Provincial election questionnaire – Liberal Party responses

1. Will your party keep the Green Energy Act and feed-in tariff system in place?

Yes. Clean air and clean energy jobs are worth fighting for. That is why Ontario Liberals are shutting down dirty coal-fired generators and building an industrial base in Ontario to compete and thrive in the fast growing global clean energy economy.

The PCs and NDP left Ontario’s electricity system in a state of decay and disrepair. They refused to make the necessary investments to keep the system up-to-date and reliable. The result was emergency power warnings, the threat of brownouts, and leased diesel generators deployed into our downtown cores.

Businesses were concerned about the reliability of the system while families worried about their children’s health because Ontario was burning too much coal to generate power. In fact, the PCs increased the use of smog-producing coal by 127 per cent — a decision that meant more mercury, lead, arsenic and sulphur dioxide in our air. By 2003, our province was on life-support from expensive, imported U.S electricity — something that cost Ontarians $900 million in just 18 months. Ontario cannot afford to go back to those days of dirty air, reckless negligence and crumbling infrastructure.

Our plan is helping secure a brighter, cleaner future. So far, we have shut down eight coal units, and we will be shutting down two more this year. The use of coal in Ontario was down 94 per cent for the first half of 2011 compared to the same time period in 2003. By 2014, Ontario will be coal-free — this will have the same impact as taking seven million cars off the road.

The Green Energy Act is creating jobs across Ontario — over 20,000 so far in places like Cambridge, Guelph, Sault Ste Marie, London, Mississauga, Kingston and Windsor — where Ontarians are building new, cleaner energy. Companies from around the world are investing billions of dollars in Ontario’s economy and hiring our skilled workforce to build solar and wind components for the rapidly growing international clean energy market.

Right now, we are a North American leader — the Green Energy Act and our Long-Term Energy Plan will entrench Ontario as a global clean energy powerhouse. The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program provides guaranteed contracts for energy generated using renewable resources. The response to our FIT program has been tremendous, with more than 2,000 large and mid-scale FIT projects announced and over $20 billion of private sector investment directed into the province.

Despite this success, both the PCs and the NDP refuse to endorse the burgeoning clean energy economy and the FIT program. The PCs platform signaled their formal intent to end the FIT program and cancel the government’s agreement with Samsung. This is a direct threat to thousands of Ontario jobs, thousands of megawatts of planned clean, renewable energy, and billions of private sector investment in our economy when it needs it the most.

The NDP plan is no less disappointing. This month the NDP outlined plans to end feed-in-tariffs for projects that exceed 20 megawatts (MW). Currently, there are over 5,200 MW of contracted FIT projects that exceed the 20 MW threshold proposed by the NDP. Collectively, these projects represent approximately $15 billion in private sector investment. This reckless proposal would have a devastating effect on Ontario’s clean energy sector, driving billions of dollars out of our economy, and killing thousands of jobs.

Andrea Horwath has clearly stated the NDP will not partner with private sector clean energy companies:

“Electricity generation must be publicly owned…contracts with private power producers are not the way we will do business.” (NDP Platform, pg. 17)

“Private power deals — we disagree with that. We think it was the wrong-headed way to go.” (Andrea Horwath, Media Availability, August 18, 2011)

2. Will your party allow the Pickering nuclear station to be replaced by a portfolio of clean energy options when it closes in 2020 instead of new reactors (as currently planned) if cost effective?

Our plan reduces how much nuclear power we rely on and significantly increases the amount of power generated from clean, renewable energy.

Under our plan, the proportion of our electricity that comes from nuclear will fall from 52 per cent to 46 per cent. Older nuclear units will be shut down at Pickering, taking 3000 MW of nuclear capacity offline.

Those units will be replaced with only 2000 MW of nuclear at a different location. At the same time, we are building over 10,700 MW of clean, renewable power from sources like wind and solar by 2018.

When we are replacing our older nuclear units, we will make public safety the number one priority. We will incorporate the most advanced safety measures in the world.

Nuclear power is a reliable, safe supplier of the province’s baseload generation needs. It
operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and does not produce any primary air pollution or release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The NDP refuse to invest in refurbishment, which will jeopardize the safe and efficient operation of this baseload capacity, and the PCs want to rush into a deal for new nuclear generation that will leave ratepayers and taxpayers on the hook. Ontario Liberals will take a more responsible approach — one that secures this necessary energy supply at a fair price for ratepayers and to help clean our air by getting rid of dirty coal.

3. Will your party commit to reforming the way new or expanded air pollution emissions are allowed in Ontario in order to ensure that where there are existing high levels of air pollution, these existing sources are reduced before those new or expanded sources are considered?

On August 17, 2011, the Ontario Liberals announced a pilot project focused on air zone management in the Oakville-Clarkson area. Through this project, we will work with partners in the community to reduce pollution emissions within the airshed. The pilot project will result in a model that can be replicated in other Ontario communities and airsheds, particularly those experiencing higher levels of pollution.

We will continue to move forward with 68 new health-based air pollution standards, including those for cancer-causing chemicals like dioxins and furans. This initiative represents the biggest move toward reducing air toxics in the past 30 years, with the aim of protecting the air in local communities near industrial sources of pollution, as well as air quality provincewide.

Our coal phase-out has also had a remarkable impact on air quality. According to a recent report by CivicAction and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, “The big win for air quality and reduced carbon emissions comes in large part from Ontario’s replacement of coal-powered electricity with cleaner sources. Sulphur dioxide emissions have gone down 44 per cent since 2005 … PM2.5 emissions have decreased 14 per cent [and] NOx emissions decreased 13 per cent.”

The report also notes that the Drive Clean Program, which we recently improved (and the Tories have promised to eliminate), “reduced particular matter emissions from transportation by 234 tonnes in 2008.” Our investments in public transit — more than any government in Ontario’s history — and electric vehicle infrastructure will also help bring down emissions within the transportation sector.

In addition to air standards, a major step to improve the air we breathe is our participation in the Air Quality Management System — a national approach for reducing air pollution with air zone management as a key component.

4. Will your party make reducing climate-damaging emissions a priority by implementing a cap-and-dividend carbon trading system that will help all Ontarians by making pollution reduction profitable?

The Ontario Liberal plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change includes greenhouse gas reduction targets that are among the most stringent in North America. As part of that plan, we are working closely with our partners in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) to develop a cap-and-trade system that WCI members can participate in. Such a system can only function when it operates with a critical mass of jurisdictions involved, and in a manner that does not impair the competitiveness of Ontario’s key economic sectors.

We have made significant progress on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions through a wide range of initiatives across many government offices. We are phasing out coal by 2014 — the single largest climate-change initiative in North America.

Getting the framework right for cap-and-trade will be guided by our new greenhouse gas reporting regulation, as we collect the data needed to design the program for Ontario. We need to design the program to further reduce emissions while ensuring our businesses remain competitive. We also need to ensure that there will be a critical mass of jurisdictions to trade with under the system.

To ease the administrative requirements, Ontario is integrating reporting requirements across a number of programs and working to implement one-window reporting with the federal government. We are also phasing in requirements for third-party verification of reporting data to provide sufficient time for accrediting verification bodies and sufficient capacity to meet requirements.

The NDP recently announced that they would have Ontario join the WCI. This clearly demonstrates just how out of touch they are on the climate issue, given that under the Ontario Liberals, the province has not only been a member of WCI, but is the current co-chair. With our WCI partners, including British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and California, Ontario is leading the way to develop a regional emissions trading program.

The PCs are deliberately vague on climate change and cap and trade, toeing the federal Conservatives’ line that they will wait for everyone else to take leadership on climate change. This approach will leave Ontario far behind as other jurisdictions step forward to do their part to fight climate change, while reaping the economic opportunities from

the rapidly emerging low-carbon economy.

5. Will your party implement measures to reduce smog-spewing traffic congestion by reducing single occupant vehicle trips, improving infrastructure for electric vehicles and fully supporting Metrolinx’s Big Move transit plan?

Yes, Ontario Liberals believe that the province needs effective and efficient public transit services to help foster a clean environment and a vibrant economy. That is why we created Metrolinx — to plan, support and improve public transit — and we released he Big Move — our $50 billion plan to get more people out of cars and onto transit. Under our plan:

  • We have opened seven new GO train stations
  • We are building and paying for the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT
  • We are partnering to extend the Spadina subway to York University and York Region
  • We are building and paying for an Airport Link direct from Union to Pearson which will remove 1.2 million car trips from our roads in the first year of operation
  • We brought in an electric vehicle incentive of up to $8,500 towards the purchase of an eligible electric vehicle (EV), and recently committed $80 million to kick start investments in EV infrastructure.
  • We’re investing in new HOV lanes on Ontario highways

The PCs offered nothing specific on public transit in their platform, and their record in government includes filling in the Eglinton subway and not contributing to GO transit, downloading the financial responsibility to municipalities.

The NDP have made only vague promises on transit. They have consistently opposed the Georgetown South GO Corridor expansion and the construction of the Airport Link. The NDP have also voted against funding for light rapid transit in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa and the Spadina subway extension.

Unlike the PCs and NDP, Ontario Liberals are on the right track in reducing congestion, investing in transit and ensuring a more vibrant and healthy future.

6. Will your party expand the boundaries of the Greenbelt in cooperation with willing neighbouring municipalities?

At 1.8 million acres, the Ontario Greenbelt is recognized as one of the largest and best-protected greenbelts in the world, with social and economic benefits that include:

  • Protecting watersheds, streams and rivers that provide clean drinking water for millions of Ontarians
  • Preserving one million acres of agricultural land that provide a healthy and secure supply of locally grown food
  • Promoting the trails, parklands and open spaces that support sports and recreation, which encourages healthy lifestyles
  • Curbing urban sprawl and reducing emissions that pollute the air, and
  • Tourism and cultural activities that highlight the beauty and diversity of the Greenbelt.

The creation of the Greenbelt in 2005 is among Ontario Liberals’ proudest accomplishments. In combination with the Places to Grow initiative, it is helping tame previously rampant urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and beyond, and promises in the longer term, to change for the better, the nature of land use patterns in Canada’s most densely populated region. The Greenbelt is a potent sustainability tool.

The NDP supported its creation half-heartedly, with some caucus members declining to vote for it. Tim Hudak has expressed open hostility to the Greenbelt Plan on numerous occasions.

Ontario Liberals have established a policy for expanding the Greenbelt in cooperation with willing neighbouring municipalities. We are working with a number of them — including Toronto, Peel Region, Halton Region and others — that have expansion proposals at various stages of approval.

Only the Ontario Liberal Party wholeheartedly supports the Greenbelt.

7. Will your party support increased institutional and government sustainable local food procurement and local food processing?

Yes. Now more than ever, Ontario families are looking for fresh, healthy, local foods. That is why Ontario Liberals have developed a strategy to showcase and encourage people to choose Ontario foods first. That strategy is working. We’ve invested $80 million dollars in local food including:

  • Helping more than 200 local food networks, farmers and processors market their products and services.
  • Increasing the number of farmers markets across the province
  • Showcasing Ontario foods in grocery stores across the province with Foodland Ontario.

We are taking that one step further. Ontario Liberals are committed to working with farmers to bring more local food to the table — whether that table is found in our kitchens at home, or in our local schools and hospitals. We are investing $6 million through our Broader Public Sector Investment Fund to help increase the amount of fresh, healthy, and delicious local foods in our municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities and day care centres.

We have also led by example — over 20 government cafeterias prominently feature Ontario foods. And last year, we spent more than $15 million on food grown, produced and processed in Ontario.

When they were in office, the Conservatives did not have a buy local strategy. Instead, they cut the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs budget by $120 million dollars in their last year of government alone, and sat idly by while more than 1,000 farmers left the land each year. Ontario Liberals will continue our commitment to promote local foods through key initiatives such as the Foodland Ontario program, the Ontario Farmers’ Markets Strategy, and ongoing collaboration with Ontario’s farmers, processors, retailers and food service providers to promote local food.

Ontario is home to one of North America’s largest food and beverage processing sectors, with more than half of it located throughout our rural communities. Ontario Liberals recognize the diverse and growing market opportunity the food and beverage processing industry presents, which is why over the past four years we have supported food processing businesses which have created and kept more than 15,000 jobs and generated nearly $500 million in economic activity across the province.

A strong food processing sector is not only good for rural Ontario because it creates jobs, it also represents a new and growing opportunity for farmers. Now more than ever, processors are looking to buy the supplies they need for their business locally. That means more local food is being purchased from farmers, and Ontarians can buy locally processed foods at their supermarket.

We will help secure new markets for Ontario food and create new local food manufacturing opportunities. These include meeting the demands for ethnically diverse food markets, regional food specialties, and increasing processing capacity for livestock.

I would encourage you to review our upcoming platform for more details on what we will be doing in the area of local food in the future. When we buy local, everyone wins. It is good for our families, good for our farmers, good for our economy, and good for our environment.

8. Will your party pass a Great Lakes Protection Act to provide the resources and coordination needed to ensure safe drinking water, clean beaches, protection against invasive species and toxic area clean up in Ontario’s four Great Lakes?

Protecting and sustaining our drinking water has been a hallmark of the Ontario Liberals, and Ontario now has among the best-protected drinking water in the world thanks to the Clean Water Act, which we brought into law.

The PCs and NDP both voted against the Clean Water Act, even though the act was created in response to Justice O’Connor’s recommendations following the Walkerton tragedy.

Ontario Liberals believe that effective drinking water protection needs to start at the source, and continue until you turn on your tap.

The protection of the Great Lakes requires a holistic ecosystem approach that takes into account the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders within the province, Canada and the U.S.

That is why we continue to work with the federal government and partners from urban and rural communities, industries and Aboriginal communities to restore and protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.

Recently, in partnership with Canada, we extended the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem to June 24, 2012. It is under the COA that Collingwood Harbour, Severn Sound and now Wheatley Harbour, have all been declared fully restored and officially removed from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern so that people can use and enjoy these areas again.

We are also collaborating with the federal government in renegotiating the Canada-U.S. Great Water Quality Agreement to ensure measures are updated in order to best protect, restore, and sustain the Great Lakes.

We are protecting water quality in Lake Simcoe with the first watershed-based plan legislated in Canada. In 2010, we released the Lake Simcoe Phosphorus Reduction Strategy — and we are working towards achieving the whole-lake goal of 44 tonnes per year by 2045.

The Ontario Liberal record shows a strong commitment to our province’s precious water resources. We need to keep moving forward together on this important issue, because clean water is the greatest gift we can leave our children and grandchildren.

We will address this issue in more detail in our upcoming platform.

9. Will your party retain the Far North Act and ensure that there is comprehensive land-use planning led by First Nations before development in the northern boreal region, including in the Ring of Fire?

Our commitment to the far north places Ontario among world leaders in boreal protection and represents one of the largest land protection commitments in North America.

We will retain the Far North Act, and its commitment to a First Nations-led land use planning process that is currently engaging nearly 90 per cent of communities in the Far North. And as we move forward with plans to develop the Ring of Fire, we will ensure world-leading environmental standards are in place as part of the planning for this area.

It is unfortunate that neither of the other two parties share this commitment. The NDP and PCs have consistently opposed the Far North Act.

Not only did Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath and their caucuses vote against the act, they have committed to undermine it. The PC platform has committed to revoke the act, and Andrea Horwath has stated that if elected, the NDP will “go back to the drawing board.” (

10. Does your party support the Endangered Species Act, including mandatory habitat protection, adequate funding for species recovery, and the integration of innovative approaches to help landowners help species, such as a “Safe Harbour” program?

Yes, we will continue to support the Endangered Species Act, including its strong provisions to protect habitat, and we will continue to provide funding for species recovery. This act makes Ontario the North American leader in species at risk protection.

We will also continue our innovative approaches to help landowners help species. Since 2007, the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund has provided $18 million for more than 400 protection and recovery projects. Our government has also provided $2.4 million to the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program, which is currently in its third successful year. This program has supported more than 1,200 projects that use specific farm management practices to help protect and recover species at risk.

We will also continue to fund species recovery efforts, including programs like our plan to protect the bobolink, under which we work collaboratively with landowners to promote habitat stewardship through Safe Harbour and other mechanisms.

The Ontario Liberals are the only party that has consistently supported the Endangered Species Act. Members of both the NDP and PCs opposed the act when it was passed, and neither party has ever committed to maintaining it, even when discussing activities that have the potential to harm endangered species or their habitat. For example, while the PC platform says they believe that Ontario’s forests will support 26 million cubic meters of wood supply, they fail to explain how that figure will allow for the protection of woodland caribou and their habitat. Similarly, the NDP made no mention of endangered species in their recently released environmental platform. In fact, the NDP campaign co-chair, MPP Gilles Bisson, who is also the party’s spokesperson on natural resources, is openly campaigning against the act.

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