Premier Doug Ford’s government cancelled.

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“Conservative parties remain silent on the climate-change initiative and [have] not really given forth ideas that are needed to move forward. And I think that’s what’s lacking in this fight against climate change. It should be a non-partisan idea," Mr. Yurek told reporters on Thursday, noting he only speaks for the provincial party.

“We need to be more involved and more engaged in this fight with climate change, and we’re going to do that.”

Mr. Yurek described the province’s climate-change plan as an “evolving" document, but said his government does not support a carbon tax as a measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The province is continuing its court challenge of the federal levy, along with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“We’re not going to agree on everything, and we don’t believe that a carbon tax is necessarily going to be in the best interest of Ontarians," he said.

Opposition parties on Thursday said the government shows no willingness to do what is necessary to fight climate change, having cancelled the Liberals’ cap-and-trade system as well as wind and solar projects across the province.

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said the government’s current climate plan is “deceitful.”

“Look at the Auditor-General’s report. They’re not getting anywhere, they have filler in their plan. They’re destroying the things that we need to actually take on the crisis,” he said.

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Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the government should look for inspiration from his party’s policies, such as electrifying transportation, conservation programs and investing in clean technology.

“Now that their made-to-fail plan’s been exposed by the Auditor-General, it’s clear they’re scrambling,” he said. “They are going to have to completely reverse course.”

Mr. Yurek said Thursday that he’s open to hearing from industry and businesses, as well as other political parties, in order to reduce greenhouse gases to the required 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which is the global target to which Canada agreed in the 2015 Paris accord.

“We’re going to evolve our plan, add in new ideas and ensure that we’re going to make our targets by 2030," he said.

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