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Ontario climate action campaign calls on parties to prioritize environment in election

A new coalition of more than 125 groups from across Ontario is pushing to make the environment a key issue in the upcoming provincial election — with a focus on binding climate targets, lowering emissions in the economy, and winding down the use of fossil fuels.

It is 'time for action like never before,' Ontario Climate Emergency Campaign spokesperson says

A climate justice rally in Toronto drew hundreds of people to the south lawn of the Ontario legislature last November. A coalition called the Ontario Climate Emergency Campaign (OCEC) announced the group’s 12-point climate action plan for the province Monday. (Dwight Friesen/CBC)

A new coalition of more than 125 groups from across Ontario is pushing to make the environment a key issue in the upcoming provincial election — with a focus on binding climate targets, lowering emissions in the economy, and winding down the use of fossil fuels.

At a news conference Wednesday, members of the Ontario Climate Emergency Campaign (OCEC) announced the group's 12-point climate-action plan, hoping to spur conversation and action from voters and parties leading up to election day on June 2.

Deena Ladd, executive director of the Workers' Action Centre, said communities across the province need to elect a government that is serious about tackling emissions.

"It will take a united movement to build the confidence of elected representatives to stand up to the big businesses profiting from the status quo, and not just use empty words to placate and dismiss everyone's concerns," she said.

"The people in this province are paying attention, and this is a time for action like never before."

The group's call includes actions like:

  • Setting binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 30 per cent by 2025 and at increasing intervals afterwards.
  • Winding down fossil fuel use.
  • Pushing for a zero-emissions economy and accelerating the transition to zero-emission buildings and transportation.
  • Reinstating an independent office of the environmental commissioner of Ontario, which was merged with the office of the province's auditor general in 2018.

You can read the group's entire plan and see the list of signees here.

A push for renewed oversight

Former provincial environmental commissioner Gord Miller told CBC News that reinstating a dedicated, independent commissioner's office once again is important as the office notifies the public of environmentally sensitive decisions, and allows people to participate in decision-making.

"[The commissioner] could speak directly to the members of the legislature — the opposition members as well as the government members — and circumvent any filters that the government of the day was trying to put on the messaging about what was going on in the environment," he said.

Climate protesters rallied outside Queens Park last November. The provincial election is June 2, and OCEC says Ontarians need to elect a party that is serious about tackling climate issues. (Dwight Friesen/CBC)

Though campaigning hasn't officially started, Miller said it appears to him that environmental issues have taken a back seat to issues like housing affordability, transportation and the economy. They shouldn't be discounted, he said, but "there are many other things that should be talked about."

Some parties reacted to the OCEC's campaign with support. Toronto-Danforth NDP MP Peter Tabuns, who is the party's critic for energy and the climate crisis, told CBC News he's pleased by the announcement, and said it lines up well with the NDP's climate plan.

"We do need that action, and having them call for it publicly increases the pressure for all of society to move," he said.

"I think it's part of the core issues that Ontario is going to have to come to grips with."

Parties offer plans

Nav Dhaliwal, spokesperson for the Green Party of Ontario, said almost everything called for in the pledge is also part of the Green climate plan.

"The climate crisis is one of the biggest crises barrelling down on us right now. We need to act urgently with a response that produces real results," Dhaliwal said in an email. "The old-line parties offer at best half measures or no measures. That's not good enough."

Phillip Robinson, press secretary for PC Environment Minister David Piccini, did not address the OCEC's campaign when asked, but said in an email that the province's environmental approach recognizes the "circumstances facing job creators" and is "not harmful to Ontario's economic growth."

"Our government's plan is working, and the province is on track to achieve its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target — catalyzed by recent major investments in automotive, steel, and industrial electrification," he said.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said in a statement the OCEC presented "thoughtful recommendations on fighting the climate crisis," and said the party will be releasing its own environmental plan in the coming days.

"It's a plan I am incredibly proud of, and I believe Ontarians will agree it's the best plan for our future," he said.

With files from Anne Marie Trickey

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