On the same day climate strikes are being held across Canada, including on the grounds of Queen’s Park on Friday, environment minister Jeff Yurek released a statement declaring “Ontario is leading the way when it comes to fighting climate change in Canada.”
Yurek did not attend the rally. His statement comes amid criticism about the province’s policies on climate change.
Jessica Green an associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto said the statement was simply “not true.”
Since elected, Green said Premier Doug Ford has dramatically reduced efforts to fight climate change.
“I think it’s spin, I mean their environment plan had more pictures in it than any paper that my undergrads write for my classes,” she said.
One of the first moves Ford made after taking office in June 2018 was scrapping Ontario’s cap-and-trade system saying it was a “cash grab” that didn’t help the environment.
Park said that was the first of many ill-advised moves on the environment.
“He scrapped the cap-and-trade system, which even though he claims he cares about efficiencies wound up costing, according to the Ontario government, three-billion dollars and he’s replaced it with an incentive program, basically allowing big polluters to pick what they want to do.”
Yurek also touted initiatives in his statement he believes are indicators of action.
“We have made significant reductions with emissions down 22 per cent over the last decade and our government’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan puts Ontario on a path to achieving our share of Canada’s 2030 target,” he said.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath was at Friday’s rally. She said the declaration by Yurek that Ontario is leading the way on climate action is “delusional.”
“They got rid of cap and trade, they reduced funding to conservation authorities, they literally pulled electric vehicle charging stations out of the ground, they’re heading in the wrong direction,” said Horwath.
The opposition leader added global action is needed.
“This is about the future of our planet and the sustainability of our planet. It’s the biggest issue that we are dealing with as humanity and it’s not just here in Ontario.”
The ‘Blue Box’ program is another initiative the environment minister pointed to in his statement.
In August, the government made changes to the program to make product manufacturers and retailers responsible, changes Yurek said will save millions and “help to provide relief for taxpayers and reduce the amount of valuable materials that end up in landfill.”
However, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner dismissed Yurek’s statement saying the government is not doing nearly enough.
Schreiner called on Ford to listen to “young leaders, show leadership and act on the climate crisis now.”
“In the past year his top priority seemed to be sabotaging climate solutions instead of actually acting on the climate. You know what, the premier says he listens to people well thousands and thousands of people are tell him they want action now.”
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