Hours after we filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s proposal to gut its climate change laws, the government opened up a public comment period. Now’s your chance to voice your concerns.
From scrapping the modernized health curriculum to cancelling rebates for buyers of electric cars and passing a bill to halve the size of Toronto city council, the Ford government has engaged in a flurry of divisive activity since entering office. The government’s efforts to put an end to Ontario’s cap and trade program have been front and centre in this flurry.
Throughout his campaign, Premier Ford vowed to end the province’s cap and trade program as part of his plan to reduce gas prices by 10 cents per litre. So it came as little surprise that one of his government’s first orders of business when it stepped into office was to tear down Ontario’s plan for combatting climate change — with no alternative plan of action.
To many, this seemed like a rash decision to leave the province without legally binding emissions targets or a means to tackle climate change while also vowing to challenge the federal carbon pricing backstop expected to be implemented early next year, especially given this summer’s wave of extreme weather events linked to climate change.
Across the country, provinces have been forced to grapple with raging wildfires and heatwaves, including in the Premier’s home city of Toronto, which experienced scorching temperatures and flash flooding throughout the summer. These impacts aren’t just being felt in Canada either.
Given the impacts of a changing climate, both locally and globally, Premier Ford’s regressive actions on climate change are a clear sign that his government is not committed to holding those that pollute our atmosphere to account. But that’s not the only cause for concern.
In its haste to end the province’s climate legislation and gut the cap and trade program, the Ford government chose to ignore its legal responsibilities under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) to consult the public on changes to environmental regulations and laws so that residents, community groups, businesses and other stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in on decisions that affect them. Instead, the province made a regulation that ended Ontario’s cap and trade program, and then introduced Bill 4, the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018, to dismantle Ontario’s climate change mitigation plan and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, all without giving the public a chance to consult meaningfully and specifically about these decisions — a move that Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe has agreed did not comply with the government’s legal obligation under the EBR to consult the public before making that decision.
That’s why we teamed up with the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic and Greenpeace Canada to hold Premier Ford accountable for these failures. We launched a lawsuit to remind the Premier that winning an election does not give his government the freedom to ignore Ontarians’ legal rights to participate meaningfully in decisions to change laws that protect us all from climate change.
And we didn’t have to wait long to see results.
Hours after we filed the lawsuit, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks posted a notice on the Environmental Registry of Ontario providing for a 30-day public consultation period for Bill 4.
This means the public now has the opportunity to let the Government of Ontario know that they are counting on the province to have a strong plan to combat climate change that will protect its citizens.
That’s where you come in.
Ontario residents have a golden opportunity before them. This public comment period allows
Ontarians the chance to voice their concerns regarding the province’s current climate change plan (or lack thereof). Now, more than ever, we need our government to work towards making climate-smart decisions and implementing credible, ambitious policies that will drastically limit carbon emissions. As Ontario’s environmental watchdog has warned:
“Dismantling a climate change law that was working is bad for our environment, bad for our health, and bad for business… 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. Polluter-pay tools, for example, give people more choice and a fair reward for reducing their emissions, and can help reduce other taxes they pay.”
But you’ll have to act quickly, the comment period closes on Oct. 11.
2. Take stock of what the proposal says and ask yourself: is this the best path forward for action on climate change in Ontario?
4. Write your comment and hit submit! It’s as simple as that.
We have seen time and again that when governments are not up to the challenge of taking action, it falls to citizens to push for change. We encourage you to use your right to have a say in environmental decision-making and let government know where you stand. And for those of you who live out of province you can help Ontarians out by encouraging your friends and family that do live in the province to send their comments in by Oct. 11.
There’s no more powerful force than when we work together to push for change.