Categorized | Canadian Politics

Doug Ford aims to lower gas prices by ending Ontario’s cap-and-trade of carbon dioxide emissions

Posted on 11 July 2018 by admin

Premier Doug Ford is abandoning Ontario’s greenhouse-gas-reduction measures in favour of cheaper gasoline.

Ford announced Tuesday that his newly elected Progressive Conservative government has revoked the regulation that adds 4.3 cents a litre to gas prices as part of Ontario’s cap-and-trade alliance with Quebec and California.

 “Every cent spent from the cap-and-trade slush fund is money that has been taken out of the pockets of Ontario families and businesses,” the premier said in a statement.

“We believe that this money belongs back in the pockets of people. Cancelling the cap-and-trade carbon tax will result in lower prices at the gas pump, on your home heating bills and on virtually every other product that you buy,” he said.

The move is the first step toward reducing gas prices by 10 cents per litre, which was a key Tory campaign pledge in the June 7 election. It’s not clear when the price drop will take effect.

“I promised that the party with taxpayers’ dollars was over and that this would include scrapping the cap-and-trade carbon tax slush fund. Today, we are keeping that promise,” said the rookie premier, whose government will unveil its throne speech a week from Thursday.

“Cap-and-trade and carbon tax schemes are no more than government cash grabs that do nothing for the environment, while hitting people in the wallet in order to fund big government programs.”

Ford said the government “will immediately begin an orderly wind-down of all programs funded out of cap-and-trade carbon tax revenues.”

That means an end to $1.9 billion in annual programs bankrolled by cap-and-trade revenues, including subsidies for retrofitting windows and energy-efficient insulation to help consumers reduce hydro and natural gas bills.

It also apparently slams the brakes on hefty subsidies for electric cars, though those went unmentioned in Ford’s pronouncement, which was scant on details.

Under the Liberal government, some 20 electric and hydrogen-fuelled models made by Tesla, Chevrolet, BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Honda, among others, were eligible for rebates of up to $14,000.

Those payouts were covered by proceeds from the cap-and-trade program, which also funded the construction of charging station infrastructure as well as free overnight recharging for vehicle owners at their homes.

But the new Tory administration has left open the possibility of future environmental initiatives for consumers, which will be “made on a case-by-case basis” and “paid for out of the tax base.”

“We are getting Ontario out of the carbon-tax business,” said Ford.

“Our focus will be to give people lower gas prices, lower energy bills and a real break in their wallets in order to get our economy going and create jobs. Help is here.”

But the new premier may find extricating Ontario from former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne’s 2016 cap-and-trade accord with Quebec and California may be more complicated than issuing a simple cabinet edict.

Under cap-and-trade, businesses have greenhouse-gas-emission limits — or caps — and those who pollute less can sell — or trade — credits for these. Over time, an industry’s cap will be lowered to cut pollution. This is designed to create an economic incentive to curb emissions that change the world’s climate.

So far, Ontario businesses have purchased $2.9 billion in credits and it is unclear whether the Ford government will have to compensate them for those.

Leaving cap-and-trade will expose Queen’s Park to being forced into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon-pricing scheme. That’s because under the cap-and-trade system, the province was exempted from the new national measure.

Ford has earmarked $30 million to fight Ottawa’s climate plan in court.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has warned the new Tory government is embarking upon a boondoggle that could cost Ontarians billions.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the Tory government’s decision to scrap “Ontario’s plan to price greenhouse gas pollution without announcing an alternative is reckless and irresponsible.”

“Premier Ford is telling clean economy companies that Ontario is not open for business,” said Schreiner, the MPP from Guelph.

Greenpeace Canada’s Keith Stewart used some of Ford’s trademark rhetoric in blasting the retreat from tackling greenhouse gas pollution.

“Abandoning the fight against climate change is nothing more than a massive cash grab from our kids, who will pay twice,” said Stewart.

“First in the losses from the more extreme storms, flooding, heat waves leading to lost crops and damaged homes, and secondly as they get left behind in the race for the low-carbon jobs of the future,” he said.

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