The House

Ottawa will step in if Ontario doesn't replace cap and trade

The federal government says Ontario's new government has until September to recalibrate its approach to climate change.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford waits for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Ontario Legislature, in Toronto on Thursday, July 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The federal government is giving the new Ontario government until September to recalibrate its approach to climate change, but will stand firm on imposing a price on carbon if Ontario Premier Doug Ford doesn't act.

"We've been very clear about this, Canada has a national climate plan," Jonathan Wilkinson, the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister, told The House.

The first act of the Doug Ford government was a direct snub to Justin Trudeau's agenda on climate change: cancelling Ontario's cap and trade system aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

"The clear mandate that I got elected on was to bring in a national plan to fight climate change. That's exactly what I'm going to do," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after his first official meeting with Ford this week.

As a result, Ottawa has pressed pause and is now reconsidering $420 million dollars in transfers under the national plan to fight climate change.

If Ford decides not to introduce a new climate plan in Ontario, the removal of those funds will be permanent.

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"In the event he decides he is not willing to do that then the monies in the low carbon economy fund will go back to projects to fight climate change," Wilkinson said.

Provinces have until September to present their plans to Ottawa, otherwise the federal government will impose a $20/tonne carbon tax effective Jan. 1.

However, the federal government is still working out how implementing that price will work, and how the revenues will be collected and redistributed.

Trudeau said the money Ottawa collects from carbon pricing in the province will be returned directly to Ontarians.

Wilkinson said those specifics are in planning and nothing will happen before September.

Doug Ford's decision to cancel Ontario's cap-and-trade program is likely to be one of many points of disagreement between his government and Justin Trudeau's. As a result of the cap-and-trade cancellation, Ottawa has pressed pause and is reconsidering more than $400 million dollars in transfer under the national plan to fight climate change. Could that spell trouble for one of Justin Trudeau's signature initiatives? We ask the parliamentary secretary to the environment minister, Jonathan Wilkison. 7:43