The Ontario Provincial Election and climate change
Tips for crafting and asking questions at all-candidates meetings
1) Be brief. A short, clear question is best.
2) Know your facts. Be able to back up your question with the necessary facts if needed.
3) Speak slowly and clearly. Feel good about asking your question, and speak with confidence.
4) Written vs oral questions: the meeting may require questions to be written, so, be prepared (they will hand out paper & pencils)
5) Meeting size: if a large number of people attending, sit close to a microphone, go promptly to the mic when the Q&A begins (or you may not get your question in)
6) Candidates’ positions: normally the candidates all have a chance to present their/their party’s position - did the candidate discuss climate change? (If not, why was this omitted? Is it not important?)
7) Focus: you will get only one chance to ask a question, so, what is most important on climate change?
* Have a back-up question, or two - someone else may ask it!
8) The party’s position versus the candidate’s position
- watch out - they may be different (e.g., if the leader is a climate change denier, but the candidate is not)
9) Is the intention to get the local candidate’s views or the party’s?
* There may be a difference, e.g., the previous PC leader, Patrick Brown, supported a carbon tax, the current leader, Doug Ford, said: “The people of Ontario can’t afford a carbon tax, in whatever name or form. Not now, not ever.” “Saskatchewan seeks court opinion on whether carbon tax is constitutional.” Globe and Mail April 26, 2018, A7.
Extreme weather and changing weather patterns, arctic ice melting and permafrost loss - these are a few examples of the rapidly increasing crisis we face with climate change, and the imperative to take more aggressive action. In 2016 Canada ratified the international Paris Agreement which requires signatories to take climate mitigation actions that will keep average global temperature from rising more than 2oC and to attempt to keep increases below 1.5oC. As part of Canada’s international commitment, the Federal government set greenhouse gas, GHG, emission reduction targets of 17% (below 2005 levels) for 2020 and 30% for 2030. The Federal government also passed the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which requires all provinces to establish a system of carbon pricing, starting at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018 and rising $10 annually to $50 per tonne in 2022.
In Ontario, the Liberal government introduced a five year Climate Action Plan in 2016, which included GHG emission reduction targets of 15% (below 1990 levels) in 2020, 37% in 2030, and 80% by 2050. The Liberal government also introduced a Cap and Trade system in 2017. The government expects to raise about $8 billion between 2017 and 2020 from selling emission allowances, and will use this revenue to encourage the adoption of technologies by households and industry that will further emission reductions. Cap-and-trade is considered to have the same effect as a carbon tax (a carbon tax is paid directly by the consumer/user, while cap-and-trade is aimed at industry, which passes on costs to the consumer).
Are Canada’s and Ontario’s Current Climate Mitigation Plans Enough?
While recent Federal and Provincial initiatives on climate change are signs of progress, they are not enough. Recent Auditor General reports have found that both Federal and Ontario’s provincial climate initiatives are inadequate and will fail to meet future emission reduction targets. Amongst a number of failings, both reports found that Federal and Ontario climate strategies had failed to demonstrate how their initiatives would achieve required emission reductions.
Some Key Climate Change Issues Going Into the Ontario Provincial 2018 Elections
1. Costs of Addressing Climate Change vs. Benefits?
Many Ontarians are concerned with rising living costs, particularly for electricity, and there have been efforts to blame investments in renewable energy and Ontario’s cap and trade system as the cause of price rises. Despite concern over prices, a number of studies have shown that Ontario’s climate mitigation efforts have had little impact upon the cost of living in Ontario (this is not to suggest that even small increases in prices are not unfairly significant for people living with low incomes).
- Wind and solar generation were responsible for only 11% of the average electricity bill in Ontario
Source: Environmental Defence, Ontario's Electricity System, January 2017 Backgrounder.
- Ontario’s cap and trade system cost the typical residential customer about $6 or $7 per month for natural gas. Source: https://www.enbridgegas.com/corporate/ontario-clean-energy-future/cap-an...
- Ontario’s cap and trade system added about 4 cents per litre of gasoline in 2017.
Source: Environmental Defence, Clear Economy Alliance, A Progress Report on Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade Program and Climate Change Action Plan: Year One
On the other hand, while the immediate costs of action on climate change have been fairly minimal, there is growing understanding that the financial costs of inaction on climate change in Canada will be severe.
- Inaction on climate change will cost us in the range of $20 to $40 billion a year by 2050. In addition, global temperature rises above 2oC are associated with costs that could rise into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Source: Canada. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. 2011. Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada
2. Will a price on carbon (tax, or cap and trade) result in job losses?
Conservative party candidate Doug Ford has called Ontario’s cap and trade system a job killer, raising public concerns over the economic impact of climate action. In contrast to Mr Ford’s assertions, economic studies and Ontario’s own experience in the first year of cap and trade, indicate there will not be a significant impact upon Ontario’s economic competitiveness. In fact, many studies have indicated there are significant economic benefits and job gains that will emerge from climate mitigation strategies.
- 2017 (first year of cap and trade) saw an increase of 150,000 jobs, and a 4.5% growth in manufacturing jobs.Source: Environmental Defence, Clear Economy Alliance, A Progress Report on Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade Program and Climate Change Action Plan: Year One
- Only 5% of the canadian economy industry was found to be vulnerable to carbon pricing, defined as industries that were both carbon intensive and export intensive. Source:https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-commentary/an-eff...
- Energy efficiency investments into our current building stock would generate 40,000 to 57,000 jobs over the next five years, and every $1 spent on energy efficiency (in buildings and transportation) would have a net positive impact on GDP of $5 to $8.
Source: Building an Ontario Green Jobs Strategy. Environmental Defence, Blue Green Canada, Clean Economy Alliance. April 2017
3. Current Emission Trends in Ontario: Emissions by Source
The table below provides a breakdown of emissions by sector in Ontario. Transportation, industry and buildings account for the majority of emissions in Ontario - 82% of total emissions. Cars/trucks account for 70% of the transportation total. Of note, emissions from electricity generation dropped by almost two thirds with the closure of coal plants.
Provincial Party Platforms, Track Records and Climate Change
Liberal Party of Ontario
As noted above, the Liberal government has established GHG reduction targets through to 2050 and introduced a Cap and Trade system into Ontario. In their most recent 2018 Budget, the Liberal government has made the following additional commitments related to climate change;
- Spend $1.7 billion over three years to support energy-saving programs under the Green Ontario Fund
- Spend $15 million over the next three years to protect forests, wetlands and lakes
- Invest $9 billion in Toronto transit including building the Relief Line, Yonge North Subway Extension and the Waterfront LRT
- Invest more than $90 million in 2017–18 to support commuter cycling
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Doug Ford has said his platform won’t have either a cap and trade system nor a carbon tax (despite the $10-billion hole it’d leave in the Tory fiscal plan):
- Repeal Ontario’s existing cap and trade system and oppose the federally-mandated minimum price on carbon emissions
- End Ontario’s Green Energy Act
- Briefly supported opening Ontario’s Greenbelt to housing development to help drive down real estate costs in Toronto and the GTA but walked it back saying the area would be protected in its entirety
- Cancel Liberal energy projects currently in the pre-construction phase
- Issue a moratorium on new energy contracts and re-negotiating other energy contracts
Ontario New Democratic Party
The NDP plans to use revenue from Ontario’s cap-and-trade program to fund part of its environmental platform, including:
- $50 million from cap-and-trade programs for new no-interest and on-bill home retrofitting to help residents pay for power-saving technology into their homes
- Direct 25% of cap-and-trade revenue to rural, northern and lower-income homes and trade-exposed industries
- Fund 50% of TTC's operating costs (330 million) and build Relief Line
- Update Ontario’s Cycling Strategy and pass a Vulnerable Road Users’ Law
Green Party of Ontario:
The Green Vision to reduce GHGs:
- Put a price on Greenhouse Gas pollution with a carbon tax (fee-and-dividend) on all goods, with a rebate to Ontarians.
- Create jobs and reduce pollution with green buildings and infrastructure, by improving and expanding Ontario’s home energy savings program, increase efficiency in provincial buildings, increase Net Zero buildings and green infrastructure.
- Electrify our transportation system and improve the electric vehicle rebate program
- Invest in our own new low carbon economy, and make Ontario carbon neutral by 2050.
- Store carbon in nature
- Help communities adapt to climate change
- Turn organic waste into compost and renewable natural gas by requiring organic source separation and banning organic waste from disposal
Sources: Newswire, 2018 Ontario Budget, NDP Platform, GPO site, Macleans platform summary: http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ontario-election-2018-party-platforms/#environment-and-energy
Opinions on Climate Change in Ontario
Residents of Ontario across political party affiliations understand the urgency and need to act aggressively on climate change.
According to a recent, February 2018, poll of Ontario residents;
- 51% responded they thought Ontario should do more to limit climate change, 26% thought Ontario should do about the same as what it is currently doing.
- Of note, 34% of conservative party supporters thought we should do more, and 29% thought we should do the same as is currently being done.
- 55% of those that are somewhat likely to vote Conservative think we should do more.
Strong support for action on climate change even if it means raising the cost of living:
- 46% support a carbon price even if things get more expensive, including 32% of conservative party supporters.
- Of note, 49% of those somewhat likely to vote Conservative would still support action on climate change even if things get more expensive, and 71% of liberal supporters..
Seriousness of climate change, moral obligation towards future generations:
- 91% of Ontarians believe we have a moral responsibility to future generations to act on climate change, including 85% of conservatives
- 79% of Ontarians believe that we face a catastrophe if we don't act on climate change, including 59% of conservatives.
Top issues for Ontario going into the election:
- Healthcare - 40% of respondents
- Economy/jobs - 35%
- Lower taxes - 34%
- Lower energy costs - 29%
- Climate change - 11%