In announcing her new cabinet on June 24, Ontario Premier
Kathleen Wynne appointed Glen Murray as Minister of the renamed Ministry of the Environment and Climate
Change (formerly the Ministry of the
Environment). According to Wynne, the expanded portfolio "will
ensure Ontario can protect the gains it has made in fighting
climate change, lead Ontario's mitigation and adaptation
efforts to extreme weather and strengthen its position as a leader
in clean technology." Murray will leave his previous post as
Transportation Minister and replace Jim Bradley, Ontario's
longest serving member of the legislature.
Ontario's emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is
nothing new. The province recently shut down the Thunder Bay
coal-generating plant, for example, becoming the first jurisdiction
in North America to eliminate coal as a source of electricity.
However, Murray's appointment and the revamped Ministry
elevates the climate change issue to the cabinet level for the
first time, reflecting the province's increasing recognition of
climate change as a central challenge.
Many are already speculating that the move will pave the way for
Ontario to join other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia,
Quebec and California, in implementing a carbon cap-and-trade
system. Proponents of this system argue that charging organizations
for the pollution they emit incentivizes them to pollute less,
become more efficient and innovate. This, in turn, would lead to
the development of green infrastructure, new jobs and a host of
ancillary industries that support and piggyback off the growth of
the green sector.
Critics fear a carbon tax would increase prices for consumer
goods and electricity. Australia, for example, repealed their carbon tax on
July 1 to lower costs for businesses and households. Thus far,
Wynne has denied her intention of implementing a carbon tax system,
but this will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate over the
next few years.
Murray will have his work cut out for him as he navigates
Ontario's climate change strategy, especially given the
increasing occurrence of extreme weather events in the province.
One area of particular importance will be transportation, which has
seen gas emissions continue to rise and where "we've gone
backwards," according to environmental commissioner Gord
Miller. The continued electrification of the public transit system
could be a major focus of Murray's Ministry in the coming
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Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
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