Kathleen Wynne says Ontario won't phase out natural gas for home heating

Premier Kathleen Wynne says Ontario won't ban the use of natural gas for home heating as part of its climate change action plan.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she isn't worried about California's weak market for carbon emissions. (Christophe Ena/Canadian Press)

Premier Kathleen Wynne says Ontario won't ban the use of natural gas for home heating as part of its climate change action plan.

The plan hasn't been released yet, but the Liberals have been coy about details ever since a published report based on a leaked draft copy said the province would phase out fossil fuels for home heating.

But in her strongest statement yet on the issue, Wynne called the report "false," and said natural gas will "absolutely" be used to heat Ontario homes in the future. 

"The criticism that we have been getting is that we were going to be banning natural gas, and that is not something that we're doing," Wynne said after meeting Alberta Premier Rachel Notley in Edmonton Thursday.

Natural gas is used to heat more than three-quarters of the homes in the province, and critics — as well as natural gas suppliers — warned that phasing it out would drive up energy costs for everyone.

"Replacing building heat and electricity would require $200 billion in investment in generation and distribution just to
effectively duplicate what we've already spent on infrastructure," Enbridge Gas CEO Al Monaco said in Calgary on Thursday.

"That would more than double electricity rates in a province with very high electricity costs."

Climate change is real, Notley says

Notley said Ontario and Alberta may take different approaches to reducing their carbon footprints, but both agree something must be done.

"Some argue that climate change is either not real, or at least not caused by humans," she said. "Climate change denial is a dead end, for Alberta and all of Canada."

Wynne, who also signed an agreement with Notley to develop clean technologies to fight climate change, said she wasn't worried about California's weak market for carbon emissions.

Only about a tenth of the available pollution credits in California were sold in an auction last week as part of the state's
cap-and-trade plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it raised $600 million less than expected.

Ontario is set to join the cap-and-trade program with California and Quebec next January, and has already started spending some of the $1.9 billion it expects to raise from the plan each year.

"California is ahead of us, and we've got some catching up to do," said Wynne. "We're pushing ahead, and there's a lot of innovation that I know can happen in Ontario, and that's what our cap-and-trade program is going to be about."

Ontario won't hold its first emissions auction until next spring, but has already announced how it will spend $1 billion of the revenue it hopes to generate.

The Liberals promised $900 million to retrofit social housing and apartment buildings to make them more energy-efficient, and $100 million to introduce so-called renewable natural gas into the supply mix.

Wynne will deliver a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce today, take part in a roundtable with business representatives and meet Mayor Naheed Nenshi.