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Ontario opposition political parties are condemning Doug Ford’s support for expanding natural gas, as fossil fuel giant Enbridge plans a multibillion-dollar expansion on the backs of the province’s customers.

The Ford government is out of touch with the economic and environmental realities of natural gas expansion, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner and Ontario NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns told Canada’s National Observer.

Ford’s office, which did not return a request for comment, has made expanding gas infrastructure a priority in recent years. In 2021, Ontario announced plans to subsidize new gas hookups at a cost to the public of $234 million (roughly $26,000 per new connection) to continue expanding gas connections to 2025.

Now, Enbridge is applying to the provincial regulator for a customer rate hike to support a $16-billion expansion and replacement of its gas infrastructure over the coming years.

“This is a government that has no interest in taking any climate action, and one that seems to be deeply enamoured with the gas sector,” Tabuns said. “So I would say the proposal from Enbridge is consistent with the direction this government wants to go.”

Schreiner said he voted against Ford’s gas expansion policies, but Enbridge’s application now before the Ontario Energy Board “troubles me even more from a financial and climate perspective.”

“What particularly makes this particular proposal so bad for people in Ontario is that the average consumer is going to pay up to $193 extra per year on their gas bills to fund this expansion when we have other alternatives that are non-polluting and efficient, and that being heat pumps,” Schreiner said.

The International Energy Agency, UN and others are clear that we can’t expand fossil fuel infrastructure and meet our climate obligations, Schreiner added. “So, to me, it would be smarter economically, financially, and environmentally if the government was providing subsidies to install heat pumps rather than subsidies to expand fossil gas infrastructure.”

Evidence Enbridge filed with its application shows the company is aware gas could fall from favour as the transition to clean energy progresses. A report in the filing discusses the “significant risk” of a “death spiral” where customers leave the gas grid in favour of cheaper and cleaner alternatives, creating a negative feedback loop that pushes rates higher for a shrinking pool of customers.

“It seems that the current government is doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, granting it last gasps before climate action sends it into an inevitable death spiral,” says @LanaGB_ with @envirodefence. #onpoli

At the same time, Enbridge is trying to shift the risk off itself and onto customers by increasing short-term profits, while stretching the period the pipeline system will be paid off far into the future, the application shows.

Lana Goldberg, Ontario climate program manager for advocacy organization Environmental Defence, said the shift to clean energy is already happening, noting heat pumps are cheaper to install than new gas lines, reduce energy costs and are better for the environment.

Heat pumps “would actually save homeowners tens of thousands of dollars in the long run,” she said, acknowledging there are upfront costs. “So to help people make the switch, the government really needs to organize and fund a provincewide switch to heat pumps.”

However, “it seems that the current government is doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry, granting it last gasps before climate action sends it into an inevitable death spiral,” she said.

The Ontario Energy Board isn’t expected to decide on Enbridge’s application until November. In its mission statement, the regulator describes itself as providing “independent” decision-making, but Tabuns said that isn’t quite right and the regulator hasn’t done an effective job protecting the public interest.

“One might say they're independent ... but historically the government has always had power to direct the Ontario Energy Board on policy,” he said. “So the government does have power to intervene if they think there's a problem here, I just don't think that this is a government that thinks there's a problem.

“We oppose any transfer of risk to customers… The investors and shareholders are making the profits off the system, they're the ones who have to take the risk for the system,” he said.

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Who in Ontario didn't start to smell something funky when Union Gas got bought out by Enbridge Energy and the bills started coming from Alberta.

Enbridge has a gas distribution monopoly in Toronto, and our bills come from a PO box in Scarborough.
Enbridge is headquartered in Calgary, but does business internationally, including in the US, Europe and Asia.
It has not only "natural" gas interests, (and both gas and oil pipeline interests, but also interests in oil cos. and small amounts of wind and solar power (also internationally).
Enbridge bought out Consumers Gas in Toronto some time ago.

With the NDP and Green Party leaders being so in tandem and supposedly both working for THE most important issue facing us, why on earth do they insist on scattering their force by remaining separate?

Because the NDP believes its base to be union membership, and the Green Party's is environmentalists.
Nonetheless, many, if not most, union members I know vote Conservative. Go figure.