On Tuesday May 3rd, the Ontario Liberal Party released the Ontario Liberal Plan to Protect the Environment – a plank of their election platform. We anticipate the release of their full platform in the coming days.
The Plan has two main themes:
1) Address climate change and improve environmental protection, and
2) Provide clean energy transportation.
Each theme included a number of proposed initiatives, summarized below.
Addressing Climate Change and Improve Environmental Protection
Addressing Air Pollution
The Liberals will plant 800 million trees over the next eight years as part of the national commitment to plant 2 billion trees – which is focused on restoring ecosystems and protecting drinking water. The party claims that planting this large number of trees will be the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road and will create 2,000 green jobs for graduating students who want to dedicate a year toward nature-based solutions.
Increased Employment Opportunities
The Liberals plan to create 25,000 green jobs through no-cost access to new apprenticeships, training and skills building programs.
The Plan commits to giving Ontario's Conservation Authorities more jurisdiction to avoid flooding and conserve green spaces, farming, drinking water, biodiversity, and endangered species. The Liberals will also provide a new $250 million annual fund to restore and enhance natural infrastructure like wetlands and green roofs.
The expansion of the Greenbelt will be based on a long-term, science-based approach to bring more lands under the Greenbelt’s protection in close collaboration with local and Indigenous communities and farmers. The Liberals also plan to designate 30 percent of land as protected areas by 2030 - up from 10 percent - to expand the size and number of provincial parks, including expanding Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.
The Liberals will work with municipalities and Indigenous communities to protect and restore Ontario’s rivers, lakes, wetlands, and watersheds – including Moose Cree First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug - and strengthen oversight and environmental protections over gravel and aggregate mining. They plan to clean the mercury contamination in the St. Clair and English-Wabigoon River system and reduce pollution in Lake Simcoe and the Great Lakes – including lowering road salt runoff harming aquatic ecosystems.
Regarding landfill capacity, the Liberals plan to increase landfill diversion rates to 60 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050. They will also update the waste management and recycling requirements in industrial and commercial sectors.
Energy Transition to Reduce Emissions
The Plan includes the following commitments in this section in order to achieve the Liberals’ goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050:
- cut carbon and methane pollution by more than 50 percent by 2030;
- create a methane performance standard; and
- accelerate the replacement of natural gas with clean energy.
To reduce the current reliance on diesel, the Plan includes prohibiting the construction of new natural gas plants; phasing out the current reliance on natural gas; eliminating connection fees for rooftop solar charging panels and bidirectional electric vehicle charging; and supporting Indigenous and Northern clean energy projects. It also supports the completion of construction of the Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project, which would aid in lowering dependency on fuel and driving electrification in the far north.
Additionally, the Liberal Party intends to promote green hydrogen generation, transportation, and storage across the province, including refueling stations along Highway 401 and encourage businesses to replace carbon-emitting fuels with hydrogen.
Clean Energy Transportation
Public Transit - $1 per Journey
The Ontario Liberals intend to reduce public transit tickets to $1 per journey, with monthly passes costing $40 until January 2024. This fare rate will be applied to all public transit in Ontario, including municipal, GO, and Ontario Northland, with the province fully restoring the money lost by transit agencies. This move will eliminate an estimated 400,000 car journeys per day while also making transit costs more accessible. In addition, the party intends to make public transportation free for all Canadian Armed Forces veterans throughout the year. The Liberals intend to increase yearly transit operating funds by $375 million to support more lines, greater hours of service, improved accessibility, and increased intercity connections.
The Liberals intend to reverse the current government’s changes that make it easier to abandon and sell railway lines, believing that railways can provide efficient and environmentally friendly freight transportation, relieve traffic congestion on busy highways, and serve as potential corridors for future low-cost rail trips.
GO Train Expansion
The Plan commits to GO expansion and electrification, delivering two-way all-day service throughout the GTHA while adding 10 new stations:
EV Vehicles and Rebates
The Plan commits to replacing cars and trucks with electric or zero-emission vehicles by introducing an up to $8,000 rebate on the purchase or lease of a non-luxury electric vehicle (up to $65,000 retail price) and $1,500 for charging equipment, in addition to the existing $5,000 federal rebate. In addition, by 2030, at least 60% of all new passenger vehicles sold in Ontario must be zero-emission, with 100% by 2035.
In addition to the electric car subsidies, the Liberals commits to offering a $300 rebate for new electric bikes, mopeds, or motorbikes, as well as $100 million yearly to communities to develop segregated bike lanes and trails, increase bike sharing and rental programs, and secure bike parking.
The Liberal Party has committed to scrapping the Highway 413 project, reinvesting the savings in transit costs, repairing schools, and upgrading ventilation systems. They also intend to put a stop to any further work on the proposed Bradford Bypass until a fresh environmental assessment is completed, given the current one hasn't been updated since 1997. If this assessment fails to fulfill environmental and community requirements, it too will be shelved.
These initiatives were all disclosed in the Ontario Liberal Party's Environmental Protection Plan for 2022, which is attached here for your convenience.
Kristina Matovich, Research Associate, Energy Practice Group