Car­bon plan to hike gas prices: Wynne

National Post (Latest Edition) - - CANADA -

TORONTO• Mo­torists and most home­own­ers in On­tario will be among those to feel the first ef­fects of the Lib­eral govern­ment’s cap- and- trade plan, pay­ing more for gaso­line and nat­u­ral gas.

Premier Kath­leen Wynne re­vealed some of the ef­fects on con­sumers Wed­nes­day, such as an in­crease of about 4.3 cents a litre on gas and about $5 more per month on res­i­den­tial nat­u­ral gas, be­fore the leg­is­la­tion en­abling cap- and- trade was to be in­tro­duced.

“The cost of do­ing noth­ing is much, much higher than the cost of go­ing for­ward and re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions,” she said.

More de­tails are ex­pected to come Thurs­day as the govern­ment ta­bles its bud­get, but the govern­ment in­di­cated Wed­nes­day that some large pol­luters will be given tem­po­rary al­lowances.

Rev­enue from the cap-and­trade auc­tion set for next year will be used to “pro­tect” con­sumers from an elec­tric­ity rate hike and could even lead to rates go­ing down, Wynne said, adding she ex­pects the pro­gram won’t in­crease elec­tric­ity costs for the in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial sec­tors.

Retrofitting and con­ser­va­tion pro­grams could also be used to off­set in­creases in nat­u­ral gas bills, she said.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Glen Mur­ray pre­dicted that driv­ers wouldn’t no­tice much of a change in gas prices, since they al­ready fluc­tu­ate.

“In my ( down­town Toronto) con­stituency, and I don’t have a big con­stituency, the dif­fer­ence in gas prices be­tween one sta­tion and an­other is greater than any change that’s go­ing to oc­cur as a re­sult of cap and trade,” he said.

Green Party of On­tario leader Mike Schreiner said large emit­ters should not be given a “free ride” through tem­po­rary re­lief as cap-and­trade is im­ple­mented.

But Mur­ray said it’s nec­es­sary to pro­tect On­tario jobs in in­dus­tries that are com­pet­ing with ju­ris­dic­tions with­out a car­bon pric­ing sys­tem. About 14 per cent of in­dus­tries will get al­lowances, he said.

“We know that the peo­ple get­ting re­duc­tions or get­ting as­sis­tance through this pro­gram are le­git­i­mately trade ex­posed and are le­git­i­mately mak­ing re­duc­tions and need that pro­tec­tion,” Mur­ray said.

NDP Leader An­drea Hor­wath sup­ports cap-and-trade but said it’s “wor­ri­some” big pol­luters are get­ting “a bit of a pass.”

Cap and trade is sched­uled to take ef­fect in Jan­uary and the govern­ment ex­pects to raise about $1.3 bil­lion in its first full year of op­er­a­tion, money that will be de­voted to low­er­ing green­house gas emis­sions.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa de­nied Wed­nes­day that cap- and- trade rev­enue would be used to lower the $7.5-bil­lion deficit, which the Lib­er­als have promised to elim­i­nate by 2017-18.

How­ever, the rev­enues still have to show up on the govern­ment’s bal­ance sheet.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Vic Fedeli be­lieves cap- and­trade rev­enue will be used to show a lower deficit, sim­i­lar to the ac­count­ing for rev­enue from a Hy­dro One IPO, even though both are ded­i­cated for spe­cific funds for cli­mate change ini­tia­tives and in­fra­struc­ture projects.

The fall eco­nomic state­ment showed a 2015-16 deficit pro­jec­tion that was $1 bil­lion lower than was fore­cast in last year’s bud­get — much of the rev­enue boost was due to IPO rev­enue on the books, but Sousa de­nied it was be­ing used to lower the deficit.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

“The cost of do­ing noth­ing is much, much higher than the cost of go­ing for­ward and re­duc­ing green­house

gas emis­sions,” On­tario Premier Kath­leen Wynne says of the cap-and-trade auc­tion.

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