Toronto

Doug Ford government one of the most 'anti-environmental' in generations, says Green Party leader

The Ford government is defending its environmental plan in the face of mounting criticism from the Ontario Green Party and Greenpeace.

Environment Minister Rod Phillips says plan will keep Ontario on track to meet federal targets

Environment Minister Rod Phillips, seen here with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, is defending the province's climate plan in the face of mounting criticism by environmentalists. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

The Progressive Conservative government is defending its plan for the environment despite mounting criticism it's not aggressive enough to make a difference in the fight against climate change. 

"This government is being reckless with our future," Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said. 

Schreiner is critical of just about everything Doug Ford's government has done with related files since taking power, many of which appeared in the budget: 

"They've been one of the most anti-environmental provincial governments we've had in generations," said Schreiner. 

'Made in Ontario' plan

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner is critical of just about everything Doug Ford's government has done with environmental files since taking power. (CBC)

Perhaps most pressing to him, and to several allied organizations, is the government's environment plan unveiled in November. 

The "Made in Ontario" plan has some key features, including: 

  • A "Carbon Trust" amounting to $400 million over four years to work with the private sector on developing clean technologies (which includes a $50 million "reverse auction" allowing businesses to send in proposals for emission-reduction projects and bid on government contracts). 
  • "Transparent, real-time" monitoring of waste and storm water in provincial waterways.
  • Emissions performance standards for large emitters.
  • Reducing litter in the province's communities, including establishing an "official day" focused on cleanup of litter. 

"We've put forward some very pragmatic solutions," said Environment Minister Rod Phillips.

He explains that Ontario is on its way to meeting federal targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which seeks to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 C. 

Carbon solutions

While critics are skeptical that is indeed the case, they also note the former Liberal government set a goal to reduce emissions by 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. The Ford government is promising a reduction of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by the same time. 

Phillips has been touting Ontario's total greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 22 per cent, even though it's thanks, in large part, to the closing of several coal-fired power plants under the Liberals. 

We put forward some very pragmatic solutions.- Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks

"It's pretty amusing [Phillips], today, is singing the praises of what Ontario's done when all of that work was done under a Liberal government," said former premier Kathleen Wynne.

Phillips, instead, credited Ontarians. "It was a costly long-term program to switch off coal, which has put us in a very strong position," he said, referring to high hydro prices for which the PCs slammed the previous government. 

Environment and economy 

He has also said the PCs' strategy is a balanced one between a "healthy environment and a healthy economy." 

The Ford government is fighting the federal carbon tax in court and has threatened gas station owners with fines if they don't display this sticker outlining how the federal carbon tax will raise prices.

But, a senior strategist with Greenpeace Canada, Keith Stewart, disputes how readily that balance can be achieved without thoughtfully addressing climate change.

He said stronger storms, flash flooding and forest fires will hurt the economy and the health of future generations. He also noted the measures the government is taking will not prepare Ontario for the green economy. 

"This is a government that says it wants to be open for business. We need to be in the business of protecting the planet," Stewart said. 

About the Author

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller, dabbling in camping, canoeing and crafting. Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.