CCL Canada lobbies Ontario for effective carbon price

Volunteers from CCL Canada gathered in Toronto to lobby the provincial government.

Volunteers from CCL Canada gathered in Toronto to lobby the provincial government.

CCL Canada lobbies Ontario for effective carbon price

By Cathy Orlando

Toronto, ON — Please don’t believe the misleading rhetoric coming from some Conservative candidates in this current federal election in Canada that implies the Harper government is responsible for the slight decrease in Canada’s national greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. According to Julia Gelfand, Canada’s Federal Environment Commissioner, “without provincial actions, Canada’s emissions would likely now be higher than when the Conservatives came to office.”

Ontario is home to almost 13 million of Canada’s 34 million citizens. Thus, when Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers heard in August that the Ontario government will introduce its carbon pricing policy in mid-October, we pulled together a carbon-pricing conference and lobbying days on October 4 and 5 in Toronto.

Jeff Rubin author of The Carbon Bubble: What happens to us when it bursts,” was our keynote speaker. In his tenure as chief economist at CIBC World Markets, Rubin witnessed three economic bubbles: the dot-com bubble (2000), the subprime mortgage bubble (2008) and the carbon bubble (now). The false assumption of the carbon bubble is that we can combust and emit as much carbon as we wish to power economic growth. A cold chill passed through me when he pointed out that, unlike the first two bubbles, Canada is at the epicentre of the carbon bubble. Rubin eloquently detailed why the way forward is a national revenue-neutral carbon tax. He said, “Decarbonizing our economy doesn’t mean increasing taxes: decarbonizing our economy means shifting the tax base from income to carbon.”

Our guest speaker, Tom Chervinsky from Clean Prosperity shared with us insights on how to build support across party lines, which we applied the next day lobbying our representatives.

On Monday, October 5, thirty-three of us lobbied 13 Members of Provincial Parliament (12 face-to-face meetings), including two Ontario Ministers, two Parliament Assistants to Ministers and the legislative aide to another Parliamentary Assistant. I lobbied my MPP, the Honourable Glenn Thibeault, the Parliament Assistant to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and my neighbouring MPP, France Gélinas (NDP Deputy Leader). In total we lobbied 2 Progressive Conservatives, 7 Liberals, 4 New Democrats (NDP) and the transportation critic for the Green Party of Ontario. Additionally, this month at least 4 more provincial lobbying sessions are scheduled or have taken place in Ontario.

Our preferred method for pricing carbon is Carbon Fee and Dividend, a revenue-neutral carbon tax implemented nationally. However, since the Ontario Government has decided to implement Cap and Trade (our second favourite system), we asked our representatives to commit to the following to avoid the pitfalls experienced by other jurisdictions that have implemented cap and trade:

  • An annually decreasing cap and strong floor price.
  • Set the cap as upstream as possible.
  • Include no offsets in the system and no credit give-aways to industry lobbyists.
  • Return revenues from the auctions to Ontarian households to help citizens shoulder rising costs passed onto them by industry
  • A third party administrator.

Twice Citizens’ Climate Lobby was mentioned at Queens’ Park on Monday, October 5, by MPP France Gélinas (MPP Nickel Belt) and the Ontario Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Glen Murray. Minister Murray said, “… There are many members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby here. This has been one of the most powerful groups for advocacy on climate change …

As well, our newest recruit, university student Mary Blake Bonn from London, ON, lead a face-to-face meeting with her MPP, the Honourable Deb Matthews, Ontario’s Deputy Premier.

Thirty years from now, when Citizens’ Climate Lobbyists look back at this time in history, we will be able to say we did our best at the peak of the climate crisis.

How to speak Canadian Politics:

Provinces = States
MPP  = Member of Provincial Parliament = State legislator
Premier = Governor
Deputy Premier = second in line to the Governor
Minister = the MPP in charge of a government ministry
Parliamentary Assistant = the MPP second in charge of a government ministry
Capital of Ontario = Toronto, ON
Name of Ontario’s Parliament building = Queen’s Park
Capital of Canada = Ottawa, ON

Cathy Orlando is national manager for CCL Canada.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter at @valklimate.