The Peterborough Examiner e-edition

Bill 165 takes Ontario in the wrong direction


When my granddaughter Nora was born two years ago, I found myself with a new identity — elder. I also realized that, by the time Nora gets to be my age, her world will be just shy of the 22nd century.

With climate breakdown threatening planetary life today, what sort of world will Nora be facing come 2094?

So just after Nora made the scene in 2021, I joined SCAN!, an Ontario-based climate action group. I started to help the Seniors for Climate Action Now compile a comprehensive list of 33 of Premier Doug Ford’s “climate crimes.”

Fast forward to 2024 and the end of Ontario’s warmest winter in history. Last week we learned that the world’s coldest place had experienced the largest temperature jump ever measured at any climate-monitoring station on Earth. “It is simply mind-boggling,” said Prof. Michael Meredith, science leader at the British Antarctic Survey.

Equally stunning is the Ontario government’s current move to ram Bill 165 through the legislature. It might as well be called the Enbridge Act.

That’s because the new law attacks the government’s own independent energy regulator, the Ontario Energy Board, or OEB. The Ford government is again showing its true colours. It is clearly committed to climate-killing methane gas that will be the key energy source for new houses. Enbridge completely dominates the Ontario fossil gas sector. Methane is sometimes called “natural gas.”

A recent Toronto Atmospheric Fund report said Ontario is nowhere close to being on track to reduce emissions to meet our climate commitments.

In fact, the government’s current bill is taking us in exactly the opposite direction. “Achieving net zero by 2050 will require phasing out virtually all natural gas from both heating and power production,” the report said.

This clearly won’t happen with a government committed to laws like Bill 165. Nora won’t even be 30 by 2050.

Here’s the back story. Late last year the OEB ruled against Enbridge by ordering developers to start paying for new hookups in 2025. The regulator wanted to give developers an incentive “to choose the most cost-effective, energy-efficient choice.” The idea was to make builders consider gas hookup costs, compared to an alternative. Given Ontario’s shift to electrification, that would likely be hydro.

Enbridge was not amused. So the Ford government wasn’t either. And along came Bill 165, overturning an OEB decision that was based on detailed analysis and expert opinion. Some 1.5 million new houses will be built in Ontario in the next decade.

Just when Ontario should be moving to clean, sustainable energy, Ford’s so-called “Keeping Energy Costs Down Act” locks new houses into a fossil fuel that’s frying the planet.

How do we know that this is the case?

Simply by turning to provincial Energy Minister Todd Smith’s own Nov. 29 letter telling the OEB what the government wanted. “Electrification and the transition to cleaner energy sources requires strong proactive thought leadership from the OEB …” When the OEB’s pre-Christmas decision actually reflected his own letter of direction, things suddenly changed. Smith said he would kill the OEB decision on an Enbridge rate application.

The independent regulator’s careful finding was to be consigned to the Queen’s Park trash bin.

The OEB had apparently caused hair to catch fire at Enbridge. It told its shareholders that it was “actively working with the government to address issues we see with this decision.”

Lawyer Kent Elson, acting for Environmental Defence, told The Narwhal that Bill 165 undercuts OEB independence, reducing “transparency and accountability while promoting decision-making via backroom lobbying.”

Speaking of which, if you thought that the Greenbelt scandal reflected the Ford government’s cosy relationship with a few GTA developers, you might just wonder about how well the Tories are getting along with a swaggering fossil fuel outfit whose gross 2023 profit was $16.5 billion.





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