PCs to end York strike and kill cap-and-trade law during rare summer session of the Ontario legislature
Spike a strike, scrap cap-and-trade, and unwind some wind turbines.
Those are the first three priorities of Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government, which will deliver a speech from the throne on Thursday ushering in a rare summer legislative session.
Government House Leader Todd Smith said the new administration would legislate an end to the lengthy strike at York University, remove Ontario from its environmental alliance with Quebec and California, and cancel a controversial wind project in Prince Edward County.
“There are areas of public interest that require urgent attention from our new government. The people of Ontario can’t afford to wait, and they won’t have to wait,” he told reporters Tuesday at Queen’s Park.
Smith said the Legislature would sit for “at least a couple of weeks” in July after a speaker is elected Wednesday and fledgling government outlines its agenda the following day.
“These three priorities send a clear and serious message about what you can expect from a Doug Ford PC government. We’re going to keep our promises, we’re prepared to act, and we will always put the best interests of the people first,” he said.
The strike by contract professors and teaching assistants at York began in early March and the previous Liberal government’s attempt to legislate them back to work failed when introduced just before the June 7 election campaign began, with Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats strongly opposed.
“Our students are not bargaining chips. Their futures should not be held for ransom,” said Smith, whose Bay of Quinte riding includes the White Pines industrial wind turbine project on the pristine Lake Ontario shoreline of Prince Edward County, south of Belleville.
Long a rallying point for local environmental activists concerned about Little Brown Bat and Blanding’s Turtle populations, the project got the go-ahead from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator just days into the campaign.
That was “before the government had a chance to make any decisions on the project for the benefit of the people of Prince Edward County,” Smith said, pledging the Tories would make sure “local communities are better protected from having these kinds of projects imposed on them against their will.”
Officials with White Pines did not return calls or emails from the Star, but the company could reportedly receive up to $100 million in compensation for the cancellation of a project that began in 2009.
Smith said the Tory administration would also formalize the end of its cap-and-trade environmental agreement with Quebec and California.
Under cap-and-trade, businesses have greenhouse-gas-emission limits – or caps – and those who pollute less can sell – or trade – credits for these, creating an economic incentive to curb emissions.
So far, Ontario corporations have spent $2.9 billion on credits and it is unclear whether the Conservative government will have to compensate them for those.
“That’s an issue we are dealing with at the cabinet table right now,” said Smith, adding the price tag for eliminating cap-and-trade has not yet been calculated.
Further complicating matters is that the system generates about $1.9 billion annually for the province, which uses the proceeds to fund public transit, pay to retrofit inefficient schools, public buildings and private homes, and subsidize electric cars.
“Of course there was the $14,000 rebate program for millionaires who were going to get that rebate to buy a Tesla or an electric vehicle. Those are the types of programs that were killed as a result of the cap-and-trade program,” said Smith.
Exiting cap-and-trade will force Queen’s Park into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon-pricing scheme from which Ontario had been exempted because it had its own climate plan.
Ford has earmarked $30 million for a planned court battle opposing the federal measure.
New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns said ending cap-and-trade signals the Tory government “doesn’t care about climate change.”
“(The new administration) doesn’t care about investing in Ontario, dealing with our energy needs and dealing with the needs in our schools,” said Tabuns, referring to the elimination of a $100 million school repair fund.
“We don’t want cap-and-trade closed.”
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