Will Ontario move forward on environment at the ballot box?

The Green Prosperity Initiative, a combined effort of 19 Ontario environmental organizations, today released an assessment of the environmental platforms of the four major provincial parties.  The joint assessment can be found at www.greenprosperity.ca.

Update, Sept. 19th: Today, the Green Prosperity Initiative released follow-up video Q&As with the parties (see list below).  These interviews explore some of the areas where there the parties have the most substantial policy differences to help voters get a deeper appreciation for the parties’ positions.  The Progressive Conservatives declined to participate in a follow-up interview.

Liberals – John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment

NDP – Peter Tabuns, Environment and Energy Critic

Greens – Mike Schreiner, Leader

“Overall, three parties – the Liberals, NDP and Greens – have provided us with important insights into how they will protect Ontario’s environment and build a green economy.  The Progressive Conservatives, unfortunately, chose not to respond to our specific questions,” says Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.

While the three other parties provided detailed responses to the Green Prosperity election questionnaire and have included major environmental planks in their platform, the Progressive Conservatives opted not to provide any further detail on their plans to end the Green Energy Act’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program, build new nuclear units or repeal legislation designed to protect the ecology of Ontario’s vast wild Far Northern boreal region among other policies.

For the other parties, one of the new distinctions in responses came in their approach to energy issues.  The Liberals are fully committed to carrying on with the feed-in tariff program, which offers a guaranteed long-term price for energy generated by clean renewable power systems.  The NDP, on the other hand, would restrict FIT participation to smaller and community-owned systems, while the Greens want to increase local involvement in approving renewable energy installations.

The NDP and the Greens also do not agree with the Liberal plan to build new nuclear reactors.  Both parties say the province has better lower-cost options and would expand the use of conservation, renewable energy, combined heat and power and hydro imports from Quebec instead of building new reactors.  The Liberals say they will not rebuild the aging Pickering nuclear station, but will replace two-thirds of its capacity with new nuclear units “at another location.”  Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak is on record as favouring new nuclear units, although this is not addressed in the party’s platform.

Protecting the sensitive ecosystems and climate change control benefits of Ontario’s Far North was another issue where the parties differed.  The Liberals say they will move ahead with comprehensive land-use planning for this ecologically intact region before approving major developments, as called for under the Far North Act.  The Conservatives and NDP, however, are both promising to repeal the act, while the Greens want to see it revised.

On protecting the four Great Lakes that Ontario borders, the Liberals, NDP and Greens all say they are favour of strengthening legislative protection and increasing efforts to clean up beaches and toxic hot spots.  The Conservatives are not promising any greater protection for the lakes in their platform.

“Concern about the economy may be what gets people out to the ballot box this election, but once there, I think many will think about what the future holds for their kids in Ontario – including whether they will have the clean air, clean water, and stable climate that past generations have enjoyed,” says Derek Coronado, executive director of Citizens Environment Alliance.

“Our assessment can help voters see where the parties stand on linking this province’s future to the exploding worldwide demand for green products and services, including green energy, sustainably harvested resources, and innovative climate solutions, while ensuring that Ontario remains a great place to live, work and play,” says Janet Sumner, executive director of CPAWS Wildlands League.

For further information, contact:

Brad Cundiff
Green Living Communications
brad [at] glcommunications.ca
647-298-5125 cell