The Doug Ford government in Ontario is about to land in court, after it cancelled the province’s carbon cap-and-trade system without putting a replacement program in place.
The Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa and Greenpeace Canada launched the suit “to remind the Premier that winning an election does not give his government carte blanche to ignore the legal rights of Ontarians to be consulted on changes to laws that protect them from climate change,” writes Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page.
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The case could receive an expedited court hearing as early as September 21.
“In its haste to dismantle the province’s climate legislation and gut a program designed to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the Ford government has so far failed to fulfill its responsibilities under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR),” Page contends. That legislation “requires government to consult the public on changes to environmental regulations and laws so that residents, community groups, businesses, and other stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in on decisions that affect them.”
The two organizations say Ford failed that test by making it his first order of business to dismantle the Wynne government’s cap-and-trade program, with no consultation or public input.
After Ford campaigned on a promise to kill the program, Environment Minister Rod Phillips “chose not to consult the public as required under the EBR, claiming instead that the 2018 Ontario election was a process that was ‘substantially equivalent’ to the 30-day consultation process required by law,” Greenpeace Canada notes.
But “the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario was higher in the polls in January when their platform included a revenue-neutral carbon tax than they were on election day, so there are no grounds for their claim that the election campaign was a substitute for the legally-required public consultation,” said Greenpeace Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart.
“The Ford government’s shock-and-awe approach to governing is not only an affront to democratic process, it is unlawful,” he added. “That’s why we are asking the court to require the Ford government to listen to the very public it claims to represent, as well as scientists and groups like ours, before gutting the province’s legislative regime for combatting climate change.”