Doug Ford promises to end cap and trade at a 2018 election stop

Piecing together the carbon pricing and capture puzzles

From lawsuits over lost investments in Ontario to pledges of major investments in the Prairies, we look at two stories from the world of emissions reductions

Remember when the Ford government took power in 2018 and abruptly axed Ontario’s cap-and-trade program, falsely labelling it a “carbon tax” and promising cost savings for taxpayers? Well, it’s kind of coming back to bite them.

Fatima Syed has the scoop on a pair of lawsuits from businesses, including the behemoth Koch Industries, who are arguing the cancellation cost them tens of millions of dollars in lost investments and contractual obligations. If the government loses either suit, it could end up costing Ontarians far more than any (unsubstantiated) vows of net benefits.

“I’ve been obsessed with the cancellation of cap-and-trade since I stood outside Queen’s Park on the day Premier Ford was sworn in and heard him officially announce the cancellation,” Fatima tells me.

And so began her odyssey to make sense of the government’s mystifying thinking on this issue and the reverberations it has had on people and businesses across the province. “Over the years, I’ve learned about what specific emissions-reduction programs were lost because of this decision and have long heard rumblings of how upset the industry was,” Fatima says. 

That hard work paid off in bringing this week’s piece to the surface. “Thanks to some sources who I speak to on the regular just to muse on the strangeness of this cancellation, I learned about these suits and presto, another small piece of the puzzle was revealed.”

The Narwhal Ontario reporter Fatima Syed
Ontario reporter Fatima Syed. Photo: Christopher Katsarov Luna / The Narwhal

In 2019, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta went to court to fight the carbon pricing program imposed by the federal government. When the provinces lost that battle, Ontario introduced Emissions Performance Standards — measures which include elements of a, yes, cap-and-trade system.

Meanwhile, Alberta and Saskatchewan are turning their attention to a different emissions-cutting idea: carbon capture.

Reporter Drew Anderson sifted through the jargon to break down exactly what you need to know about the investment boom sweeping the Prairies. In a nutshell, the technology removes carbon from industrial operations, like in the oilpatch, and stores it underground or uses it to make products like steel.

(While you might have heard hype around efforts to pull carbon from the air around us at a massive scale, that is very much a work in progress.)

Governments in Canada are pouring loads of cash into carbon capture projects, but the jury is still out on just how much they’ll move the needle on emissions reductions — and whether they’ll simply serve to prop up the oil and gas industry.

Take care and don’t bait-and-switch your cap-and-trade,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience


The Narwhal behind the scenes

The Narwhal's new staff members, left to right: Lindsay Sample, Carl Meyer and Shawn Parkinson.

🥁 Drumroll please 🥁 

We’re stoked to reveal the three new Narwhals who joined our pod in January in a trio of brand-new positions!

Shawn Parkinson (that’s him on the far right) is going to be in charge of The Narwhal’s award-winning visual identity you’ve come to know and love. As our first-ever art director, Shawn brings two decades of experience from the design world, including a stint heading up the creative team at Destination B.C., to The Narwhal. 

Lindsay Sample (on the left) is ready to jump into action heading up our B.C. bureau, overseeing a team of reporters across the province. Lindsay comes over to us after more than five years at The Discourse, where she played a key role in the launch of IndigiNews.

Carl Meyer (in the middle) is already digging into all the documents as our Ottawa-based climate investigations reporter. You might recognize Carl’s byline from his regular dosage of scoops at Canada’s National Observer, where he worked as a reporter and editor for over four years.

In this Q&A, Carl tells us about what’s been getting him through the pandemic (a toddler and blanket forts), his hobbies (a skilled DJ!) and, of course, his goals for this climate investigations gig that just might be the first of its kind in the country: “I hope readers will learn that the issues are much more complicated than they seem,” Carl says.

Speaking of which: Carl and Ontario reporter Fatima Syed are working on a story about climate-related risks to the financial system. Have you, your home or your insurance been adversely affected by climate-connected events? Or are you worried about this happening? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch.

Oh, and stay tuned for more Q&As with our newest Narwhals 👀


This week in The Narwhal

New salmon farm proposals for B.C. coast raise questions about Ottawa’s promised 2025 phase-out

The nets of a salmon farm on the B.C. coast are seen in dark waters

By Judith Lavoie

Twelve proposals to expand or create new open-net pen operations — many pitched in partnership with First Nations — may shed light on industry’s emerging tactics to keep fish farms alive in the Pacific. Read more.


Governments are investing billions into carbon capture in the Prairies. Here’s what you need to know

This image shows the Sturgeon refinery in Alberta.

By Drew Anderson

As carbon capture, utilization and storage becomes more prevalent, some advocates question whether it amounts to another way to prop up the oil and gas industry. Others argue it’s the only way forward to a net-zero future. We dive in. Read more.


Maple syrup meltdown: in a changing climate, what’s to become of Canada’s sweetest commodity?

Canadian maple syrup can

By Peter Kuitenbrouwer

A global maple syrup shortage has led to a massive withdrawal from Quebec’s reserves — but an even greater threat to the supply is looming. Read more.


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Globe and Mail: how elders from Nunavut end up in long-term care thousands of kilometres from home.
Hakai: These turtles fly south for winter

GIF of three dogs dressed as judges.

When you’re weighing the pawsible outcomes in a lawsuit. Put on your best robe and then tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter.

The government didn’t formally inspect a crucial pipeline for years. Then came the safety concerns

Manitoba has not formally inspected Winnipeg’s main fuel supply pipeline in the last four years, instead allowing industry to take the lead on oversight —...

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