Mixed bag on cap and trade
While some provincial candidates in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock favour Ontario’s cap-and-trade system, others oppose it and one does not have a position on the issue.
The system sets a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions businesses can emit. Companies that exceed that amount then purchase allowances for emissions over the limit. Ontario’s cap-and-trade system generates about $2 billion annually, those revenues earmarked for programs designed to combat climate change. For example, the $2.8 million grant the Municipality of Dysart et al recently received toward a bioheat system in downtown Haliburton came from the province’s Municipal Greenhouse Gas Challenge Fund, which is funded by cap-and-trade revenues.
NDP candidate Zac Miller said his party intends to improve upon the existing cap-and-trade system.
“The NDP will keep the current cap-and-trade program,” Miller said. However, he criticized the Liberal government for the way the framework for the program was created – “it was decided behind closed doors, without talking to the public” – and said an NDP government would be more transparent about how funds from the program are distributed.
“Even the auditor general said it wasn’t a detailed plan,” Miller said.
He added that the NDP would take a bigger-picture look at adjusting to the realities of climate change in the province.
“We’re going to implement a climate change adaption strategy,” he said, explaining this would help all sectors transition to a climate-change-aware mindset and said this was an area where the Liberal party has lagged.
While the cap-and-trade system had been part of the PC platform under former leader Patrick Brown, since Doug Ford took over the role, he’s made it clear that his intention is to scrap the program completely.
PC candidate and incumbent HKLB MPP Laurie Scott told the paper that for residents just trying to keep food on the table and roofs above their heads, carbon taxes are just an extra burden.
“People don’t want any more taxes, I can tell you that,” she said.
Scott pointed to Ford’s pledge to reduce the cost of gas in Ontario by 10 cents per litre; 4.3 cents of that would be eliminating a carbon tax, part of his plan to scrap cap and trade, and 5.7 cents would be a reduction of the provincial fuel tax, a portion of which is given to municipalities to support transportation projects
“They created a public policy that has made people’s lives harder,” Scott said of the cap-and-trade system, adding the Liberals just want to tax and tax and tax. “We have to take some pressure off the people who are struggling.”
Scott said that while using environmentally efficient technologies is important, that if the economy is strong, then businesses can take it upon themselves to employ those technologies.
Scott also criticized the cap-and-trade program for its inclusion of joint allowance auctions with Quebec and California, which she said amounted to revenues going to the U.S., and referenced the auditor general’s criticism of the program, including how revenue redistribution is tracked.
“Where does it go?” Scott said. “Have we traced it at all? It’s really a very unaccountable system. It’s like a slush fund.”
Libertarian candidate Gene Balfour told the paper his party, which advocates for lowered taxation in general, is staunchly opposed to carbon taxation and that he believes the threat of climate change has been greatly exaggerated.
“To make it simple, we are against a carbon tax of any kind,” Balfour said.
“I don’t believe that anthropogenic climate change is a real threat,” he added, saying that the scientific evidence he’s seen suggests that human-caused carbon emissions may have only a very, very minor effect on climate.
“We’re paying a penalty for the belief of a system of political system,” Balfour said, adding that carbon taxes are just a cash grab by the Liberal government, just another one of Kathleen Wynne’s revenue tools. “They strictly want to generate more cash.”
“I look at something like climate change as almost like religion,” he said. “Some people believe in it, some people won’t.”
Balfour said that Ontario residents who are concerned about climate change are free to donate their own money to the cause, but that people should not be mandated by the government to do so.
Chuck MacMillian, a member of the Consensus Ontario party, said the priorities in his party’s platform had been generated by a survey of Ontarians, and that climate change policy did not appear on it.
“I can’t really say we stand on anything,” MacMillan said. “All our policies are from what people have sent in.”
He said the party is dedicated to the preservation of park space.
The paper did not hear back from Liberal candidate Brooklynne Cramp-Waldinsperger before press time. In a written statement, she said, “Pricing carbon emissions through a carbon fee or tax is one of the most powerful incentives that government has to encourage entities to pollute less by investing in cleaner technologies and adopting greener practices. A carbon fee puts a monetary price on the real costs imposed on our economy, our communities, and our planet.”