Doug Ford’s government has made ‘next to no progress’ on plan to cut carbon emissions: report

Environmental Defence examines Ontario’s promised moves to reduce greenhouse gases


Ontario is ‘not on track’ to achieve its own targets for reducing carbon emissions, according to a new report from Environmental Defence. The report points to decisions by the government of Premier Doug Ford that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and have delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel. (CBC)

Premier Doug Ford’s government has done almost nothing on the bulk of the promises in the greenhouse-gas reduction plan Ontario introduced last November, according to a new report by an environmental watchdog group.

The report published Thursday by Environmental Defence examines the seven key actions Ontario pledged to cut carbon emissions in the province, and finds that little or no progress has been made on all but one.

The actions were laid out in the “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations,” the plan unveiled after the Progressive Conservatives scrapped the Wynne Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program.

“The government has acknowledged that the climate crisis is real, human-caused, and must be addressed,” said Environmental Defence in its report. “Ontario’s failure to act is a broken promise.”

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.


Environment Minister Jeff Yurek’s office has told CBC the province ‘has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation’ on 19 commitments in its environmental plan. (CBC)

CBC News requested information about the government’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yurek’s press secretary, Andrew Buttigieg, said in a statement the government “has already made significant progress toward further consultation and implementation” on 19 commitments in its environmental plan.

However, few of those commitments have anything to do with reducing emissions. They include “appointed a special adviser for Ontario Parks” and “released a discussion paper on reducing plastic litter and waste.”

The Environmental Defence report says the government is already “not on track” to achieve its own emission reduction targets, in part because of decisions that have slowed the pace of electric vehicle sales and delayed a push for more renewable content in fuel.

“So far, we haven’t seen any meaningful steps to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change in Ontario,” said Sarah Buchanan, clean economy program manager for Environmental Defence.

“We’re quite concerned that Ontario isn’t taking its obligations seriously and is breaking its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without a price on carbon,” Buchanan said in an interview.

The signature piece of the government’s plan — an emission performance standard for large industrial polluters — will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions rather than decrease them, according to the report.

It says the system is too lenient and offers too many exemptions to big polluters, and there’s no evidence to support the government’s forecast that the standard will contribute 15 per cent of the province’s overall target for cutting greenhouse gases.

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Doug Ford’s government broke the law when it scrapped cap-and-trade, court rules

 

 

Can we really trust Andrew Scheer?

Image result for leadnow: Can we really trust Andrew Scheer?

1. Scheer doesn’t have a climate plan
Scheer’s “climate plan” has been described as “devoid of detail” and “seriously unserious”. It mirrors the demands of the oil and gas lobby, and experts say it would actually increase emissions. In the midst of a climate emergency, Canada needs to elect a climate leader who will take climate change seriously and work hard to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Canada, and globally. If his woeful climate plan is anything to go by, Andrew Scheer’s not the leader we need. [1]

2. Scheer’s got his eye on healthcare
Earlier this year, senior members of Scheer’s team planned a ritzy $250 per head cocktail reception to discuss “the business of healthcare”. The closed door event invited health-care professionals to pay to shape policy and rub shoulders with Conservatives MPs Pierre Poilievre and Marilyn Gladu — both pegged for key positions in a future Scheer cabinet. The event was described as an opportunity to “reimagine” healthcare — a common code name for privatization.  [2]

3. Scheer’s election platform is being determined by corporate interests
Andrew Scheer — along with top Conservative strategists — held secret meetings with wealthy oil execs to help shape his election platform. He also attended a $50,000 dinner with Imperial Oil — owned by U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil and together, where they plotted ho to gut environmental protections, shut down environmentalists and secure a Conservative victory. Shortly after these lobby meetings, Scheer released his “climate plan” which was widely reported to mirror the demands of the oil and gas lobby. [3-4]

4. He’s working towards the same goals as Doug Ford
During a meeting with Ford at Ontario’s legislature, Scheer told reporters that both he and Ford are working toward the same goals. Ford made a lot of big promises to get elected — but once in office he started slashing good jobs and cutting vital services like education, childcare, healthcare, and housing. We should take it as a warning sign around what Scheer would do if elected in October. [5]

5. He’s flip-flopped on a number of policies, including funding for private schools
Scheer previously pledged billions of dollars for parents who send their kids to private schools — a policy which was seen by many as a move towards privatizing education. His proposal would provide a $4,000 tax credit to parents who send their kids to private school — essentially meaning that those who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars to send their kids to private school would be subsidized by taxpayers. He quietly removed this policy from his platform recently — but it remains to be seen whether he’ll flip-flop again if elected.  SOURCE

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Ontario to lose more than 10,000 teaching positions over five years under Ford government changes: watchdog

The province is increasing class sizes by an average of one student from Grades 4 to 8 and an average of six in high school — from 22 to 28.

Ontario will have 10,000 fewer teaching positions over the next five years as the Ford government boosts class sizes and introduces mandatory online courses, says the legislature’s independent financial watchdog.

Some 994 elementary and 9,060 secondary positions will be gone from the system based on the previous student-teacher ratios, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario said in an explosive report — one that landed in the midst of contract negotiations and just days before the high school teachers’ union is set to sit down at the bargaining table with the government and school boards.

This year alone, there are 2,826 fewer teachers than there would have been under the teacher/student ratios of 2018-19, says the report released Thursday at Queen’s Park.

“When we analyze any program change, we always look at what we call the baseline,” said Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park. “Had there been no change to the education program, to class sizes, because of the significant population growth and enrolment growth that that would entail — if nothing had changed we would need 10,000 more teacher jobs five years out.”

The government’s estimate of 3,475 positions is based on four years’ worth of “jobs that will be taken out of the system that currently exist,” Weltman said. “So both numbers are right, but we look at it from a different point of view because we are always comparing the change against the status quo.”

An education ministry official characterized 3,475 jobs as a “net” loss, given some elementary teachers will be hired where enrolment demands.

The report also says the province’s $1.6 billion attrition fund is more than enough to stave off teacher layoffs as bigger classes are phased in by not replacing retiring teachers or those who resign, but noted that education spending is not keeping up with increasing costs. MORE

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Private Education Company Offers To Let High School Students Pay For Classes Cancelled by Doug Ford

Leaked document reveals PC government’s plan to privatize health services: NDP

Watch the video

The Ontario NDP says it obtained a leaked internal document Wednesday night that shows the PC government is aiming to privatize health services, including hospitals and family doctors.

The draft bill reveals a plan to dissolve Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and create a “super agency” with a mandate to privatize, according to the NDP.

“While the Ford government is publicly pretending to consult on health care, in the back room, legislation designed to privatize our health care system is already being drawn up,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at Queen’s Park Thursday.

“We’ve obtained internal documents, including a complete piece of government legislation that lays out the Ford government’s plan to create a new … super agency with a specific mandate to privatize our health services.”

Richard Southern

@richard680news

– NDP leader Andrea Horwath says leaked Ford Government health care bill opens door to privatization of hospitals. Watch.

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Doug Ford’s Changes to Social Assistance Will Push Ontarians Into Homelessness, Service Providers Warn

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Ford government billed its changes as ‘compassionate’

As Doug Ford’s government gets ready to overhaul social assistance programs, Ontario service providers are warning Ford’s changes, billed as “compassionate,” could force many recipients into homelessness.

Ford’s plan to cancel the Transition Child Benefit and raise assistance clawbacks has already drawn the ire of many service providers.

Earlier this year, Toronto City Manager Chris Murray wrote in a note to city council that Ford’s cuts will increase the strain on municipal services, including its family shelter system. Similar concerns were raised by social service managers in WaterlooLondon and Windsor.

The HIV & AIDS Legal Network Ontario — which provides legal support to many Ontarians with disabilities — has noted average recipients of both Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support program will be poorer once eligibility is recalculated.

Under the new rules, Ontario Works recipients will only be able to keep up to $300 of net earned income each month, while ODSP recipients will only be able to keep up to $6,000 per year — every dollar recipients earn beyond those targets will reduce assistance by 75%.

HALCO community legal worker Jill McNall said “the new rules will mean that many people on OW/ODSP who work will be poorer than they were before.”

“Many will be below any credible poverty line,” McNall told PressProgress. “They will be at risk of homelessness.” MORE

Ford’s senior officials hoped to keep mandate letters away from public view ‘as long as possible’

CBC News plans to continue fight for marching orders to ministers as Ontario looks to keep them secret


Premier Doug Ford’s government has gone to court to fight an order to release mandate letters to his cabinet ministers. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Senior officials inside the Ford government planned to keep letters to cabinet members about their mandates secret as long as they could, a CBC News freedom of information request reveals.

CBC News first filed a request for copies of the mandate letters sent by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to all of Ontario’s 22 ministries and two non-portfolio responsibilities in July 2018. Mandate letters are a premier’s overall marching orders to cabinet ministers.

The request was denied by the cabinet office, which claimed disclosing the records would “reveal the substance of the executive council or its committees.”

But in an email dated July 31, 2018 obtained by CBC News, the executive director of policy to the premier suggests it was the government’s position to keep the letters from public view.

“Here’s the letters. As I said, the intention is to keep them to ourselves as long as possible,” Greg Harrington said in the email to the chief of staff’s senior policy adviser, Derek O’Toole.

O’Toole’s response: “Thanks Greg ! Understood 😊. ”

Exemption doesn’t apply: privacy commissioner

The revelation comes after Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner Brian Beamish disclosed the government plans to go to court to prevent the release of the letters to CBC News.

I ordered their release because Ontarians have a right to know what the government’s policy priorities are.– Brian Beamish, information and privacy commissioner

“There is no persuasive evidence or argument before me that disclosure (of the letters) would give rise to a chilling effect on cabinet deliberations …To a great extent, the mandate letters bear a close resemblance to the detailed policy platforms often produced by political parties during election campaigns,” Beamish said in his ruling.

In a blog posted Wednesday, Beamish explained that after reviewing the mandate letters, he determined they did not reveal government deliberations, the substance of any meetings or discussions by the premier’s office.

“The purpose of our freedom of information law is to support the public’s ‘right to know.’ Unless government records are exempt, they should be disclosed to the public. In this case, the mandate letters do not qualify for exemption as cabinet documents,” he said, adding he directed the cabinet office to disclose the letters by Aug. 16.

Beamish learned of court challenge Aug. 14


In a blog posted Wednesday, Ontario privacy commissioner Brian Beamish explained that after reviewing the mandate letters, he determined they did not reveal government deliberations, the substance of any meetings or discussions by the premier’s office. (CBC)

“I ordered their release because Ontarians have a right to know what the government’s policy priorities are,” he said.

Instead, on Aug. 14, Beamish said, he learned the government planned to take his office to court to prevent the letters from being released.

Mandate letters are commonly used by provincial governments across the country. Every other premier who issues them not only makes the letters public as a matter of course, they also publish them online as a deliberate way to allow the public to understand what the government plans to accomplish during its term.

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Ford government sues privacy commissioner to block release of cabinet letters

Doug Ford orders ‘wind down’ of non-essential conservation authority programs


Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks with media in a partially flooded area of Constance Bay northwest of Ottawa on April 26, 2019. Photo by Kamara Morozuk

 

The Doug Ford government has, without warning or consultation, ordered the authorities that protect Ontario’s watersheds to “wind down” unnecessary programs.

National Observer has learned that conservation authorities and municipalities received letters addressed from Environment and Conservation Minister Jeff Yurek on Aug. 16 ordering them to shut down programs that do not relate to their “core mandate” without specifying what this mandate is.

In light of this memo, environmentalists are now concerned this leaves the province without the necessary protections from increasingly severe floods.

The letter came without warning or consultation, according to Kim Gavine, general manager of Conservation Ontario, the authority that represents Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities.

“I was surprised and then disappointed because I thought we were working in good faith with the province… to identify what the non-core programs would be and that we had time to figure that out,”Gavine said in an interview.

Gavine said conservation authorities were in discussions for months “in good faith” to see the government’s proposed regulation to figure out what programs the government wanted them to discontinue in consultation with their member municipalities and partner groups. They had met with the municipal affairs minister, natural resources minister and Yurek’s predecessor, Rod Phillips (who was appointed as finance minister after a cabinet shuffle).

“We have this memo, but we hadn’t had the discussion,” she said. “We don’t know what ‘core mandate’ means for the government. Is water quality and monitoring considered core? Are flood programs core?

Conservation authorities’ provincial funding for natural hazards was reduced by 50 per cent earlier this year. Following that, an omnibus bill about housing indicated that changes would be forthcoming to the regulations guiding conservation authorities. These changes included a broad list of programs and services that Yurek also referenced in his letter, which was shared with National Observer.

Yurek recommended that the authorities “re-focus their efforts on the delivery of programs and services” related only to the following five issues:

  • Risk of natural hazards
  • Conservation and management of land owned or controlled by conservation authorities
  • Drinking-water source protection
  • Protection of the Lake Simcoe watershed
  • Other programs or services as prescribed by regulation
Jeff Yurek
Jeff Yurek shakes hands with Ontario Premier Doug Ford as he is sworn in as environment, conservation and parks minister during a cabinet shuffle at Queen’s Park in Toronto on June 20, 2019. Photo by Cole Burston

Andrew Buttigieg, a spokesman for Yurek, told National Observer in an email that the Ford government “is working to improve public transparency and consistency.”

“Bringing conservation authorities back to their core mandate will allow for municipalities to better manage conservation authority budgets and programs. The legislative changes we’ve made ensure conservation authorities focus on delivering core services and programs that protect communities from natural hazards and flooding while using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,”Buttigieg wrote.

“Over the years, conservation authorities have expanded past their core mandate into activities such as ziplining, maple syrup festivals and photography and wedding permits. We are giving municipalities greater control and the ability to enter into agreements with conservation authorities to fund any programs and services outside of the core mandate if they chose,” Yurek’s spokesman said.

But Gavine said conservation authorities do more than that. These bodies provide a wide variety of watershed-management programs in partnership with all levels of government. These programs help to reduce or prevent the costly and devastating damages of flooding, protect water resources, help to reduce pollution from getting to the Great Lakes and support healthy watersheds. They also used data collected through environmental monitoring programs to produce report cards to indicate where the health of a watershed is good and where it’s poor, to better help the province understand where climate priorities lie.

All this could be under threat, one expert who works with an Ottawa-area conservation authority, and who chose to remain anonymous, told National Observer. Future evidence of water pollution could be lost, as could many jobs including: stewardship jobs, fieldworkers, technicians that collect data and report on it and anyone else whose job it to synthesize the data. MORE