Letter from Mike Schreiner to Premier-designate Ford about the costs of scrapping climate change action

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Dear Premier-designate Ford:

I am writing to you on the eve of the swearing in of your government on behalf of the Green Party of Ontario, my constituents in Guelph and people from across the province who care about jobs, the environment and our economy.

I want to work with your government to help Ontario create jobs, save money and fight climate change. I was elected to Queen’s Park on a promise to do politics differently, and I am ready to find common ground with you to build this province up in a financially and environmentally sustainable way.

Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity, and there is an urgency for all of us to act. Fortunately, what is good for our air and our planet is also generating jobs and prosperity.

You yourself acknowledged in the final leaders’ debate that climate change is real and human-caused. I want to believe you when you say this. Yet, since being elected, you have begun to dismantle programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, create jobs and lower utility bills. And you have done this without offering alternative solutions.

I urge you to reconsider this path.

First, the steps you are taking to pull Ontario out of cap-and-trade without a transition plan are reckless and unnecessary. You are creating uncertainty for businesses and risk for the people of Ontario, who could be on the hook for paying back the $2.8 billion in worthless permits purchased by Ontario companies.

By rushing to exit our agreements with California and Quebec, you are stoking the conditions for Ontario to be embroiled in courts battles and you are potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for billions in legal fees, penalties and other costs. Your actions are bearing the hallmark of the gas plant scandal, when decisions were pushed through by ideology and ego rather than logic and evidence.

I ask you to slow down. To consider the costs of your campaign slogans. To give businesses time to adjust. To show us a plan before killing what’s in place.

Second, climate denial – whether explicit or implicit – is bad for business. It is time to accept that pollution pricing works and that we need it to tackle climate change. 80% of economists say that it is the most market-friendly and low-cost option for reducing emissions. And across the world, 67 jurisdictions representing about half of the global economy, are implementing pollution pricing.

There is no evidence to support your talk of ‘job-killing carbon taxes’. In Ontario’s first year of cap-and-trade, unemployment shrunk from 6.4 to 5.5%, and GDP was at a seven-year high. In fact, the four provinces that led the the country in growth in 2017 were the ones with a price on carbon – Ontario, Quebec, BC and Alberta.

Pollution pricing is essential and it is coming, whether by Ontario’s design or by the hand of the federal government. It is time to give up the slogans, accept the facts and put forward a made in Ontario solution.

Third, I am deeply concerned about the message you are sending to businesses and to families. Advanced manufacturing, cleantech innovation, and energy efficiency are where job growth is happening and collectively it represents a $7 trillion global economic opportunity. Ontario’s cleantech sector employs 130,000 people. The corridor between Waterloo-Guelph-Toronto contains 14 of Canada’s top 20 tech companies who are creating the next generation of clean innovation and technology for the rest of the world.

Yet your decision to shut down Ontario’s GreenON rebate programs without notice is causing businesses to reconsider their investments in Ontario. You have told them that we are closed for business.

And to families who want to lower their bills by conserving energy, you have taken money out of their pockets and told them that they must do this alone.

Instead, you are pouring more money down the nuclear drain, costing us $1.1 billion per year to keep Pickering open. These savings could be shared with people. Is this what you meant by “help is on the way?”

If your goal is to create jobs and lower bills, I must ask why you are doing the exact opposite.

Fourth, inaction on climate change threatens our pocketbooks and our safety.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, severe weather such as wildfires, droughts and ice storms caused $4.9 billion in insurable damage in 2016. The last three years have been the hottest on record globally. It is estimated that Toronto will experience an average of 53 days of extreme heat annually in the future, putting seniors, young people and so many more at risk. Last month’s windstorm cost $380 million in damage. Devastating spring floods have become the norm. This is not the future I want for my daughters and I know it is not the future you want for your children either.

I do not need to remind you that Canada is part of the Paris Climate Agreement and obliged to make urgent efforts to keep warming below 1.5C. We are one of the top ten polluters in the world, and yet your actions have signalled that Canada’s largest province doesn’t care.

I hope you are not abandoning Ontario’s GHG reduction targets. These targets matter – to people here in Ontario and to the health of our planet. If the economic case is not enough to convince you, then I hope you will consider our shared moral responsibility to do what is right.

Finally, I believe we have common ground because we can fight climate change and put money in people’s pockets.. You have talked about returning money to taxpayers, and I want to remind you that this can be done with pollution pricing.

For years the Green Party has called for a revenue neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system that returns money back to people through dividend cheques. This gives companies the incentives they need to lower emissions without hurting people with modest and middle incomes. This is a way for you to keep your campaign promise without sacrificing the climate or our children’s future.

And instead of cancelling home energy retrofits altogether, you can replace GreenON with a more transparent and accountable Eco-energy Audit Program similar to the one cancelled by the Liberals. This successful and popular program put money in people’s pockets to improve their home’s energy performance verified by audits.

I hope you will listen to these and other sensible solutions. I want to work with you and the new cabinet.

But I also want to be clear that it is unacceptable for any government in 2018 to act as if the climate crisis doesn’t exist. I am asking for your plan – for a real climate change plan that includes a market-based price on pollution. That supports the clean economy. And that helps people to save money by saving energy.

Climate change is real and we face it together. You can be sure that I will be standing up for this fight every day at Queen’s Park.

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
MPP-elect, Guelph
Leader, Green Party of Ontario