Anything but PC, a climate victory in Ontario?

By Toby Davine

Hear ye, hear ye, the Liberals have a minority government in Ontario. Having been out of my native province for the past 3 years, I admittedly knew very little about Ontario politics upon my return in September this year. After being asked to comment on the recent elections results on a local radio station last week, however, I was forced to brush up on my provincial politics knowledge and its potential impact on the environment.

After scouring over policy documents and news reports, I was surprised to see that among the three major parties in Ontario—Liberals, NDP, and Progressive Conservatives—the Liberals seemed to have a slight lead ahead of the NDP in terms of the most ambitious environmental policies. David Suzuki’s endorsement of the Ontario Liberal’s as the greenest choice in the province, along with a recent report from the Pembina Institute  that ranked three parties’ platform commitments to the environment, only confirmed this for me.

One of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in the province is the Green Energy Act.  Passed in 2009, the act has been heralded as the most progressive energy and climate mitigation efforts in North America. The act promises to expand Ontario’s renewable energy production and create clean-energy jobs—in fact it has already created more than 40 new renewable energy-related manufacturing facilities in the province, creating jobs for thousands of workers.

I think it’s safe to say that a Liberal victory (or more precisely, a PC defeat) is also a victory for the climate. If the PCs won the election, they promised to repeal the Green Energy Act and cancel the  Feed-in Tariff program, which they deemed too expensive. As long as we still have both of these policies, Ontario is on the right track.

Under the government’s Long Term Energy Plan, Ontario will be coal free by 2014. By 2030, 92% of Ontario’s electricity mix will come from renewable and nuclear energy (whether the latter is a wise decision is the topic of an entirely different blog). This is all sounds great, but Ontario, under the direction of the Liberals, still have a long way to go. In fact, at this point, if Ontario keeps on its current path, the Ministry of the Environment anticipates that the province will only be halfway to its greenhouse gas emissions target of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020.

The Liberals have the right idea and I’m eager to see how well they can implement their ambitious policies. They could take a few pointers from the NDP’s platform, however, and commit to more small and community-based energy projects, emphasizing the importance of public ownership for energy production. A commitment to renewable energy is wonderful, however, we need to re-evaluate if we are simply perpetuating the same energy production/distribution blunders that have gotten us into this mess in the first place.

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