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Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announce in Toronto that Ontario is will longer generate electricity with coal-burning plants.DEBORAH BAIC/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario government will mark the closing of the province's last coal-fired electricity plant with new legislation banning the use of coal in power generation.

And Premier Kathleen Wynne pulled in some high-wattage help – in the person of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore – to unveil the proposed law. In a speech in downtown Toronto Thursday, the anti-climate change activist said future generations will thank the province for fighting global warming.

"If they see the pollution levels falling, if they feel hope in their hearts and look at their own children and feel definitely their future is going to be brighter still, they'll look back at us and ask of us 'How did you find the moral courage to change, to rise up, to act?' " he said. "And part of the answer will be: 'Ontario, Canada, led the way.' "

The province's largest and last coal plant, in Nanticoke, is scheduled to shut down next month. The new bill, if passed, will make it illegal for the government to set up other coal plants in future.

The legislation is mostly symbolic: it will apply only to electricity plants, allowing other industries – such as steel and cement manufacturing – to continue burning coal. But Ms. Wynne touted it as expression of the province's commitment to cleaner sources of energy.

"We want to close the door on coal and we don't want to go back," she said. "It's our moral duty to take action, to protect our children, our grandchildren and and our fellow citizens."

Ms. Wynne's Liberals hold a minority of seats in the legislature, meaning they will need the co-operation of at least one other party to get the law passed.

The end of coal burning at Nanticoke caps one of the Liberals' longest-held goals. The party has promised to kill coal generation since it was elected a decade ago, and spent years shuttering plants and trying to build a green energy industry.

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