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‘We need a government that actually cares’: How will the climate crisis affect your vote June 2?

‘We need a government that actually cares’: How will the climate crisis affect your vote June 2?

Tory Premier Doug Ford vowed in February that ArcelorMittal Dofasco would soon produce "the best steel, but also the cleanest."

Tory Premier Doug Ford earned rare universal applause, however begrudging, when he came to ArcelorMittal Dofasco in February to trumpet a $500-million provincial investment in “the Future of clean steel.”

The federal Liberals also supported the project which saw Hamilton steelmaker replace its coal-fired equipment by electric arc furnaces by 2028. This historic transition will reduce greenhouse emissions and improve air quality for a city that has been plagued by steel pollution for a long time.

Standing in front of head-height rolls of steel, the premier vowed the Hamilton plant would soon produce “the best steel, but also the cleanest.” He also pumped Ontario’s tires as a go-to maker of future electric vehicles.

It was a momentous occasion for a couple reasons.

For one thing, the investment should cut provincial carbon emissions by three megatonnes — big progress for a government the auditor general warns is otherwise We are sorely behind Recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases

It also prompted a rare tip from environmental advocates, who usually condemn the Progressive Conservative government’s decisions.

Tory Premier Doug Ford vowed in February that ArcelorMittal Dofasco would soon produce "the best steel, but also the cleanest."

Environment Hamilton head Lynda Lukasik called the announcement a “big, positive step” — but also ironic coming from a province she argued has spent four years “dragging us back into the past” in the fight against Climate Change.

“There was a lot of irony there, because this is the government that came to power and scrapped the (carbon) cap-and-trade system … that pulled incentives for electric vehicles (EV), that literally ripped EV chargers out of the ground. I don’t think Ontario voters should forget that,” said Lukasik, who argued the world is in a “do-or-die decade” for climate action.

“We need a government that actually cares about the climate crisis.”

Ontario’s PC government goes into the June 2 election still vowing to meet climate targets under the international Paris Accords, which would require an emissions reduction of 18 megatonnes or more by 2030. (That’s a 30 per cent cut over 2005 levels.)

But Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk has repeatedly criticized the province’s climate plan — or lack thereof.

The auditor general — who became the default environmental watchdog after the Ford government controversially axed the role of environmental commissioner — said in 2019 that the provincial climate plan was not based on “sound science.” In an update late last year, Lysyk said Ontario is Not on track To meet its 2030 greenhouse gas-cutting goals.

Climate scientists labeled even this seemingly impossible target too little, to late.

The most recent grim report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says greenhouse emissions need to be cut at least 43 per cent by 2030 to keep average global temperatures from climbing by more than 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels — the point at which climate catastrophes like killer heat waves, drought and floods are expected to become more frequent.

Environment Minister David Piccini indicated via a spokesperson he was not available to speak to The Spectator, but told the CBC late last year, “I can look Ontarians in the eye and say Ontario is a leader in greenhouse gas emissions reduction in this federation.”

An emailed ministry response to Spectator questions maintained the government is on track to meet its 2030 emissions goals — in part thanks to projects like Dofasco’s decarbonization. It also argued Ontario’s reductions to date “surpass those of any other province or territory in Canada.”

Former environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe — who was in the position when the government axed it — called Ontario’s emissions reduction plan “pretty pictures with nothing supporting it.”

Former environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe, now deputy leader of the Ontario Green party, called Ontario's emissions reduction plan "pretty pictures with nothing supporting it."

“It’s greenwashing … they are basically taking credit for what other governments have accomplished,” she said, pointing to federal Liberal climate initiatives and the phase-out of coal-fired electricity that predates the Tories. Saxe is now deputy leader of an Ontario Green party touting a strategy of “net-zero” emissions by 2045 and a much higher price on carbon in its Climate plan.

After watching governments of various political stripes over 40-plus years as an environmental lawyer and commissioner, Saxe said she considers Ford’s environmental record “the worst ever” — in part because the evidence of climate change has never been so clear. “He can’t claim ignorance about what is facing us,” she said.

Local climate group Hamilton 350 has amassed a long list of “climate and conservation calamities” they attribute to the Ford government’s last four years in power, which they published online ahead of the election in a YouTube video.

A sample:

  • Threatening to overturn Hamilton’s decision against expanding its urban boundary, a move critics fear will trigger Urban sprawl into scarce farmland.
NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw said government policies on transportation and urban growth will "make everything worse" by adding to Ontario's emissions tally.

“The list is so long. It’s crazy, what this government has done when it comes to attacking the environment,” said NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw.

The MPP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas said government policies on transportation and urban growth — think new highways and minister-ordered Greenbelt development — will “make everything worse” by adding to Ontario’s emissions tally.

The NDP is campaigning on a “Green New Deal” that takes a more aggressive approach to the climate crisis, including cutting carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030 (the Tory goal is 30 per cent) and reinstating a cap-and-trade program.

The Liberals released the following: environment plan Tuesday, the Greenbelt Protection and Expansion Committee vowed to protect and expand it, promote transit, and cut carbon emissions by half by 2030.

In an earlier interview, party climate critic Lucille Collard said the current government has taken “a big step back” in the fight against climate change — in part by undoing previous Liberal efforts like the cap-and-trade program, electric vehicle incentives and a past decision to scrap the proposed Highway 413.

Liberal climate critic Lucille Collard said the current government has taken "a big step back" in the fight against climate change ? in part by undoing previous Liberal efforts like the cap-and-trade program.

Many parties have committed to reverse some of the current government’s more controversial decisions.

Via email, the environment ministry defended its “sensible, practical changes” to the environmental assessment process as a way to cut development delays and argued it only supports projects, including new highways, that are “fully protective of the environment.”

While the PC government’s “made in Ontario environment plan” has earned plenty of criticism, it also featured some popular local changes. Those include a regulatory crackdown on illegally dumped development dirt — the kind of problem that created a Mountain contaminated at Waterdown Garden Supplies — and stricter reporting requirements for Sewage spillages.

The government also matched federal funding for a resurrected $3.4-billion light rail transit line in Hamilton — but only after Controversially cancelling In 2019, budget concerns will be a factor in deciding whether the project should be pursued.

Tory Premier Doug Ford vowed in February that ArcelorMittal Dofasco would soon produce "the best steel, but also the cleanest."

Here’s a pre-vote refresher on high-profile government decisions with environmental consequences:

Renewable energy

Ontario cancelled 758 renewable-energy contract in 2018, including Hamilton solar projects planned for Alectra Utilities. The move was costly at $230 million, but government officials claimed it would save taxpayers.

Cap and trade cancellation

Killing Ontario’s original carbon cap-and-trade program was controversial — as was the futile court battle against the federal carbon tax. Cap-and trade also killed a valuable source of cash for Hamilton initiatives. This included a cycling fund which helped pay for Claremont’s multi-use trail, as well as a green social housing program.

The Greenbelt

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Doug Ford stated to party supporters that he would become premier before he became premier open a “big chunk” of protected Greenbelt lands to development — but backtracked in the face of public outrage. The government has now vowed to grow the Greenbelt, but that hasn’t stopped new highway plans through the protected land. A local coalition is calling upon the next government.Hamilton farmlands not protected The Greenbelt.

Urban boundary

The province threatened to overrule the decision of the city council Expanding its urban boundary — if not by ministerial fiat, then by seeking a ruling from the Ontario Land Tribunal. Hamilton must expand outward, according to the Tory government and city planners. Local advocates say avoiding “sprawl” will preserve scarce farm and wetlands, and encourage responsible development in already-serviced areas.

Polluted soil

New legislation was passed by the Tories, originally proposed by the Liberal government. It is designed to prevent illegal dumping of polluted soil from development projects. That’s a big deal for rural Hamilton residents who endured years of Illegal dumping of mystery dirt From condos located out of town The government now proposes delaying some regulations until next year.

Conservation authorities

The province passed legislation in 2020 to change the powers and mandate of the conservation authorities responsible for protecting watersheds. The new law allows a minister to approve developments without the input of conservation authorities. It also forces the agencies to negotiate funding agreements for “non-core” programs.

The government argued the changes were needed for agencies that had “strayed from their mandate” of flood protection. The government was also unable to cut flood control budgets in 2019 — the same year Hamilton was deluged by record-high Lake Ontario levels.

Species at Risk

Last year, the government announced a Species at Risk Conservation Fund meant to provide “greater flexibility” and “shorten timelines” for developers with projects that could harm habitat for endangered plants or animals. Critics called it a “Species at Risk Conservation Fund”. “pay to slay”fund, because it allows you the option to pay a small fee instead of taking action to replace habitat.

Party platform highlights

Here are some notable environmental promises made by four major parties. You can find more information on specific platforms.

Green Party Aim for “net carbon neutral” by 2050 with binding emissions targets, an annual carbon budget and carbon fee-and-dividend plan; focus on electrifying transportation, retrofitting buildings; axe Highway 413 and Bradford bypass. Visit gpo.ca/climate.

Liberal: Reduce carbon pollution by half by 2030, temporarily reduce transit prices, offer incentives to electric vehicle purchases and home retrofits. Expand Greenbelt. Axe Highway 413 (but it is not necessarily Bradford bypass). Visit ontarioliberal.ca/environment-plan.

NDP: Reintroduce cap-and-trade program to help cut carbon emissions by half by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050; electrify transit, retrofit buildings and create new green jobs; kill Highway 413 and Bradford bypass. Visit ontariondp.ca/platform.

PC: Carbon emissions cuts of 30 per cent by 2030; investments in subways, LRT and electric car manufacturing; Greenbelt expanded to include publicly owned river valleys; “streamlined” environmental assessment for new highways. Visit ontariopc.ca(As of yet, no specific online platform for environmental voting).



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