A modest but necessary step in Ontario’s fight...
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Feb 25, 2016  |  Vote 0    1

A modest but necessary step in Ontario’s fight against global warming: Walkom

Kathleen Wynne’s decision to finally bite the bullet and set up a so-called cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most important moves she has made since becoming premier

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The big news from Ontario’s budget is old news. Taxes are going up.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The proposed tax hikes for carbon-emitting products, such as gasoline and home heating fuel, are part of Ontario’s effort to combat global warming.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government doesn’t want to call these particular levies taxes. It refers to them instead as “proceeds.”

And to encourage reporters covering Thursday’s budget not to focus on these “proceeds,” the government announced them earlier in the week.

But Wynne’s decision to finally bite the bullet and set up a so-called cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most important moves she has made since becoming premier.

According to budget documents, the government estimates it will charge greenhouse gas emitters (except those, such as cement producers, that it chooses to exempt) about $18 per tonne of carbon spewed into the atmosphere.

They in turn will pass the cost onto final consumers. The government reckons that this will mean, for instance, a gasoline price hike of 4.3 cents a litre. Natural gas for home heating is expected to rise by 3.3 cents a cubic metre.

With Ontario’s system now finally in place, Canada is on its way to establishing a national minimum price for carbon.

Ontario’s scheme is hardly ambitious. British Columbia charges a carbon price of $30 per tonne. Alberta is planning to charge $20.

Nor will Ontario’s actions ensure Canada’s ability to meet the exceedingly modest climate-change targets it set for itself in Paris last year.

But it is a start.

One problem with Ontario’s plan is that it is not clear how the money raised from cap-and-trade will be spent.

Technically, the $2.4 billion raised over the next two years is to be earmarked for green projects that reduce carbon emissions. But the opposition Progressive Conservatives are suspicious — and rightly so.

Governments have a bad record when it comes to handling funds in supposedly dedicated accounts. In Ottawa, both Liberal and Conservative government have used the Employment Insurance fund to cover off shortfalls in general revenue.

The Ontario Liberals say they would never do that. But given their record of throwing money at dubious projects — such as the quasi-private air ambulance service ORNGE — the Liberals do not always inspire confidence.

Still, the decision to effectively levy a tax on carbon is a necessary step if climate change is to be curbed. It is one of the few ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The rest of Thursday’s budget focused on targeted austerity.

In order to meet its self-imposed deadline of balancing the budget by 2018, the government is determined to keep spending growth down.

To that end, it plans to rejig the Ontario Drug Benefit program in a way that hikes co-payments and deductibles for seniors earning more than $19,300, while giving a break to those who earn less.

It plans to keep health spending growth to 1.8 per cent a year, a promise that will have implications for patients, hospitals and doctors.

It plans to keep education spending growth to 1.2 per cent a year.

The centrepiece of Thursday’s presentation was a scheme that would reform the system of post-secondary grants, loans and tax breaks in order to direct more money to those from modest-income families.

But according to Finance Minister Charles Sousa, this new set-up would cost the government no extra money.

The government also said — again — that it is willing to cancel its proposed Ontario Retirement Pension Plan if Ottawa and the other provinces can agree to a national scheme able to accomplish the same ends.

Queen’s Park has given itself until 2018 to make a final decision.

And it quietly eliminated a few tax breaks while raising levies on beer and cigarettes.

But the real news is that Ontario has —after much hemming and hawing — taken aim again at climate change.

It may not be doing enough. It is doing something.

Toronto Star

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(4) Comment

By Michael | FEBRUARY 26, 2016 03:27 PM
The posting on February 25, 2016 10:40 PM nicely demonstrates how pollsters can get the answers they want by changing the way the question is asked. So, that should always be kept in mind when reading poll results. Knowing who commissioned the poll and who did the poll can sometimes give you a clue as to why certain polls produce certain results (MP)
By Michael | FEBRUARY 25, 2016 10:40 PM
A confusing article tells us: 'When [Canadian] respondents were asked if climate change is "mostly" manmade, 44 percent responded "yes," while 56 percent said no. Another question, asking if climate change is "partly or mostly" manmade, 61 percent said "yes" while 39 percent responded "no."' http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/most-canadians-dont-think-climate-change-is-manmade/article/2583853 (MP)
By Rupert | FEBRUARY 25, 2016 09:20 PM
You are dead wrong with Wynne's cap and trade farce reducing carbon. The largest polluters will simply buy credits from another large polluter which will allow them to carry on polluting at their present level. Wynne wins from those traded funds as well as from us, the polluters' customers. It's as useless as their phoney Drive Clean Program where nothing connected to your exhaust system is analyzed. I know as my truck had an exhaust leak which was never detected and still got my pass. Other mechanical problems are electronically detected with a code reader and provides dealers with lots of repair work on other stuff. It's a total farce. The libs promised two years ago they would shut the program down.
By Michael | FEBRUARY 25, 2016 09:02 PM
2.4 Billion you say? Even Thomas Walkom of the Red Star is concerned with what the criminal gang masquerading as a Government at Queen's Park will do with that money. We will never know how much this gang has stolen until they are turfed out of office so that criminal forensic investigators can check the books, computers and the shredding machines. (MP)
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