Provincial election questionnaire – NDP responses

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

We need to be aggressive about bringing clean, renewable energy online. Ontario has made progress, but there have been many problems. Household and farms have invested in solar panels only to find they can’t connect to the grid. A needless backlash against wind energy has been created in communities that feel inadequately consulted. And our publicly-owned, publicly-accountable electricity generator has been ordered not to participate in renewable opportunities. We can do better.

We will exceed current targets for renewable energy with 10,700 MW in 2018 and will commit to at least 5,000 MW of additional green power by 2030. We will maintain the feed-in tariff for small and community-based projects. For new, larger renewable projects, we will move towards public ownership. Ontario Power Generation will contract out for large projects with an affordable and transparent process to ensure economic benefits and environmental protection. We will respect existing contracts and move carefully to ensure we continue the momentum towards renewable energy. As the sector grows and technology develops, costs will continue to decrease.

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?

Nuclear energy creates environmental problems that last thousands of years. It’s a part of electricity supply we can’t simply ignore, but we will not build new nuclear reactors and we will carefully assess the need for further refurbishments. We will direct the Ministry of Energy to prepare a new plan looking at more cost effective options, including increased conservation, increased renewable energy, expanded combined heat and power and hydro imports from Quebec. We will submit our plan for a full environmental assessment.

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?

The Ontario government has failed to stand up to polluters. Its “Open For Business Act” removed the basic requirement for public notice and public input on many industrial activities that pollute the environment, an approach used in Texas (the most polluting jurisdiction in North America). Citizens should have full information and a fair say about planned industrial activities in their communities. Existing levels of pollution should be taken into account when the government is considering adding new sources of pollution to communities. We will reverse the exemptions granted by the previous government, and ensure that all industrial activities and emissions are posted on the Environmental Registry for public comment.

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?

While tax schemes like the HST have made energy more expensive for consumers, they’ve also offered dramatic no-strings-attached tax cuts to some of Ontario’s biggest polluters. The province is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas targets for 2014 or 2020. Those who pollute must take responsibility for their emissions. Working in conjunction with other jurisdictions, we will join the Western Climate Initiative so Ontario firms can trade into a continental cap and trade plan. Revenues generated by cap and trade will be re-invested in reducing carbon emissions. We will work with other jurisdictions on a coordinated climate change strategy, continuing to push the federal government to move forward with a national plan. Within our first year in government, we will develop a plan for Ontario to meet climate targets of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

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?

For people who want to get out of their cars and avoid the pain at the gas pump, the alternatives aren’t always pretty. Public transit should be reliable and affordable. Too often people are paying more to wait longer. Cycling can be even tougher.

We will make transit more affordable by freezing fares.  Ontario’s NDP will achieve this by taking on half  of the cost of operating municipal transit systems. By offering to split costs, we free up funds to keep fares low, but also give municipalities the money they need to improve service and make capital investments. We will also move forward with plans to expand our transit system as proposed in the Big Move plan, and we’ll be making more announcements on this topic as the campaign progresses. We will make it easier and safer for people to ride bikes, and we will make it the law that drivers have to stay at least 1 metre away from cyclists on the move.

We will promote planning for complete streets on municipal and provincial roadways, ensuring the safety of all users when roads are developed or redeveloped. We will create a province-wide cycling infrastructure fund for investments in bike lanes, bike storage and bicycle tourism.  We will make sure that major new developments are accessible by transit and other active modes of transportation, and provide facilities for cyclists. We will invest in green infrastructure, including infrastructure for electric vehicles.

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

Despite plans to prevent sprawl and plan development, it keeps happening. We will put an end to government backroom deals to exempt developers from growth limits, such as those set out in the Greenbelt Act. We will balance the playing field when it comes to new development, by putting an end to developer “SLAPP” lawsuits used to silence local opposition to mega-development projects.

We will work with municipalities – such as Mississauga, Toronto, Brampton, Guelph, Hamilton and Oakville – that have expressed interest in expanding the Greenbelt.

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

We will introduce legislation requiring Ontario’s government to spend more of taxpayers’ money on local produce. This will be phased in over time with flexibility built in to the system to control cost and avoid any supply issues.

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?

Ontarians live next to and depend on the health of the Great Lakes for drinking water, recreation, tourism, jobs and industry. There is real concern today about threats to the health of the Great Lakes: over 100,000 people have signed a petition against a risky government-supported plan to ship radioactive nuclear waste across the Lakes. We will designate a Minister responsible for the protection of the Great Lakes and establish clear objectives and legislation to ensure that decisions by all Ministries protect the quantity and quality of the Lakes. We will not proceed with any approvals for the transport of radioactive steam generators on Ontario’s roads and waterways until a full provincial environmental assessment has been conducted.

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?

We believe it is possible to balance economic and environmental goals in the North. However, the current government has pushed through legislation without support of First Nations communities who have been stewards of the land for generations. Together, we must ensure a sustainable future for the North with a planning process that includes open consultation and full land-use planning. We will support sustainable forest management practices in ways that protect jobs and the environment by making sure all parties – workers, First Nations, and municipalities – are at the table.

We will release further details about our position on Bill 191 soon.

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?

The NDP caucus supported the Endangered Species Act in 2007. We are against large scale exemptions to species protection such as the wholesale exemption of entire industries from the Act, as proposed by the Liberal government. Rather, we will work with companies to minimize the costs of species protection, and to protect jobs by using the full range of measures under the ESA including screening tools, offsetting of incremental cost, other incentives and selective exemptions. We will also make it easier for farmers to protect their land, water and biodiversity by expand incentive programs to pay farmers who set aside and protect land (e.g. Alternative Land Use Services).  Finally, we will provide farmers and landowners with hands-on assistance in identifying and conserving critical habitat, and we will ensure that landowners are not penalized for doing the right thing for the environment.

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