The leader of the Ontario PC party says the provincial government’s cap-and-trade plan, which went into effect Jan.1, is costing Ontarians too much and, if he is elected as premier, would be dismantled.
Patrick Brown, PC leader and MPP for Simcoe North, said the $2-billion the provincial government expects the cap-and-trade plan to bring in will not go toward reducing emissions by any meaningful amount.
The Liberal government has said the money raised will be used to transition Ontario residents and businesses to transition to a low carbon economy, with climate change-fighting retrofit projects, among others.
Brown said the Liberal government shouldn't be trusted to collect and keep the money from the plan to put toward what he called its 'pet projects.'
“If it was really about altering behaviour, why does the government need to keep it? Why is it a line item in Kathleen Wynne’s budget,” he asked, rhetorically.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said, in a Dec. 21 statement, that cap and trade is best suited for the province's economy.
"Third-party economic experts have confirmed that our plan is both the most cost effective and best at reducing emissions compared to carbon pricing alternatives," read the statement.
Under cap and trade, pollution limits are provided to industries in Ontario — who can sell their unused credits or buy more, if needed.
Brown said the added costs will not just affect businesses, as evidenced by an increase of 4.3 cents per litre that can be charged by gas retailers.
“Every person filling up at the pumps in Simcoe County and Barrie is going to be paying more," said Brown.
The plan is also expected to increase home heating bills by an estimated $5 a month.
In her year end report, Ontario's Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk took a critical look at the cap-and-trade plan.
She notes the Liberals chose to join an existing carbon market with Quebec and California, both forecasted to have much larger reductions in greenhouse gas than Ontario is.
“We are subsidizing California. Why Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government would tie us on to this, would send revenue to Quebec and (California) is so short-sighted," said Brown.
In her report, Lysyk said small reductions in emissions in Ontario are expected to come 'at a significant cost' to Ontario households and businesses.
If elected as premiere, Brown said he would dismantle the cap-and-trade plan.
“This is a huge new cost and I don’t support cash grabs by tired scandal-plagued governments,” he added.
Brown was in Sault Ste. Marie today in support of the local PC candidate for an upcoming byelection in that riding.
David Orazietti, who served as Liberal MPP for the riding for 13 years stepped down from his cabinet position and provincial politics as of Dec. 31, about 18 months prior to the next expected provincial election.
“I think there are a lot of Liberal MPPs who have a difficulty propping up this Wynne/McGuinty government,” said Brown.
Because of the sudden departure of Orazietti, a byelection will have to be called in the riding within six months.
The Ontario PC party is the only one in the riding to have named its candidate for the byelection, current city councillor Ross Romano.
“(The Liberal government) has been in power 13 years — five OPP investigations, huge job losses, credit downgraded, most job losses — I can understand why a lot Liberals are looking for the exit doors, voters are fed up and maybe this will be one of many byelections,” he said.