POLITICS
12/05/2019 15:53 EST | Updated 12/05/2019 16:26 EST

Ontario Environment Minister Says His Party Has Failed On Climate, Defends Plan Anyway

Jeff Yurek said his party has been “silent” on climate change and has failed to come up with ideas to fight it.

TORONTO — Ontario’s environment minister says his own party has failed to come up with ideas to fight climate change and then immediately pivoted to defend his government’s climate plan Thursday. 

“I think what has happened is the Conservative party has remained silent on the climate change initiative and has not really given forth ideas that are really needed to move forward,” Minister Jeff Yurek told reporters at Queen’s Park. 

Asked if he meant the federal Conservative party or his own party, Yurek said: “I only speak for our party, the Progressive Conservatives in Ontario. We need to be more involved and more engaged in this fight ... and we’re going to do that.”

On Wednesday, Ontario’s auditor general said the provincial government’s climate plan isn’t based on sound evidence, doesn’t include enough detail and is unlikely to meet its own emissions reduction targets. 

Watch: Ontario premier says he’s ‘so proud’ of cancelling wind turbines. Story continues after video.

 

Yurek responded Wednesday, saying his government’s plan was a “draft” that would continue to “evolve” in order to meet its targets. On Thursday, he called that same plan “ambitious.”

“The auditor general came out with a similar report in 2016 on the Liberals’ climate plan and that’s the issue that we need to talk about here,” Yurek said. “It’s going to be hard work. Not one party has a solution for climate change.”

He said he wants the fight to be non-partisan and is committed to working with anyone who has an idea. 

But Peter Tabuns, the NDP climate change critic, says he hasn’t heard from Yurek since he took over the environment ministry in June

“If you are tearing down renewable energy and ripping up renewable energy contracts and if you’re tearing out charging stations for electric vehicles, then I don’t care if you talk to me every day of the week,” Tabuns told HuffPost Canada Thursday. “You’re undermining climate action and you’re helping make this crisis more profound.”

He said this government has been denying climate change and delaying action since they took power in 2018.

“Finally, the politics has caught up with them. It’s damaging them and they’re responding to the damage to them and not the damage to our society.”

He said the government has shown where it stands by voting against his bill to hold fossil fuel producers liable for climate change-related damage and by making Greg Rickford, who called a climate denial website one of his “favourite” publications, Minister of Energy and appointing Joe Oliver, who said climate change will make living in Canada more comfortable, to the board of the energy system operator.

“They haven’t been silent at all. They’ve been aggressively anti-environment and anti-climate action.”