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Ontario targets big carbon emitters with $100M in go-green incentives

Another $24 million will be set aside as matching aid to small and medium-sized companies adopting clean technology, such as solar panels, to reduce energy costs and emissions.
Feb. 17, 2016
By Rob Ferguson

Ontario industries can apply for $100 million in aid to cut greenhouse gas emissions as the province gets set to unveil what Premier Kathleen Wynne inadvertently called a “crap and trade” program.

“If you print that you’re gonna be in trouble,” she joked after her slip of the tongue at a west-end solar panel plant Wednesday, adding the money will come from a cap-and-trade program expected to raise $300 million in its first auction of emissions permits early in 2017.

Opposition parties said the government should provide details of how much its plan will cost average Ontarians when carbon emissions are capped and industries are allowed to sell or buy credits, creating an economic incentive to pollute less.

“We need to get a heck of a lot more detail than we have now,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said “families need time to plan, businesses need time to budget” but are being kept in the dark while the Liberals make repeated announcements with little substance.

“We’ve even asked for details on the most basic question of what it will cost Ontario families in increased costs for food and heating,” a frustrated Brown shot at Wynne during daily question period in the legislature.

The legislation is coming soon, said Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray. “Within the next couple of weeks you should see just about everything you want to know about cap and trade but were afraid to ask.”

Wynne defended the money to help manufacturers upgrade to cleaner technologies, reducing their energy use and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to minimize the effects of climate change.

Ontario has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

“We need to actively nurture businesses,” she told reporters at the Morgan Solar plant near the old stockyards district at St. Clair and Keele.

The $100 million is mostly aimed at large greenhouse gas emitters like auto and steel plants, with $24 million set aside for small and medium-sized companies such as auto parts firms and metal fabricators.

Details are still being worked out, but manufacturers will have to apply for the money and match any government contributions as they take advantage of clean technology, such as solar panels, to reduce energy costs and emissions.

More details on the government’s climate change program - which will see Ontario enter into a carbon-pricing market with Quebec and California - are expected next Thursday when Finance Minister Charles Sousa presents his budget.

With the government already saying the cap-and-trade plan will raise $1.3 billion in total, and repeatedly touting a $325 million “green investment fund” that includes the $100 million announced Wednesday, Progressive Conservative finance critic Vic Fedeli said he wonders where the rest of the money - about $1 billion - will go.

“So far it appears that it’s going straight to revenue to balance the budget,” the Nipissing MPP said.

Last week, the government announced another part of the green investment fund - a $20 million annual program of increased subsidies for motorists to buy electric vehicles.

Drivers can now get up to $14,000 off the sticker price, depending on the number of passengers the vehicle carries and its battery size.