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Ian Arthur, MPP Kingston and the Islands

Government of Ontario

Question Period: Firing of Environmental Commissioner

Published on November 21, 2018

Today I asked the Premier if he was firing the Environmental Commissioner because he did not want his climate change policy subjected to independent scrutiny.

Mr. Ian Arthur: My question is to the Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker. There are reports today that the Ontario government plans to copy Australia’s climate change policy. Australia’s policy reverses the polluter-pay principle and instead forces taxpayers to pay polluters. What’s worse is that since this policy was implemented, Australia’s emissions have gone up.

Did the Premier have the Environmental Commissioner fired because he did not want his climate change policy to be subjected to independent scrutiny?

Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of the Environment.

Hon. Rod Phillips: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member: I do thank him for the question. We were elected on a clear promise to reduce costs, to get rid of the cap-and-trade program and to fight the carbon tax, but also to bring forward a balanced plan for the environment, and that’s what we’ll do. In looking to that balanced plan, we are looking, yes, around the world. We’re looking at programs like the reverse auction in Australia.

Mr. Speaker, I don’t know why the member takes such offence at the idea of a program that, for instance, promotes trees being planted and promotes low-cost solutions to reducing carbon. Why is it only the high-cost solutions to reducing carbon?

We’ll bring forward a pragmatic plan. We’ll bring forward a responsible plan. We’ll bring forward a plan that does not, however, have the highest carbon tax in history—$150 a tonne—which is what one of their members suggested.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Ian Arthur: That’s not a plan. That’s a path to disaster, and it will be done on the backs of taxpayers.

In September, the Environmental Commissioner released a report that warned of the impacts of scrapping Ontario’s climate change plan without providing a replacement. In the response, the minister wrote back to the Environmental Commissioner: “I want to respectfully advise that any suggestion” saying “we should pursue policies that betray commitments we made to the people” will not be taken.

In retrospect—


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Order.

Mr. Ian Arthur: I can wait.

In retrospect, these comments can be viewed as a warning and perhaps even a threat against an independent officer of the Legislature.

Is the Premier firing the Environmental Commissioner because he wants an environmental lapdog, not a watchdog?

Hon. Rod Phillips: Mr. Speaker, under the proposals that the member is misrepresenting, Ontario will still—

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’d ask the member to withdraw.

Hon. Rod Phillips: Withdrawn.

Under the proposals that are being so characterized by the member, Ontario will still be the only province that has an independent environment commissioner, independent through the auspices of the Auditor General—a very important step, I think.

But Mr. Speaker, again, what is it about the NDP that makes them frightened about talking about other options? What is it that makes them so concerned about anything except putting a tax on Ontarians? On something as complicated as climate, why can they not see that there can be more than one solution? Why do they insist on punishing Ontario families, like the previous Liberal government did? We won’t do that, and we stand by our commitment.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): That concludes the time that we have for oral questions this morning.