Published May 24, 2022

Ontario party leaders talk climate plans in aftermath of weekend storm

Saturday's storm left 10 people dead

By Liam Casey

The leaders of Ontario’s main political parties highlighted their climate plans Tuesday after a deadly weekend storm ripped across the province, offering different approaches to dealing with severe weather events that are likely to become more frequent.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca focused on long-term climate solutions while Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford touted electric vehicles and clean steel as key ways forward.

Ford, who is looking to hold on to the premier's office, said the province is investing in converting some steel plants to use electric arc furnaces rather than using coal. He also doubled down on electric vehicles, manufacturing their batteries and building roads.

"I believe in climate change, let's make that clear, and we're doing everything to prevent it by building electric vehicles, having an investment into the battery plants," Ford said at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont.

Ford also touted his party's plans to build subways and highways in an effort to alleviate traffic congestion.

"One of the worst examples of pollution: go stand on the bridge of the 401 and watch bumper-to-bumper traffic," Ford said. 

"That's why we're building roads and bridges and highways to get people home quicker so that they don't have to sit in gridlock and smell someone else's fumes."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party, if elected, would fix the disaster relief program to get money to affected residents quicker after a severe weather event. New Democrats also have plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, she said.

Horwath said Ford was "out of touch" with climate change.

"It's really just obvious he was a crusader against the environment for the entire time he was in office," she during a virtual press conference. Horwath, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, said she had tested negative but was continuing with a remote campaign Tuesday due a few lingering symptoms.

Horwath also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent blow 2005 levels by 2030. Her government would electrify all transit systems in the province. The would also plant one billion trees and mitigate shoreline erosion.

The plan will be financed by a cap-and-trade system, she said.

"That is that is going to help us finance the big, big changes that we need to make," she said.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said his party, if elected, will help communities deal with climate change.

"We specifically set aside (money) on our sustainability plan to deal with climate resilience to support conservation authorities or municipalities or both," Del Duca said at a campaign stop in Toronto.

The Liberals state in their platform that they will restore and expand natural infrastructure like wetlands and green roofs and support communities in becoming more resilient to extreme weather through a new $250 million annual fund.

The party has also promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Del Duca has further promised to require all new passenger vehicles sold in Ontario to be zero-emission by 2035 and has promised a Liberal government would plant 800 million new trees over eight years.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has touted a long list of environmental initiatives, including halving climate pollution by 2030, protecting 30 per cent of lands and water by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2045.

He has proposed a $2 billion a year fund that would go to municipalities to help them get their infrastructure ready for climate change.

"We have to have a government that's going to put the policies in place to help us reduce climate pollution," Schreiner told The Canadian Press. 

Schreiner has also called for a provincial emergency fund to be set up for small businesses to help deal with disasters -- be it the COVID-19 disaster, the recent occupation of Ottawa or the devastating storm.

"I'm thinking of the hospitality sector, for example, who have food that is highly perishable in refrigerators that don't work -- we need that special fund to help small businesses that have been so negatively impacted," he said.

Saturday's storm left a trail of destruction with at least 10 dead, while tens of thousands remain without power.

- with files from Noushin Ziafati and Holly McKenzie Sutter.

Banner image: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath attends an announcement in Scarborough, Ont., on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2022.

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