PV Ontario Bureau
Ontario and the planet are in the midst of a massive climate and environmental crisis.
The effects of this include more frequent severe weather events such as storms, floods, droughts and heat waves; increased risk of pandemics crossing from animal to human populations; spread of diseases like Lyme disease as a result of changing habitats; and increased stress and damage to physical and social infrastructure.
The root of this crisis is capitalism – the exploitation of human beings and the environment for profit. The solution is socialism – social ownership and democratically planned use of the means of production used to sustain and enhance human life.
Even though capitalism cannot solve the climate and environmental crisis, there is action we can and must take right now.
This action includes defeating the Doug Ford Conservatives and their policies. Neither the environment nor working people can afford Ford. The government’s own numbers show the province achieving just 20 percent of promised emission reductions by 2030. One of his first acts was to gut Ontario’s already inadequate climate change policies and cancel new wind turbine electricity projects that were nearly completed. In the first two years of Ford’s government, carbon emissions in Ontario actually increased – to their highest levels in five years. They only declined in 2020, as a result of reduced economic activity relating to the pandemic.
There’s no future for working people in a world heading towards irreversible ecological collapse.
It’s time to put people and the planet before profits.
1. Stop pipelines and end fossil fuel dependency
Ontario is home to a vast network of pipelines carrying oil and gas, which ensures the province’s dependency on fossil fuels. There are 114,000 km of natural gas pipelines – enough to criss-cross the province more than 70 times. The Line 9 pipeline crosses southern Ontario, carrying 300,000 barrels per day of imported crude oil from Montreal to Sarnia. Line 5 carries 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil from western Canada through the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac in Michigan to Sarnia.
Ending carbon-dependency means putting a stop to the pipeline network that transports fossil fuels. Rather than taking action to move away from fossil fuels, since 2018 the Ford government has spent more than $300 million to expand the pipeline network. This public money has gone into the coffers of fossil fuel privateers like Enbridge and Union Gas. The financing for these projects should be publicly harnessed and dedicated to funding energy security using alternative sources, as well as for job creation and social programs.
At the same time, energy monopolies should be put under public control and prices on fossil fuels, like gasoline and home heating fuels, must be capped. The costs of conversion should be paid for by the corporations who have profited from fossil fuels, not by the working people who rely on them to live and work.
2. Phase out fossil fuel and nuclear electricity, create jobs
Fossil fuels account for approximately 75 percent of primary energy (heating, transportation, manufacturing, etc.) and around 8 percent of electricity generated in Ontario. Replacing this with renewable sources – especially green electricity from wind turbines – is possible within two to three years but requires decisive political intervention.
Shortly after getting elected, Doug Ford cancelled 750 renewable energy contracts, including new wind farm projects that were nearly completed. These cancellations cost the public over $230 million.
If the government made a one-time investment of $15 billion, it could build enough publicly owned wind farms to generate green electricity to close every fossil fuel generating station plus offset an enormous amount of fossil fuels used for heating and manufacturing. This is far safer, faster and less expensive than continuing and extending Ontario’s nuclear power system. Furthermore, this kind of wind farm construction would produce around 15,000 jobs, in communities throughout the province.
The funding for this could easily be raised by increasing the provincial corporate tax rate, and through public ownership and control of financial institutions – banks, insurance companies and investment funds – and their redirection away from fossil fuels, toward sustainable alternatives.
Such a redirection would also allow for development of extensive zero-emissions transportation systems for people and goods – municipal public transit, extensive high-speed rail and electric bus service and public charging stations throughout the province. To achieve this, industries that currently produce for the carbon-based economy, such as pipeline manufacturing in Sault Ste. Marie and auto manufacturing in several centres in Ontario, would need to be redirected to building electric railway track and cars, public transit infrastructure, and zero-emission passenger and light industrial vehicles.
3. Public ownership and public programs, to facilitate conversion
To facilitate conversion, the provincial government needs to intervene decisively through public ownership, public programs and strong legislation.
The provincial government needs to mandate and support the transformation of all public vehicle fleets – including postal delivery, municipal services, emergency vehicles and public transit and transportation – to zero emissions vehicles. The government should also implement a green building program, to ensure that all new construction is low-impact and to retrofit existing buildings so that they are environmentally safe.
Public ownership and management of fossil fuel industries is critical to achieving their rapid phaseout, in a way that is just for workers and communities who have relied on those industries.
4. Green conversion that works for workers
Many working people are understandably concerned that they will not be treated justly by a green conversion, that they will lose their jobs and incomes. But the needs of workers and environmental justice do not need to be pitted against one another.
A green conversion plan can treat workers justly, by creating union jobs with good incomes and by guaranteeing wages and jobs for displaced workers. This is why many unions have already been working hard on green plans. These include the Canadian Union of Postal Workers’ “Delivering Community Power” campaign, the “Green Jobs Oshawa” launched by GM workers, and the Coalition of Building Trades Unions’ “Building it Green” program.
Alongside these worker-based initiatives, green conversion should include a shorter work week with no loss in take-home pay. This is a proven job creator which also increases the amount of leisure time that working people have.
5. Planning and control – for jobs, justice and sustainability
Economic development in Ontario privileges the south of the province, particularly the Golden Horseshoe. A green conversion needs to be planned, to ensure that development occurs more equitably in rural areas, the north and the east. Indigenous communities need to be fully consulted and must have a veto over development that occurs on or affects their lands. Working people need to be engaged, through their unions and community organizations. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work – finding the best low-impact alternatives for each region requires a democratic process.
Inequality in society is reflected in inequality in consumption – while many people do not have enough food, clothing and shelter, there are others who are wasting the environment through their decadent lifestyles. Action against the environmental crisis also includes strategies to increase conservation and to reduce wasteful, high-impact consumption, both industrial and personal. This means shifting from cars to free, high quality public transit, changing the design of buildings, retrofitting existing structures and addressing industrial and agricultural practices.
It means legislating strict limits on emissions and pollution and enforcing them with stiff penalties, including public takeover of offending companies. Corporate-oriented policies like carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes are inadequate – they take too long, they allow the largest corporations to continue polluting, and they increase the costs for working people in the process.
It also means managing and curtailing economic growth that relies on the exploitation of non-renewable resources, developing stronger recycling and reuse initiatives, and supporting agricultural practices that foster environmental and public health.
Relying on private sector incentives to fix the climate and environmental crisis isn’t working.
It’s time to defeat Doug Ford and take decisive action – we have a planet to save and a world to win!
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