Categorized | Editorial

Heroes and zeroes of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

Let’s face it: 2016 had way more than its share of appalling news.

It began with Donald Trump beating on his Republican rivals like so many cheap piñatas. Amazingly, appallingly, it ended with … Donald Trump, days away from taking the oath as the 45th president of the United States.

It was the year of Brexit and Ghomeshi and Pokémon. And, tragically, it was the year the world stood by and watched as an ancient city and its people were pounded into dust by the bombs of a murderous regime. Aleppo joined a long list of martyred cities, alongside such tragic names as Guernica and Sarajevo.

In Canada, it was a more hopeful year. Justin Trudeau strode the land, his bright shiny government floating on a wave of popularity, the New York Times hailing Canada as newly hip under its dynamic young leader. Everything was going swimmingly – until suddenly it wasn’t with hard questions about cash-for-access and election reform.

List carbon fee separately on household natural gas bills

The Wynne government seems set on using energy bills as a political tool, displaying the numbers it wants voters to see at the top and burying the ones it doesn’t.

Despite a wave of criticism, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault have repeatedly refused to ask the Ontario Energy Board to separately list a new carbon fee on household natural gas bills.

They disingenuously argue that Queen’s Park has no authority to overturn the OEB’s decision over how the gas bills will be presented, and the board has already ruled the fee can be buried.

The truth is that while they may not be able to overturn the board’s problematic decision, they can at least ask that the fee be presented separately on consumers’ bills. It’s hard to believe the OEB would turn them down.

The fee, estimated to be about $5 a month on the average gas bill, should be listed separately for two very important reasons.

The first is democratic. The government should be transparent about how much its climate plan is costing Ontarians. It seems more than happy to list the tax rebate it recently offered consumers on their electricity bills. Surely whether or not a given number is likely to be politically popular should not determine where on the bill it appears.

The second is that the carbon fee is aimed at changing consumer behaviour to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s not clear how the charge can have any effect if Ontarians can’t see it.

The government’s intransigence is confounding. The fee is part of Ontario’s promising $8.3-billion cap-and-trade system of carbon pricing to fight climate change. The program, which starts in January, is expected to bring in $1.9 billion annually, which will be re-invested in essential green initiatives, while capping currently unfettered corporate emissions.

It’s perfectly clear that there can be no serious progress on climate change without putting a price on carbon. The Wynne government showed leadership by taking this step. It should stand proudly by it, not pretend it away.

The latest to push for the fees to be listed separately is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which rightly argues not flagging the charge undermines the effort to fight climate change.

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