Ontario’s Energy Minister is under fire for citing a website that denies climate change is largely caused by humans, as opposition members say the government has lost credibility on environmental issues.
Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs, quoted in the legislature twice this week from an article in Climate Change Dispatch, an online forum that challenges “global warming alarmists" who “believe man is wholly or largely responsible for any fluctuation in the planet’s overall surface temperature.”
On both Monday and Tuesday, Mr. Rickford cited the article, which focused on high wind-energy prices in Germany, to justify the Progressive Conservative government’s decision to cancel 758 wind and solar energy contracts at a cost of $231-million.
He has since faced questions about whether it’s appropriate for a cabinet minister to be quoting from a website that denies the human role in climate change and his own views on global warming.
“As a well-studied person, I take every opportunity, whether it’s on the internet or sources of literature, to consider different points of view,” Mr. Rickford said during Question Period on Wednesday, when asked by the NDP to clarify his position.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek told reporters he doesn’t read the website, but said Mr. Rickford, a former federal Conservative minister of natural resources, is allowed to speak freely in the House.
“My colleague has never, ever denied science, he’s never denied climate change. In fact our government has moved forward with a made-in-Ontario environment plan that is dealing with the climate change,” Mr. Yurek said, adding that he believes human activity plays “quite a bit of a role” in climate change.
Mr. Rickford did not take questions from reporters on Wednesday. Speaking Tuesday after Question Period, he defended his use of the article from the website. While he said he believed in climate change, he would not answer a question about whether he believed human activity was responsible for it.
“We do a scan of periodicals and articles from magazines all the time. And in this case we found a suitable quote about the situation that’s going on in Germany right now and I thought that it was appropriate to do that,” Mr. Rickford said.
His comments were condemned by all three opposition parties, who said they reflected poorly on the government’s environmental priorities.
Peter Tabuns, the NDP’s climate crisis and energy critic, said he was shocked that Mr. Rickford sourced “a climate denial magazine when he’s looking at public policy.”
“Who does that and thinks that they’re going to be credible when they speak in public about climate or energy issues?” Mr. Tabuns said. “His credibility is down the drain.”
Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said Mr. Rickford’s comments should be viewed as representing the PC government. Mr. Rickford, he said, “wouldn’t be my choice for minister of energy, not in any way, shape or form.”
Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Premier Doug Ford needs to be held accountable for his minister sharing a “debunked junk science climate denial website in the House. It’s completely unacceptable.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Rickford told reporters the article outlined how the “erratic” nature of Germany’s wind turbines had made its electricity system “the most expensive in Europe” – and that Ontario under the previous Liberal government was in a similar situation.
“I believe in climate change, and I believe in literature that supports a balanced article on any given subject matter that points out both sides of the coin," he said.
He added that cancelling the wind and solar contracts will save hydro ratepayers $790-million, but walked away from reporters asking him again for his views on what is causing climate change.
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