Environmentalists and manufacturers alike are welcoming Ontario's climate change action plan, which will provide billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives to businesses and homeowners to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The opposition parties are much less impressed, however.
Details on rebates will come later, but the province will spend up to $8.3 billion on a range of programs that include more energy-efficient heating systems, with the money coming from a cap-and-trade program for polluters that is expected to raise $1.9 billion a year.
The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association and the Global Automakers of Canada said rebates of up to $14,000 for electric vehicles, and a "cash-for-clunkers" program to get older cars off the roads, will help create consumer demand for the vehicles.
However, the manufacturers are looking for more details on the cap-and-trade plan, saying many companies have to make investment decisions soon.
Environmental Defence calls the Liberals' action plan "a very positive development in climate action," and Greenpeace says the government is on the right track by trying to phase out fossil fuels and encourage construction of "net zero" carbon homes.
Premier Kathleen Wynne says the province will invest in projects that will "give families and businesses the ability to lower their carbon footprint, and their energy bills."
However, the Progressive Conservatives calls the plan "a laundry list of Liberal promises" based on money the government doesn't even have yet.
"I was very concerned today at the manner in which they continually dodged what this is really going to cost Ontarians," said PC environment critic Lisa Thompson. “Many Ontarians and small businesses are already struggling to pay the bills. They simply can’t afford higher prices on gas, heating and electricity.
“This Liberal scheme is reckless and unrealistic. It will damage our economy, kill jobs and increase the cost of everything.”
The Green Party, meanwhile, says it will push to close what it calls loopholes in the Liberal’s climate plan.
“We will fight against any backroom deals that undermine the climate plan like the Liberals have done in the past with the Endangered Species Act, for example,” party leader Mike Schreiner said in a news release.
“Second, the plan needs to be fair to be effective. The Liberal’s cap-and-trade plan gives over 100 of Ontario’s largest polluters a free ride. Handing out free pollution permits undermine the effectiveness and integrity of the cap-and-trade system.
“This needs to change. There is no economic argument for handing out so many free pollution permits.”
Other elements of the plan the Liberals announced Wednesday:
- Ontario expects to generate up to $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion per year in proceeds from its cap and trade program, which will be deposited into a new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account.
- Every dollar in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account will be invested into actions that directly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, create jobs, and help people and businesses shift to a low-carbon economy.
- Ontario intends to link its cap and trade program with Québec and California’s under the Western Climate Initiative.
- Ontario’s environmental and clean technology sector is made up of 3,000 firms, employs 65,000 people, and is worth an estimated $8 billion in annual revenues and $1 billion in export earnings.
– Files from Canadian Press