Ontario's Liberal government is not denying a published report that its long-awaited action plan on climate change aims to phase out the use of natural gas in both home heating and the electricity system.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Glen Murray have been working for months on an action plan to reduce carbon emissions through a mix of incentives to choose green options and new regulations to shift people away from using fossil fuels.
At Queen's Park, the opposition blasted the plans, saying they don't make sense and will harm Ontario homeowners.
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The Globe and Mail says it has obtained a confidential cabinet document that lays out the plan in detail. Among the key measures cited in the Globe report are:
- All new homes built after 2030 must be heated without using fossil fuels, such as natural gas.
- A target of 1.7 million electric or hybrid cars on the road by 2024
- Mandating a five per cent cut in carbon emissions from gasoline and diesel
Cabinet ministers refused to deny any specifics in the report.
"Over the next couple of weeks you'll see the entire action plan," Murray told reporters at the Legislature on Monday. "When that plan is out we'll have lots of time to talk about it."
"This government is committed to taking strong action when it comes to climate change," said Deputy Premier Deb Matthews in question period, taking Wynne's place during her trade mission to Israel. "We feel the responsibility to the planet, to our kids, to our grandkids."
The report says the Liberals plan to spend $7 billion of cap and trade revenues from 2017 to 2021 to push the transition to a lower-carbon life. More than half of that money would go to grants and rebates for retrofitting buildings and to move them from natural-gas heating to such sources as geothermal and electric heat.
The report also says the government would allocate $1.2 billion to help industries cut emissions and $285 million on incentives to buy electric vehicles.
PCs say changes will be 'pain' for homeowners
The opposition Progressive Conservatives tackled the government on the reported natural gas phase-out.
PC energy critic John Yakabuski accused the Liberals of "inflicting pain" on homeowners. "You're going to force them to heat electrically in a province with the highest electricity prices on the continent," he said in question period on Monday.
"There is no possible way you can embark on this plan to basically eliminate all fossil fuel heating from the province of Ontario," Yakabuski told reporters at the Legislature. "It just doesn't make any sense."
Murray said natural gas will continue to play a role in Ontario's future energy mix.
"You'll have to wait to see the details but no, we're not banning natural gas or taking it away from people," he told reporters.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the report leaves more questions than answers about the government's plans for reducing carbon emissions.
"We worry about the impact on everyday people, particularly lower-income people," Horwath told reporters. We worry about people who have good jobs right now in certain industries and whether those jobs are going to be threatened."