Ontario's Green Energy Act will create new jobs in construction, trucking and engineering while laying the groundwork for developing projects more quickly, Energy Minister George Smitherman said Monday.
Architects, contractors and installers will see more opportunities as they're asked to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency, Smitherman added.
The legislation will also require inspectors to perform energy audits on all homes at the time of sale, seeks to cut red tape so projects can move ahead more quickly and promises to issue permits within six months.
"If passed, the act would ensure that new green power doesn't get tripped up in all kinds of red tape, but instead that new renewable generation would be built and flowing into the system faster," Smitherman told the legislature after introducing the bill.
The Green Energy Act will also set what Smitherman called "reasonable" domestic content requirements for renewable projects to ensure more money is spent in the province.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said while he understood a switch from making cars to making wind turbines may not be easy for workers in Ontario, green technology was key to boosting the province's economy.
The province isn't turning away from its traditional auto jobs, but has a responsibility to create new work as well as a sustainable energy base, said McGuinty.
'Not an easy shift'
"It's not an easy shift, I understand that, but we need to begin to plan for the future with a sustainable energy base," he said.
"We have to see ourselves as vital players. We can't just tinker with a few things."
Progressive Conservative critic John Yakabuski called the legislation vague, noting it "leaves us with a whole lot more questions than answers" and doesn't explain what the changes will mean to the price of electricity.
New Democrat Peter Tabuns said the change was "way past due."
"The fact that this government is finally saying it will link jobs with climate change is welcome, it opens the debate," Tabuns said in the legislature.
"My goal is to see that we actually deliver; that we don't get trapped in the timidity that I see in the bill before us."
The legislation will amend 15 statutes and the government says it will create 50,000 new jobs.
It will also maintain the Energy Star standards for appliances and use time-of-day pricing and smart meters in homes to help people lower their electricity usage and bills.
The plan includes provincewide standards on where new wind turbines and solar farms can be located, taking that power away from municipalities.
McGuinty has warned activists and municipalities he won't tolerate any objections to new wind turbines or solar panel farms that aren't based on safety or environmental concerns.
On Monday, he added there will be space for the municipalities to provide feedback and that the province isn't looking to compromise people's quality of life.
"I specifically said, 'You can't compromise public safety, you can't compromise environmental standards, and we're not about compromising quality of life,'" McGuinty said.
"But we are going to stand up for jobs in Ontario, and we shouldn't be ashamed to say that."
Environmentalists have warned the act won't really help if the province sticks to its plan to have nuclear power provide 50 per cent of Ontario's electricity needs.