Everyone but David Piccini will be at our Ontario election forum. Plus, what’s OPG up to?

We invited the Progressive Conservatives to our election event, but they turned us down. Everyone else is coming — and we hope you’ll join us, too

You’re invited! Ever since the success of our Greenbelt live event last fall, we’ve been eager to hold another. And the time has come: please join us over Zoom on Wednesday, May 18, at 6 p.m. ET, for an election-focused panel on Ontario’s environment. 

We’ll be discussing environmental missteps (and a few successes!) over the past four years, and how politicians can build climate consensus — no matter who the next premier is. While the current environment minister, Progressive Conservative David Piccini, declined our invitation, candidates from the other major parties will all be there: Liberal environment critic Lucille Collard, deputy Green Party leader Dianne Saxe and NDP environment critic Sandy Shaw. 

I’ll be there too, of course, along with our star Ontario reporters Emma McIntosh and Fatima Syed. Spaces are limited, so register for free today to guarantee your spot!

Speaking of Fatima: we just published a scoop of hers that was five months in the making, the result of a tip she got from someone in the energy industry. They told her that Ontario Power Generation, the Crown corporation that generates most of the province’s electricity, is selling clean energy credits — despite the fact that the Doug Ford government killed the only emissions trading market Ontario has had right after taking office in 2018.

What’s more, OPG — yeah, you know me — hasn’t publicized these sales very well within the industry. The power generator told Fatima it’s actually been selling credits since 2013. But multiple sources told us word only began to spread about this a few months ago. Other power generators, environmental organizations and industry watchers were caught unaware about a program they say undermines their own clean energy efforts. 

“Ontario’s energy industry is very opaque, so connecting the dots to tell the story of OPG sales took some time,” Fatima told me. “The one thing that is painfully clear is that we are once again witnessing climate policy that puts business interests first.”

Illustration for OPG story: the map of Ontario in puzzle pieces
Ontario Power Generation has been selling clean energy credits to jurisdictions that want to to offset their own emissions from fossil fuel-generated electricity and meet their climate goals. Illustration: Shawn Parkinson / The Narwhal

Fatima couldn’t get straight answers from Ontario Power Generation about who the credits are being sold to or where the revenue is being directed. Industry watchers worry the sale of these credits means emissions saved by Ontario’s use of hydropower are being counted twice: that Ontario is noting them in its own emissions reductions math, while the credits are also being used to offset emissions by whatever companies or government are buying them. OPG told Fatima that this is not the case, but it didn’t share any data to refute those concerns.

Just before dissolving the legislature and calling an election, the Ford government moved to create a new, voluntary clean energy registry — which industry watchers say could be an attempt to legitimize OPG’s program after the fact. 

“I’ve been talking to people about these sales for five months and I still have so many questions: how did this all start? Why did it start?” Fatima said. “With the government now proposing its own registry for voluntary clean energy credit sales, we’ll definitely be watching this space closely.”

Power up!

Denise Balkissoon
Ontario bureau chief

Illustrated title in comic book style: "Fact check of the week."

Did the last Liberal government really carve up the Greenbelt?

In the first official week of the campaign, the NDP took the Liberals to task over the boundaries of the Greenbelt. The former Liberal government, the NDP alleged, changed the Greenbelt’s boundaries 17 times — a talking point also used by the Progressive Conservatives. But is it true?

It is correct that the Liberals changed the boundaries of the Greenbelt 17 times, but there’s some nuance there — the adjustments amounted to about 150 hectares worth of small tweaks. If you look at a map of the Greenbelt’s original boundaries, settled in 2005, it looks pretty much the same as the Liberals’ 2017 update.

Ontario Greenbelt map
The Ontario Greenbelt rings around the Greater Toronto Area, stretching from northeast of Cobourg to Niagara with one branch north to the Bruce Peninsula. Map: Jeannie Phan / The Narwhal

In 2020, former premier Kathleen Wynne said the changes were “minor adjustments.”

“I think it is legitimate that when a government puts a policy in place — we created the Greenbelt — it is only reasonable to make adjustments if there were mistakes,” Wynne said. “I’m the first to admit that there were mistakes made in some cases.”

Overall, the total Greenbelt area grew during the Liberals’ time in power. During the 2017 update, the government added 10,100 hectares to the protected zone, mostly in urban river valleys— Emma

Illustrated title in comic book style: "ELXN SZN EXTRAS."
A sign that says "Entering the Greenbelt" stands above grass on a sunny day.

What’s missing from Doug Ford’s proposed expansion of the Ontario Greenbelt

By Emma McIntosh

The Ontario government initially planned more ambitious additions to the Greenbelt. But after pushback from cities and industry, what’s left are a series of river valleys that were already protected. Read more.

Doug Ford in the driver's seat of an Ontario Northland train.

Passenger rail in northeastern Ontario again? Three parties choo-choo-choose trains this election

By Ashley Okwuosa

Students, First Nations and patients seeking medical care were left with few options when passenger trains stopped in 2012. Bringing them back would be welcome — and expensive. Read more.

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Ontario might reduce its gas tax. Alberta killed its tax. Will this mean more driving?

By Denise Balkissoon

Driving decreased after B.C. introduced a fuel tax in 2008. But cutting or lowering gas taxes doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite will happen. Read more.

a GIF of a disappointed dog putting their paw on a treadmill.

When the governing party turns down your event invite. Tell your friends to say yes to The Narwhal by reading and subscribing to Political Climate.

See where 120 orphaned baby bears take shelter as B.C. wildfires and drought shrink their habitat

It’s early February and the fields surrounding Northern Lights Wildlife Society shelter in Smithers, B.C., are bare and brown. Extreme drought conditions that dried up...

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