Doug Ford to scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, fight Ottawa’s carbon tax

TORONTO — Doug Ford said Friday he will scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade system and fight a federal carbon tax as soon as his Progressive Conservative cabinet is sworn in later this month because the measures hurt families and do nothing for the environment.

To that end, the incoming premier said he will give notice of Ontario’s withdrawal from the carbon pricing market it shares with Quebec and California when he takes office on June 29.

Ford, whose party won a majority of seats in last week’s election, said the government will provide clear rules for an “orderly wind down” of cap and trade, but did not specify when the legislature will be recalled to implement the bill needed to dismantle the system put in place by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.

“Today, I want to confirm that in Ontario the carbon tax’s days are numbered,” he said. “In fact, upon the swearing in of my new cabinet, at the top of our agenda the very first item will be to pass an order to cancel the Liberal cap-and-trade carbon tax.”

Ford also said he would challenge the federal government’s rules requiring provinces to have carbon pricing in place.

“I will (be) directing my attorney general to use all available resources, to use every power at the government’s disposal, we will officially challenge the federal government carbon tax on Ontario families,” he said. “Because the cap and trade and carbon tax does nothing for the environment.”

During the spring election campaign, Ford’s team estimated challenging the federal carbon tax in court would cost taxpayers $30 million over four years.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna fired back, saying Ottawa is considering all options, including giving revenues from the carbon tax directly back to Ontario residents instead of the provincial government.

“Climate change is real and its impacts do not stop with a change in government. Canadians expect us to take serious action to protect our environment and grow our economy,” McKenna said in a statement Friday evening.

“Ontario’s premier-elect gave notice today that he is not interested in fighting climate change and is effectively withdrawing from Canada’s national climate change plan.”

Eliminating cap and trade will help deliver on a campaign promise to cut gasoline prices by 10 cents per litre, Ford said, while adding that he was putting gas distributors “on notice” about price fluctuations ahead of holiday weekends.

The cap-and-trade system aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can emit. If they exceed those limits they must buy allowances at quarterly auctions or from other companies that come in under their limits.

Ontario has made close to $3 billion in a series of cap-and-trade auctions since the system was introduced by the Liberals last year. Ford has consistently opposed carbon pricing and has come under fire for failing to explain how he would make up for the lost revenue.

Trevor Tombe, an economist with the University of Calgary, said if Ford’s goal is to drive down gas prices he didn’t have to scrap the entire cap-and-trade system to achieve it. The Tories could have kept the program in place but exempted gas distributors who could have then lowered their prices by four or five cents.

That combined with a cut to the provincial excise tax on fuel would lead to a 10-cent-per-litre cut at the pumps, he said.

“Exempting fuel distributors would effectively turn cap-and-trade into a large emitter carbon pricing system,” he said.

Tombe said there are no “insurmountable hurdles” that would keep Ontario from scrapping the system, but the government will need to address the billions in permits sold in previous auctions.

“The money raised is earmarked for a number of spending initiatives,” he said. “The government could simply not proceed with those initiatives and instead return the money.”

The opposition parties expressed concern about the loss of revenue from cap and trade and the programs the money would have supported.

“How will Mr. Ford replace the $1.9 billion per year that the cap-and-trade auction brings in for the province?” said NDP legislator Peter Tabuns. “Will he be making another $2 billion in cuts to programs Ontarians count on”?

Ontario Green party Leader Mike Schreiner, who was elected to the legislature last week, said cancelling pollution pricing without a backup plan would send a signal to clean companies that the province is not open for business.

“It is unfortunate to see Mr Ford’s sloganeering and back-of-the-napkin ideas continuing post-election,” he said.

Environmental groups panned the move, calling it a bad idea for the environment and Ontario’s economy.

“By abandoning action on climate change, Doug Ford is simply raising the extreme weather tax which is already wrecking homes, crops and public infrastructure,” said Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada.

‘The stakes are high’ for NAFTA talks, Ontario’s Doug Ford says

Doug Ford pledged to stand united with the federal government in its heated trade dispute with the United States as the beleaguered NAFTA talks become a “critical” issue for his new government.

“The stakes are high,” Ontario’s premier-designate told reporters following a meeting with auto and steel industry representatives Wednesday. “Thousands of jobs rely on the outcome of these talks. Thousands of Ontario families are counting on us to defend their interests.”

The U.S. struck out at Canada last month with tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. Hours later, Canada announced retaliatory tariffs on $16.6 billion of U.S.-made steel, aluminum and a range of other goods. Relations have been on a downward course since then, with Trump calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “weak and dishonest” in a Twitter post, apparently after he was angered by a G7 press conference in which Trudeau restated his objections to the U.S. levies.

Ford said the “name-calling” was “not acceptable whatsoever.”

“I want to be very clear: we stand shoulder to shoulder with our federal counterparts,” he said.

As the Canada-U.S. dispute deepens, analysts say Ford will have his work cut out for him as he strives to deliver on his campaign promises amid weakened provincial finances and an increasingly uncertain business environment.

“The campaign was one thing but now we have a major trade issue and it will impact Ontario the most,” said Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets Inc. “That means he has to run a lot faster just to stand still. It will be very difficult.”

The Quebec government has promised $100 million in loans and guarantees to smaller steel and aluminum companies hit by the tariffs. Ford, who has pledged to end corporate welfare, did not say whether he would do the same for Ontario firms and instead vowed to make the province a more competitive place to do business. He has promised to cut business regulations, fight upcoming federal rules on carbon taxing, do away with the cap-and-trade system and lower hydro rates by 12 per cent.

Achieving those goals will be “tougher overall” given an uncertain economic and trade environment and government revenue stream, said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

“I think before we make rash decisions we need to see how things unfold and we have to be prepared,” Porter said. “There’s not a lot of detail in (Ford’s) proposals but they are intended to be phased in over time and I think that’s the way to go.”

Maintaining a consistent flow of trade with the U.S. is crucial to Ontario, which sends about 80 per cent of its exports across the border and is home to roughly 70 per cent of Canadian steelmaking. And while the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on the economy, Trump has also threatened tariffs on the auto sector, initiating a Department of Commerce investigation to determine the national security effects of the import of automobiles and auto parts.

While Ford could conceivably extend support to businesses hit by the steel tariffs, the greater worry is how much could be done to prop up industry if the levies are extended to Ontario’s far larger auto sector, Porter said.

“The concern is that Ontario finances have been weakened considerably over the course of the business cycle,” he said. “And unfortunately, that means the province has less firepower than it might have had 10 or 15 years ago to offer that kind of support.”

Ontario’s net debt has nearly doubled in the last decade and is expected to hit $325 billion this year.

As for pushing the NAFTA talks forward, there’s only so much a premier can do, Tal said of CIBC.

“At the federal level, that’s where the focus will be,” he said.

Among the firms represented at Ford’s meeting were auto parts giant Magna International Inc., Hamilton-based steelmakers Stelco, Algoma and ArcelorMittal Dofasco, and automakers including Honda, Toyota and Ford. Ford will meet Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton Thursday for a briefing on the NAFTA talks.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said the meeting was “a good first signal” from Ford.

“The premier understands that there is only one Canadian objective on NAFTA and trade with the U.S. and he was eager to hear from the industry on how he could further support the Canadian effort on it,” said Volpe, who had a representative at the meeting, while he was in Washington speaking with senior White House officials about trade. “The sentiment was very positive and he was asking the right types of questions.”

With files from Alicja Siekierska

Doug Ford says he stands ‘side by side’ with Trudeau on trade despite clashing on other issues

TORONTO — Doug Ford says that while he may clash with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on issues like carbon pricing, he will stand side by side with the federal government when it comes international trade and protecting Canadian jobs.

Ontario’s newly elected premier-designate stressed the need to present a united front during complex trade negotiations, even as he reaffirmed his plan to scrap the provincial cap-and-trade system and fight upcoming federal rules on carbon pricing.

“Are we going to have some differences internally within the family per se? I’m sure we’ll have a few bumps,” Ford told reporters on Wednesday.

“When it comes about international trade and working with the United States and Mexico, make no mistake about it … we’re going to stand side by side.”

Ford said that while he understands U.S. President Donald Trump is sticking up for his country in recent remarks criticizing Canada and the prime minister, “name-calling” won’t help resolve disagreements on trade between the two countries.

His comments come after Trump called Trudeau “weak” and “dishonest” in a Twitter post over the weekend after the prime minister spoke against American tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Ford, who met with industry representatives to discuss NAFTA talks on Wednesday, said the American tariffs will hurt jobs on both sides of the border and should be lifted.

“Nothing is beneficial from getting into an argument with each other, it just doesn’t benefit companies, it doesn’t benefit people,” he said.

The Progressive Conservative leader said his top priority is protecting jobs for Ontario workers and reiterated that he would stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Trudeau on the issue.

On Thursday, Ford will sit down with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canadian ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton for a briefing on NAFTA talks.

Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford to meet with industry reps on NAFTA

TORONTO — Premier-designate Doug Ford will meet with industry representatives Wednesday to discuss NAFTA negotiations as the trade talks appear increasingly troubled.

The meeting comes just days after Ford said he stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was the subject of a Twitter tirade from U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend.

Trump called Trudeau “weak and dishonest” after the G7 summit in Quebec on Sunday, apparently angered over comments the prime minister made during a press conference when he objected to American tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum last month.

Ford said Sunday that his top priority is to protect jobs in Ontario, including those of steel and aluminum workers in the province.

Trump has also taken issue with Canada’s supply management system for dairy farmers and threatened to imposed 25 per cent tariffs on auto imports from Canada, a move that would hurt Ontario’s manufacturing sector.

On Thursday, Ford will sit down with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canadian ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton for a briefing on the NAFTA talks.

“I can tell you on the trade deal south of the border, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister and our federal counterparts,” Ford said Sunday. “My number one priority is to protect jobs in Ontario, especially protect the steel workers, aluminum workers.”

Ford also told reporters that he would be sitting down with federal officials to discuss the trade deal.

“We’re going to stand united,” he said. “I know all provinces should be standing united with our federal counterparts and we’ll deal with that.”

Doug Ford Says He’d Let Developers Build Housing On Ontario’s Greenbelt

Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford unveils his campaign bus and slogan in Toronto on April 15, 2018.

TORONTO — Doug Ford said Monday he would allow some development in the Greenbelt — the world’s largest permanently protected green space — if elected premier this spring, to ease the housing crisis in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Progressive Conservative leader made the comments after the governing Liberals accused him of making private deals with developers to open up the Greenbelt for housing development.

The Liberals pointed to an online video of Ford — apparently taken in early February when he was a Tory leadership candidate — promising to open up a “big chunk” of the protected area.

‘Housing costs is through the roof’

When asked Monday about the video, Ford said he supports the protected green space but would allow development in some areas to create more supply in the housing market, including more affordable housing.

“I support the Greenbelt in a big way,” he said. “Anything that we may look at to reduce housing costs, because everyone knows housing costs is through the roof and there’s no more property available to build housing in Toronto or the GTA.”

For every piece of the Greenbelt opened for development, Ford said he would add equivalent land to the protected area to ensure it doesn’t change in size, but he didn’t offer details on how that would work.

You build more and hopefully it will level off.Doug Ford

“I give you my commitment, that anything that we look at on the Greenbelt will be replaced,” he said. “So, there’ll still be the equal amount of Greenbelt.”

Ford said the only way to bring down housing costs in the Toronto region and make the market more affordable is to increase the supply.

“You build more and hopefully it will level off,” he said. “But it’s a tough situation right now.”

In the 40-second video clip, which was posted Monday on YouTube, Ford suggests the idea of opening the Greenbelt for construction came from developers.

“I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in this country, and I wish I could say it was my idea, but it was their idea as well,” he said. “Give us property and we’ll build and we’ll drive the cost down.”

Environment Minister Chris Ballard, who represents a riding that is home to part of the protected area, accused Ford of quietly planning to pave over it.

“(It’s) a plan he has kept from the public but shares privately … with developers who stand to make big money if Ford wins,” he said.

I’ve already talked to some of the biggest developers in this country, and I wish I could say it was my idea, but it was their idea as well.Doug Ford

Ballard said the Greenbelt, a 7,200-square-kilometre area that borders the Greater Golden Horseshoe area that surrounds Lake Ontario, must continue to be preserved.

“(Ford) will bulldoze a great swath of the Greenbelt and turn it into the largest condo farm this province has ever seen,” he said.

The Greenbelt, established in 2005, protects environmentally sensitive land and farmlands from urban development.

“We moved to protect it forever so that our kids and grandkids would never have to worry about having access to nature and that we would have productive farm lands well into the future,” Ballard said. “So, it’s essential this area stay protected.”

NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns said Ford’s plan will plow over farms, forests and green spaces. An NDP government would protect the Greenbelt from land speculators, he said in a statement.

Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest permanently protected green space, spanning 2 million acres.

“When it comes to creating a livable, affordable province, Doug Ford is saying one thing publicly and another in private to his big, rich developer friends,” Tabuns said. “New Democrats support Greenbelt policies that protect natural heritage while encouraging affordable, transit-friendly ‘complete communities.'”

Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, said there is a government process that developers respect and follow when it comes to the Greenbelt, and changes to the legislation do no happen in secret.

“(The government has) made some adjustments to the Greenbelt boundary based on scientific information and infrastructure information,” he said. “Adjustments do happen. It’s part of the process. More importantly, this all happens through a public, transparent, accountable structure.”

Previously On HuffPost:

Correction: In an April 30 story on Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford’s plans for the Greenbelt, The Canadian Press identified Joe Vaccaro as the president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. In fact, Vaccaro is the CEO of the association.