The Doug Ford government in Ontario is sitting on C$1 billion in carbon cap-and-trade revenue, and Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe is warning that it is legally obliged to spend the funds on greenhouse gas reductions.
“The money was brought into provincial coffers under a law that says it can only be spent on measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” CBC News reports. “The dedicated fund for reducing greenhouse gases had a balance of $553 million at the end of March, when the last fiscal year ended, according to the province’s newly released public accounts. Another $476 million was added in May from the final cap-and-trade auction of carbon allowances, before Ford’s PCs won the election and quickly scrapped the Liberals’ climate-change plan.”
Saxe, an independent officer of the provincial legislature, said she’s seen no evidence of expenditures that would bring the fund below $1 billion, and most of the dollars will still be left after the costs of winding down the program are factored in.
“That can be money they can use to invest in [climate-change] solutions,” she told CBC. “That was the legal basis on which the money was collected, and that remains the law.”
MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers (L, Ottawa-Vanier) predicted the government would spend the money on lawsuits arising from the cap-and-trade cancellation, rather than investing it in GHG reductions, but Environment Minister Rod Phillips said there’s no reason for that concern.
“The money will be used for the purpose [for which] it was collected,” he said, though he declined to confirm that the fund still holds hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I don’t think it would be fair to speculate at this point,” he said. “We will make it clear how much money was spent and where it was spent.”