04/18/2018 11:34 EDT | Updated 04/18/2018 11:36 EDT

Doug Ford’s Inaction On Carbon Emissions Is Fiscally Irresponsible

What kind of businessman ignores a looming problem that will only cost more to fix the longer it's left unattended?

Climate change is one of the most serious issues we face today, and any politician refusing to deal with this will just make things worse in the long run.

Across Canada, most of us understand this.

The federal Liberal government signed onto the Paris Accord addressing climate change shortly after defeating the Harper government. This was welcome after the Conservatives had steadfastly refused to address the issue in any meaningful way.

Each provincial government responded with its own ways to meet new federal requirements developed to implement the Paris Accord, or agreed to the federal carbon tax plan as a default.

Getty Images
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference while attending the United Nations Signing Ceremony for the Paris Agreement climate change accord on April 22, 2016 in New York City.

In Ontario, for example, the Kathleen Wynne government brought in a cap and trade system, which allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits, rather than impose the federal tax. Cap and trade systems give companies an incentive to cut emissions so the company can then sell excess credits to companies that can't meet the targets.

The provincial Ontario New Democratic Party, which recently released its platform, supports cap and trade, and has warned that trying to end the program — as Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford advocates — would cost Ontario taxpayers "hundreds of millions or billions" of dollars to reimburse companies that have literally bought into the system.

Former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown had vowed to scrap cap and trade, opting instead to take the provincial share of the federal carbon tax. Fair enough. At least he was planning to do something to help limit carbon emissions.

The same cannot be said for Ford, who replaced Brown as Conservative leader.

Toronto Star via Getty Images
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford unveiled the campaign bus and slogan at the Toronto Coach Terminal Arrival area on April 15, 2018.

Ford has pledged to not only scrap the current cap and trade plan, which has put $2.4 billion into provincial coffers to fund things like public services so far, but he also says he'll fight implementing the federal carbon tax in Ontario, effectively turning his back on the $4 billion that even the Conservative Party's own estimates say the tax would generate over its first three years.

Sticking your head in the sand is no way to run a province. An election platform that ignores a gaping need for all of society is outrageous.

Remember that Ford claims his business background is one of his great qualifications to be premier. What kind of businessman ignores a looming problem that will only cost more to fix the longer it's left unattended?

If one of his factories has a leaky roof, for example, would Ford just ignore that, too? I doubt it. A leaky roof doesn't just go away on its own. Leaks, just like environmental problems, have to be fixed before the state of things get worse.

It looks as if Ford is willing to say or do anything to get elected, even if it makes no sense

The truth is that most problems only get worse and more expensive to fix they are left unaddressed.

Besides, Ford's irresponsible pledge to stop the carbon tax simply does not make sense. In a way, it reminds me of his pledge to cut CBC funding, or fire the head of Hydro One, two things no premier has the power to do.

Likewise, Ford as premier would have no power to stop of a federal carbon tax. Indeed, Ottawa has already said it would just charge the tax in Ontario, and send Queen's Park the cheque for its share. The only way for Ford to fight this would be to literally tear up the cheque when it arrives.

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Again, what kind of businessman does that?

It looks as if Ford is willing to say or do anything to get elected, even if it makes no sense, putting sloganeering and scoring cheap political points ahead of the strong policy we need.

Back in February, for instance, in the midst of the PC leadership campaign, Ford tweeted angrily about taxes.

For the good of the country and workers across Canada, such a flippant approach is just wrong. Workers worried about their future, and that of their families and communities, deserve better.

To ensure a smooth just transition for all workers to an economy that recognizes the realities of climate change, we need to act soon and responsibly.

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