Ford government’s rash tear-down of Ontario’s legislative regime for combating climate change irresponsible, environmental groups say
A News Release from the environmental group, Greenpeace Canada
Posted September 12th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Toronto, Ontario – Environmental groups have launched a lawsuit against the Ford government for denying the rights of Ontarians to be consulted on its wholesale revision of Ontario’s laws for combatting climate change.
Ecojustice lawyers, in partnership with the Ottawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, have filed the case on behalf of Greenpeace Canada. The case alleges that the Ford government unlawfully failed to provide for public consultation on a regulation that ended Ontario’s cap and trade program and on Bill 4, the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018, currently before the legislature. The case also asks the Court to quash the regulation.
Every Ontarian has the right to be consulted on environmentally significant regulations and legislation under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). The EBR is signature environmental legislation unique to the province of Ontario.
“The Ford government’s first action when it stepped into office was to gut a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, without offering any immediate alternative,” said Charles Hatt, Ecojustice lawyer.
“We’re suing to remind the Premier that winning an election does not give his government carte blanche to ignore the statutory rights of Ontarians to be consulted on major changes to the laws and regulations that protect them from climate change.”
During the 2018 provincial election Premier Ford campaigned on ending Ontario’s “cap and trade carbon tax” as part of his plan to reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre. Ford’s cabinet filed Ontario Regulation 386/18 (Regulation) at their very first meeting on July 3, essentially gutting the operational elements of Ontario’s cap and trade program in one fell swoop.
The Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks chose not to consult the public as required under the EBR, claiming instead that the 2018 Ontario election was a process that was “substantially equivalent” to the 30-day consultation process required by law.
On July 25, 2018, the Minister introduced Bill 4 in the legislature, again without having first consulted Ontarians as required by law. Bill 4 would repeal the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016, including Ontario’s legislated targets for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
“The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario was higher in the polls in January when their platform included a revenue-neutral carbon tax than they were on election day, so there are no grounds for their claim that the election campaign was a substitute for the legally-required public consultation,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada.
“The Ford government’s shock-and-awe approach to governing is not only an affront to democratic process, it is unlawful. That is why we are asking the court to require the Ford government to listen to the very public it claims to represent, as well as scientists and groups like ours, before gutting the province’s legislative regime for combatting climate change.”
The case is tentatively set for expedited hearing on September 21.
To find out more about Greenpeace and its advocacy for a healthy, green planet, click on – https://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/ .
An Afterword from Doug Draper, reporter and publisher, Niagara At Large –
In my almost four decades as an environment writer for newspapers, magazines and other venues, I have to go back to Premier Mike Harris in the mid-to-late 1990s to find a government in Ontario that is as openly hostile to environmental protection as that of Doug Ford.
Even before he managed to win a majority government this spring with the support of less than four out of 10 Ontarians who cast a vote, Ford was caught on video, telling a group of developers that he would be willing to sell off “chunks” of the province’s globally recognized Greenbelt lands to let his “friends” in the paving and building industries do their thing.
Ford only walked this outrageous pledge back when the video began going viral on Youtube. (Not that it won’t soon surface again. You can count on it more than a promise of a buck a beer.)
Then, barely four weeks after being sworn in to office this late last June, Ford announced he was tabling Bill 4 – his government’s so-called ‘Cap and Trade Cancellation Act’ – to tear up a program the previous Ontario Liberal government put in place as its way of working to meet Canada’s international commitment to reduce emissions of climate changing gases to the earth’s atmosphere.
Ford made this announcement in the last week of July with a look of triumphant glee on his face and without mentioning any other measures his government might take to meet the promise made, along with more than 170 other nations that signed the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, to address what countless thousands of scientist around the world agree is a pending global catastrophe if we don’t act now to avert it.
Ford’s conduct to date on the climate approaches criminal negligence when one considers the danger that climate change, with its rapidly growing frequency of wildfires, droughts, floods and other severe weather events, poses to present and future generations of people, and other life forms on the planet.
Just in the past few days, as Greenpeace and other groups were launching their legal action against the Ford government, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, warned that too many nations are falling back on the pledge they made through the Paris Accord, to a point where there is a “paralysis” in the overall effort to reduce climate changing gases.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” he added during an address at the U.N. headquarters in New York. “Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen.”
Then the punch line from the U.N. head – “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change.”
Around the same time the U.N. Secretary-General was making his dire remarks, The New York Times published a story this September 11th that began like this – “The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.”
“Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases,” continues the Times story, “routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.”
And here in Ontario, we now have our own Trump, backed up by flocks of mostly older supporters who would rather save a few cents a day on gas and other carbon-based energy sources rather than take serious steps to address climate change, which many of them think is a hoax anyway. Then there is the extreme evangelical wing of Ford’s base who can hardly wait for the world to burn up in some epic hellfire and Armageddon anyway so that they can take a fast flight to heaven.
This leave it to the rest of us, including younger generations of people who will live long enough to suffer the worst consequences of doing little or nothing, to support the kind of action Greenpeace has taken and to continue fighting all the more against Neanderthals like Ford and Trump, and the flocks of willfully ignorant and recklessly irresponsible climate deniers that support them.
Nothing less than the very survival of our planet as an environment able to sustain life as we know it is at stake!
- Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.
A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.
For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .
“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders