Federal government to give $420M climate fund directly to Ontario institutions, businesses

Federal government to give $420M climate fund directly to Ontario institutions, businesses
Feds to send $420M directly to Ontario institutions, businesses — skipping Doug Fords government
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the federal government plans to disburse money from a climate fund directly to Ontario institutions and businesses after the provincial government cancelled its climate program. 

Speaking at Rockwool insulation plant in Milton, Ont. Thursday, McKenna said the remaining $420 million pending for Ontario from the Low Carbon Economy Fund will go to cities, hospitals, universities, schools, and businesses to help with efficiency programs and other emission-reduction efforts.

China is the worlds largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But it is working really hard, Ms. McKenna said. And, she added, Chinese leadership at the table is extraordinarily important. If we are going to actually move forward on the Paris agreement, we need them to be encouraging, pushing, cajoling other countries to make sure that theyre engaging in a positive way, especially now that the U.S. has stepped back.

"Our hope would have been to work with the provincial government on fighting pollution, tackling climate change, helping businesses with clean solutions, and helping Ontarians save money, but Mr. Ford has taken a different path, making polluting free, and cancelling hundreds of projects across communities in Ontario."

Even before the announcement, her plan prompted an acerbic response from the province, where Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, said in a statement it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who promised a new era of relationships with provinces. In reality, since August, they have refused to communicate with us about a plan or targets and would rather impose an unaffordable tax on the families.

The federal government established the $2 billion fund to help provinces reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help meet Canada's Paris Agreement commitments.

Ontario's share came into question after Premier Doug Ford scrapped the province's cap and trade program and cancelled climate funding.

Its an NDP government in Alberta, its a Liberal government in PEI, Mr. Phillips said. In total, six provinces oppose the federal plan. Instead of working around us, they should be working with us toward reducing emissions. We are working with municipalities, stakeholders, industry and the people of Ontario to implement our plan in the best way possible.

Programs in the province that had been slated for funding through the program include $100 million in school retrofits for energy efficiency, $64 million for hospitals to do the same, as well as electric bus programs in Hamilton and Brampton and hydrogen busses in Mississauga, said McKenna.

Weve certainly made the point strongly that China, as it looks at its own infrastructure, and as it supports infrastructure projects internationally through the [Belt and Road initiative], they really need to make sure that theyre done in a sustainable way, that steel and concrete can be a large source of emissions and they need to be thoughtful about that.

The Trudeau government is facing growing resistance over its climate plan from several premiers who are openly committed to fighting carbon pricing.

The federal government has said it will impose a carbon price on provinces that don't establish their own and then distribute the funds directly to residents.

China has an opportunity to scale like no other, she said, pointing to Chinese investments in renewable energy, which have dramatically decreased the price of wind and solar power. Government policies have also helped bring a fast-growing fleet of electric vehicles to Chinese roads.

"If provincial governments under conservative leadership are going to step back, we are going to step up. We owe it to Ontarians to support projects they have developed," said McKenna.

The federal environment minister spoke to The Globe during a trip to China last week, where she signed an agreement to work more closely with Beijing on climate change. But reaching an understanding with Ontario – Canadas wealthiest province and biggest polluter – remains elusive.

One environmental group applauded the federal government's move, comparing it to the work being done in the U.S. to bypass the Trump administration on climate issues.

Were working across the board in a whole variety of areas with China, she said. But certainly one that has been very positive, including with the Prime Ministers visit, was on climate action. And that helps with your overall relationship.

"This is good news for maintaining momentum on greening Ontario's economy," Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist Greenpeace Canada, said in an emailed statement.

"Just like communities dealing with [U.S. President Donald] Trump south of the border, Ontarians are going to have to find creative ways to work around a Premier who can't or won't recognize the urgency of the climate crisis."

The challenge is with conservative politicians who dont seem to acknowledge the costs of climate change, and they dont seem to understand the economic opportunity, Catherine McKenna said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail.

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Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna holds a news conference in Milton, Ont. on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Catherine McKenna/ Twitter)

Last week, Ms. McKenna signed a memorandum of understanding with her Chinese counterpart, Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and Environment, that will allow for greater government and corporate co-operation between the two countries.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna says the federal government will sidestep Ontario Premier Doug Ford and directly prop up businesses and industries that are taking environmental action in the province.

Ms. McKenna said she is modelling her efforts at home on Canadas work with U.S. states, U.S. cities, U.S. businesses on climate change after the election of Donald Trump, who pulled Washington out of the Paris agreement.

Naturally we would have hoped to work directly with the provincial government on fighting pollution and tackling climate change, but Premier Ford and his government took a different path, McKenna said on Thursday morning.

The Trudeau government has been slow in pursuing some of its ambitions with China, including a free-trade deal and an extradition treaty, in part because of differing values and priorities between the two countries.

A fund that would normally directly benefit the provincial government is instead being opened to businesses and industries in Ontario to support their environmental efforts.

Theres going to be a price on pollution. If it is free to pollute, there will be more pollution, she said, speaking in Beijing after meetings with senior Chinese officials to discuss environmental issues.

The Low Carbon Economy Fund provides $1.4 billion to provinces and territories that have adopted the federal climate change framework. With Ontario pushing back against the federal plan, McKenna has decided to go over Fords head.

Speaking at an insulation factory in Milton, Ont., McKenna said the remaining $420 million pending for Ontario from the Low Carbon Economy Fund will go to hospitals, universities, schools, and businesses to help with efficiency programs and other emission-reduction efforts.

This is an opportunity to work directly with Ontarians, ensure all the money committed goes directly to support Ontario organizations and businesses, McKenna said.

MILTON, Ont. — Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the federal government plans to disburse money from a climate fund directly to Ontario institutions and businesses after the provincial government cancelled its climate program.

When pressed on how this move could be perceived – especially given the provincial pushback against the federally imposed carbon tax, McKenna said her priorities lie elsewhere.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

What were concerned about is the impacts of climate change that were seeing across the country, she said.

A coalition has been forming among Conservative leadership, which includes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney, to fight the federal carbon tax.

The federal government established the $2 billion fund to help provinces reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments.

In a statement provided to CTV News on Thursday afternoon, Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips called out McKenna for going behind the provinces back.

This morning, the federal minister of the environment announced her intention to circumvent our province and the people of Ontario, Phillips said.

Ontario’s share came into question after Premier Doug Ford scrapped the province’s cap and trade program and cancelled climate funding.

While she says that she would have been happy to have worked together with us, her actions suggest differently.

READ MORE: Doug Fords plan to scrap cap and trade will mean $3 billion in lost revenue, FAO report says

He said that the cancellation of cap-and-trade was the province delivering on a promise. He went on to accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of refusing to communicate with Ontario about the provinces environmental plan.

They are not interested in a plan, they are interested in a tax, Phillips said, referring to the federal carbon tax.

In reality, since August, they have refused to communicate with us about our plan or targets. 

In a statement, the office of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe – who is a vocal opponent of the federal carbon tax – also weighed in on the feds latest move.

This announcement from the federal government demonstrates the piecemeal approach they have taken that we believe is unconstitutional, the statement said.

His office said the government is deploying similar tactics in Saskatchewan. The statement said the federal government is giving Saskatchewans funds, pledged under the Low Carbon Economy Fund, directly to Saskatchewan-based projects. The province will have no input, according to Moes office, and these projects will have to compete with other projects across Canada for the funds.

Despite having a comprehensive climate change strategy…the federal government still refuses to provide these dollars equitably to the province of Saskatchewan, the statement said.

The condemnation comes as yet another expression of mutual scorn towards the federal government from like-minded provinces.

This federal-provincial divide will face another hurdle in mid-February, when Saskatchewans constitutional reference case regarding the federal carbon tax will be heard by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.

Ontarians do not expect us to stand by and watch the climate problem grow. Our hope had been to work with the Ford government, but they cancelled their climate plan and programs supporting communities and organizations across Ontario. pic.twitter.com/oAxIlvx6By

We will work directly with Ontario cities, communities, hospitals, and schools to reduce pollution, save money, and create good jobs — and do right by future generations. At the end of the day, this is what we owe our kids and our grandkids. pic.twitter.com/bBFQUdX1jb

We can do this. We have to cut pollution and position our economy for the future. Working together, working directly with Ontarians, we can — and we will — do just that. Fighting pollution should not be a partisan issue. This is about our future. pic.twitter.com/Neg7AWVLod

MP Tony Clement has admitted to additional instances of inappropriate exchanges that “led to acts of infidelity,” and crossed lines that he said, should not have been crossed.