Ford Threatens to Axe Cap-and-Trade

Doug Ford took office this past Friday, June 29th. The swearing in ceremony took place inside the legislature. He did however invite the public to a public ceremony on the steps of Queen’s Park where he reiterated his oath of office and delivered a speech.

His major pledge so far since the election is to kill cap-and-trade. In brief, cap-and-trade was a carbon tax system legislated by the previous Liberal government of Ontario. Companies bid on carbon credits (the cap part) and are allowed to buy and sell (the trade part) the credits amongst themselves. Proponents of the system advocate that it allows the market to set the price of emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Those against argue Ontario dollars are being sent out of the province, as companies can trade with companies in Quebec and California, also part of the carbon market.

It was a campaign promise which he is keeping, but it does promise to be a thorny issue. For one, the federal government has promised to impose a carbon tax on any province that doesn’t have one. Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe referred the case to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to determine whether the federal government would be behaving constitutionally if it imposed a carbon tax. With Jason Kenney looking to be elected as Albertan Premier within the year, this is shaping up to be quite the fight. Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, is a fierce opponent of carbon taxes.

The other issue is the companies that spent billions of dollars on carbon credits that are essentially worthless. Ford can anticipate a lawsuit if and when he axes the cap-and-trade. It would shed doubt on whether the Ontario government can be trusted to keep its word across party lines.

Ford also will be recalling legislature for a brief session in order to legislate York teaching assistants and research assistants back to work. The contract faculty have returned to work already after negotiating a deal with the University already. The strike started on March 5, 2018 and has continued ever since. The strike has an impact on students who couldn’t complete the Winter term and impacting students who were supposed to graduate but can’t.

If the strike resolves itself before July when the legislature would be recalled, Ford will still like to lower gas taxes by 10 cents a litre. A key pocketbook campaign promise, he aim to fulfill it by pulling out of the cap-and-trade system which may take up to 18 months. He also plans to reduce the provincial fuel tax. Running on a populist conservative platform, this would be key to proving his populist bona fides. He’s quoted as saying on a campaign stump speech, “every day, I hear from the people who are fed up. Fed up with being gouged at the gas pump. Fed up with the price of gas keeps going up, and with, the price of goods and services, with no end or relief in sight.”

More a symbolic gesture than likely to have any impact on the deficit is an end to all discretionary spending, including catered lunch for caucus meetings. Instead he’s instituting a “brown bag” policy, where each caucus member needs to bring their own food to work. He’s also imposed a public sector hiring freeze. This excludes essential front-line workers such as police, firefighters and paramedics.

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