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Ottawa pulls pollution funds for Ontario

Millions pledged by Liberals off the table

TORONTO, QUEBEC -- The federal government has pulled the plug on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that was supposed to help Ontario phase out its high-polluting, coal-fired power plants while it concentrates on its "made-in-Canada" approach to fighting emissions that cause climate change.

Ontario officials say that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote on Wednesday to Dwight Duncan, his provincial counterpart, informing him that at least $538-million the previous Liberal government pledged to help defray the costs of the province's actions to fight global warming were off the table.

In its place, Mr. Flaherty said the Conservatives would develop their own program to control emissions, and once this plan is completed, would negotiate a new funding arrangement. No indication was given of how much the province could expect, but it is unlikely to be as generous because Ottawa is cutting spending on climate-change programs by about 80 per cent.

"The new made-in-Canada approach to climate change will address future commitments," the letter said.

Ontario officials say the action breaks a funding commitment for an important national environmental goal. The coal... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
TORONTO, QUEBEC -- The federal government has pulled the plug on hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding that was supposed to help Ontario phase out its high-polluting, coal-fired power plants while it concentrates on its "made-in-Canada" approach to fighting emissions that cause climate change.

Ontario officials say that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty wrote on Wednesday to Dwight Duncan, his provincial counterpart, informing him that at least $538-million the previous Liberal government pledged to help defray the costs of the province's actions to fight global warming were off the table.

In its place, Mr. Flaherty said the Conservatives would develop their own program to control emissions, and once this plan is completed, would negotiate a new funding arrangement. No indication was given of how much the province could expect, but it is unlikely to be as generous because Ottawa is cutting spending on climate-change programs by about 80 per cent.

"The new made-in-Canada approach to climate change will address future commitments," the letter said.

Ontario officials say the action breaks a funding commitment for an important national environmental goal. The coal phase-out is the largest effort in Canada to reduce greenhouse gases, and when it is complete in 2009, would reduce emissions by up to 30 million tonnes, or the same amount as taking seven million cars off the road, according to Ontario estimates.

"I'm very disappointed. Climate change and clean air are among our government's top priorities," Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten said in an interview.

She said the province isn't wavering in its determination to shut its coal-fired generating stations. "Our commitment to clean air in the province, I have to tell you, is steadfast, but it is a challenge," she said.

The federal money was to have come from a five-year partnership the two governments announced in May, 2005. Under this deal, the previous Liberal administration pledged to give $5.75-billion to Ontario for a range of programs, including higher education, housing, new infrastructure, climate change and other priorities.

In his letter, Mr. Flaherty gave a thumbs-up to such items as labour-market development, infrastructure and immigration programs because they "address long-standing concerns of Ontario regarding equitable treatment."

But he said he was shelving the money for higher education, housing and climate change because the agreement in these areas "went beyond long-standing concerns of Ontario and into areas of concern for all provinces and territories."

Mr. Flaherty maintained in the letter that he was delivering on federal commitments to Ontario "in an open, fair and principled manner."

Mr. Flaherty, a former Ontario cabinet minister, could not be reached for comment.

Ontario officials believe the federal action could have a national impact if it slows efforts to expand electricity-transmission ties with Quebec and Manitoba.

Manitoba is looking to build more hydroelectric plants and double the capacity of its transmission line into Ontario by 2009. Both provinces have been counting on federal support.

A spokesperson for the Manitoba government said it has not received an indication from Ottawa of its priorities on climate change.

Quebec Environment Minister Claude Béchard said yesterday that he is negotiating an agreement with Ottawa for financial compensation for the province's efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

"In recent discussions with my federal counterpart, Rona Ambrose, Ottawa has agreed to recognize what we have done in the past and what will be done in the future," Mr. Béchard said.

Quebec unveiled a new energy strategy yesterday to develop 4,500 megawatts of hydroelectric power and another 4,000 megawatts of wind power over the next 10 years. Premier Jean Charest said the plan will reduce greenhouse gases, but gave no indication that the federal government will contribute to it.

Last November, the Quebec government refused to sign a $328-million agreement on climate change with the former Liberal government after talks broke down over who would determine how the money was spent.

However, Quebec has built a harmonious relationship with the new Conservative government that could translate into financial help for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.


Source: http://www.theglobeandmail....

MAY 5 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2462-ottawa-pulls-pollution-funds-for-ontario
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