After winning the 2018 election, the Ontario Conservative Party acted quickly in setting aside climate change legislation and mitigation measures. To make sure that voters got its message, the Conservative Government eliminated the words “climate change” from the title of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change – re-naming it as the “Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.” As 4RG has previously stated, the new title demonstrates a lack of appreciation of the seriousness of climate crisis – which by virtue of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change requires Canada and its provincial governments to take effective action to reduce Carbon Emissions.
On December 11, the new Ontario Minister for the Environment, Rod Phillips, delivered an address to the Ontario Energy Association. His address was remarkable for its generalities and for his claim that Ontario would meet its emissions targets. Phillips referred to “Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan” that will protect our air, land and water, reduce litter and waste, do our share to reduce greenhouse gasses and help communities prepare for climate change.”
Ontario’s environmental commissioner, Diane Saxe, issued a report criticizing Doug Ford’s government for gutting most of the province’s climate change programs. She commented that it’s “bad for our environment, bad for our health, and bad for business.” In response to this criticism Phillips explained: “We are concerned that cap-and-trade and other carbon pricing schemes imperil the job security of workers across numerous sectors, especially in light of the current challenges facing Canada’s economy.” It is not surprising that after such direct comments the Government terminated the position of Environmental Commissioner.
Saxe elaborated on what the Government must do if it is going to tackle emissions seriously :
“”A meaningful climate law needs science-based emissions budgets, a legal obligation to stay within those budgets and credible, transparent progress reporting. Ontario can still choose sensible solutions that help families make ends meet while bringing climate pollution down”.
But where will the Ontario Government get the direction and advice needed to implement effective proposals enabling Canada do its share in avoiding a climate crisis? In his address to the Ontario Energy Association, Minister Phillips stated that the Government was going to create an expert Advisory Panel on Climate Change to advise on implementation of plans. But seven months later no Advisory Panel has materialized .
When it eliminated the Office of the Environmental Commissioner, the Government merged the functions of this Office with the Auditor General. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) has called on the government to reverse this decision. OPSE recommends an independent office to report on government progress on climate change, energy and other environmental issues.
By way of comparison, the Republican Governor of the State of Florida has appointed a chief science officer to direct its programs to combat environmental degradation and climate change.