Ontario, vote for the environment!

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Alija
Here’s how you can cast your vote for the environment in the 2011 Ontario provincial election.

Who leads in green promises?

The Pembina Institute, a national non-partisan sustainable energy think tank, has released an analysis of the election promises made by Ontario’s main political parties. Their study looks at where the parties stand on issues such as investing in renewable power generation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating incentives for energy conservation and expanding transit systems. It identifies clear leaders in building the province’s clean energy economy. “When it comes to building a clean energy future for Ontario, the Liberals and NDP are far ahead of the Progressive Conservatives,” says Cherise Burda, director of Ontario policy for the Pembina Institute.

The key policies that lead to high scores were maintaining the province's feed-in tariff for renewable energy, ensuring that transportation policies would deliver a reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and developing a credible plan to meet Ontario's climate commitments.

The Liberals scored high points for their Green Energy Act, modeled on the most successful renewable energy policies in Europe, “policies that create the long-term market stability necessary to attract continued investment and create jobs,” says Tim Weis, director of the Pembina Institute’s renewable energy program. “Already, some of the parties' proposals are introducing significant market uncertainty, since they could re-write or even eliminate the rules that have attracted recent investments. Market uncertainty could put the future of Ontario's green electricity economy in jeopardy, and risk undermining the province's role as a North American leader in this growing global industry.”

What do environment groups say?

Check out GreenProsperity.ca, a joint effort by 21 of Ontario’s leading environmental organizations—including Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club Ontario, Greenpeace, Ontario Clear Air Alliance and others—to put forward an agenda that they believe will help make Ontario a world leader in the new green economy. Their priorities include promoting clean manufacturing to reduce air pollution, strengthening and protecting the Greenbelt and Ontario foodlands, protecting Ontario’s boreal forests and waters, and more. Learn more about their priorities and their evaluation of where the parties stand on the environment at their website.

Who leads on clean energy?

According to the Pembina Institute, the Liberals and the NDP lead neck-and-neck on electricity and conservation commitments, but their approaches are significantly different. All three parties would continue the current progress towards phasing out coal-fired electricity by 2014. The NDP has also committed to not building any new nuclear reactors. The Liberals would continue their commitment to the province's feed-in tariff mechanism for renewable energy. The NDP would scale-back the feed-in tariff program to apply to community projects only, and would entirely re-write how larger projects are developed by increasing Ontario Power Generation's role as a Crown corporation. The PCs have committed to repealing the Green Energy Act and canceling the feed-in tariff entirely.

Who leads on clean transportation?

Only the Liberal party has stated plans to invest in electric vehicle infrastructure and incentives. The Liberals and NDP would stay the course on the Metrolinx Big Move transit plan introduced by the current Liberal government. Modelling by the Pembina Institute shows that this policy is the single most effective tool to reduce pollution and oil consumption from Ontario’s transportation sector.

The NDP would offer relief to municipalities by funding half of municipal transit operations, while the Liberals would improve GO train service and build rapid transit outside of the GTA. The PC party would take Ontario in the opposite direction, redirecting scarce transit funds to building roads and highways.

Who leads on climate change?

Both the Liberals and the NDP commit to move forward with a cap-and-trade program and put a price on carbon emissions, while there are no climate commitments in the PC platform.

Who matches your values?

CBC has released an Ontario provincial version of their popular Vote Compass, which launched in the last federal election. This educational tool allows you to answer a series of questions—including a number related to environmental issues—to determine which party’s policies best fit your priorities.

Where and when can you vote?

Advance polls are open in Ontario from September 21 to September 30, with election day polls open on October 6. To find out where advance and election day polls are located, or to learn more about voting in Ontario, go to the Elections Ontario website.