Environmental advocates say the Ford government’s plan to hold a carbon-pricing referendum is no more than a political tool to attack opponents and will ultimately hinder efforts to combat climate change.

Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a proposed law requiring any future government to put a new provincial carbon pricing program to a referendum. This referendum would specifically pertain to provincial measures and not include the federal carbon pricing system implemented in Ontario after Ford's government cancelled the previous provincial Liberal government's cap-and-trade program.

Keith Brooks, programs director at Environmental Defence, said it is pointless for the Ontario government to poll constituents about a pricing system the province can’t control. Carbon pricing has already been introduced and the Supreme Court has affirmed that it has valid federal jurisdiction, he said. “It's really not up to the provinces as to whether it exists.”

Brooks said Ford’s plans are counter-productive in other ways, as well. “Premier Ford is one of many leaders in Canada who conveniently forget that any money collected via carbon pricing is returned to families, leaving 80 per cent of households better off,” he said. “In our view, carbon pricing is a good policy that sends a message about the need to reduce emissions.”

Abdullah Mir, a member of the environmental advocacy group Stop Sprawl Durham, echoed concerns over the referendum's efficacy and criticized it as a distraction from pressing environmental issues.

“This is the same old nonsense from this government as before. It is 100 per cent a political stunt and a distraction, something they are absolute experts at,” said Mir.

Mir emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change, particularly in light of last year's extreme weather events. Carbon pricing is an effective tool for reducing emissions and transitioning to clean energy, he noted. “Now is the time to tackle climate change, yet this government wants to play games and distract from its nonsense by putting forward useless, silly legislation like this one.”

Mir highlighted the absence of referendums on various significant issues, such as the redevelopment of Ontario Place, the construction of Highway 413, health-care privatization, changes to municipal powers and the Greenbelt land swap.

Announcing a carbon-pricing referendum, Ford also attacked Ontario's new Liberal leader, Bonnie Crombie, saying she supported the carbon tax right from the start and dubbed her “the queen of carbon tax.”

People in Ontario are getting increasingly agitated by the Ford government's hostile environmental agenda and want an end to attacks on the Greenbelt, the push for Highway 413, and bluster on climate change, says Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence

However, in a recent interview with City News, Crombie clarified that she has never made a statement about the carbon tax, but it's something she will study further.

Mir said Ford employs the carbon tax issue as a political weapon to divert attention from his scandals and the province's deterioration, knowing it garners media coverage and controversy. “The sad reality is that the carbon tax has been politicized when it has no reason to be. It is an economic measure, an economic tool, not a political weapon,” he said.

“It's a real shame because if the carbon tax is used and applied properly, not only do the vast majority of people get more back than they pay in carbon tax, but the revenue generated can speed up the process of making our energy infrastructure cleaner.”

Brooks said Ford should not use the carbon tax as a political strategy to defeat his opponents.

“It's too soon to judge Bonnie Crombie's record on climate, but I hope that she and other would-be premiers offer a real counterpoint to the current provincial government's approach.”

People in Ontario are getting increasingly agitated by the Ford government's hostile environmental agenda and want an end to attacks on the Greenbelt, the push for Highway 413, and bluster on climate change, he added.

In response to Ford's comments, Crombie dismissed them as diversion tactics.

“Doug Ford would sooner drag Ontario backwards just to enrich his well-connected insiders than come up with a climate plan of his own. He’s cost Ontario families real money by cancelling proven programs like the electric-vehicle rebate, conservation programs and incentives for energy-efficiency retrofits,” said Crombie in a statement shared with Canada's National Observer.

“Desperate Doug” is clearly trying to distract from his repeated failures with grandstanding ploys about federal issues, she added. “If he was actually interested in hearing what Ontarians thought, he would have held a referendum before selling off our health-care system, the Greenbelt and ServiceOntario.”

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This is an attempt by Doug Ford to distract his base from his scandals and other questionable deeds in Ontario. The article is a bang on assessment of Ford and the referendum ploy.

So, a referendum on something Doug Ford can't control, but ignores Ontarians for more important matters like the Ontario Place Redevelopment corruption, Highway 413 that no one wants but his corrupt developer donors, and more corruption on Greenbelt swap again for his corrupt developer donors. It seems Doug's corrupt developer buddies have him in their back pockets.

It is interesting that despite the claim by Doug Ford on Bonnie Crombie and carbon measures, she has never mentioned anything about carbon measures. Essentially Doug Ford has been caught in a lie as a result.

Doug Ford excels when it comes to his smoke and mirrors tactics, something that became quite obvious in the last election. Hopefully Ontarians won't be fooled again and recall his corruption next time they go to the polls. It's time to kick his corrupt butt to the curb. He can also take his other corrupt buddy Pierre Poilievre with him.