Yesterday, when Toronto’s Premier announced her new majority government is “reintroducing legislation that would, if passed, permanently prohibit burning coal solely to generate electricity in the province”, she wasn’t anywhere near Lambton, or Nanticoke- where people has lost their jobs over the closure of coal-fired generation.
An optimist might see the move as pointless political posturing, but it’s actually more damaging.
A wide-eyed Wynne had first made the promise to introduce such legislation in front of an idol, Al Gore, during the formative years of her minority government. Barely a senior at the time, Wynne’s infatuation may have served to endear her to the urban voters that returned her to power, with a strengthened mandate, months later.
Political pandering can be damaging in itself. Ontario doesn’t generate electricity with coal in the province anymore, largely because an all-party committee reached a consensus on the issue during the government of Ernie Eves in 2002. The Toronto Premier’s need to politicize the accomplishment is unhealthy in itself.
Within 4 kilometers of Ontario’s now shuttered Lambton Generating Station are two generating stations.
Those two generating stations generated more electricity from coal in 2013 than Ontario generated since 2010.
Michigan’s Belle River and St. Clair locations likely put more CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere, in 2013, than all of the electricity generators in Ontario.
One of the reasons Toronto’s Premier announced that coal generation in Ontario would not only remain dead, but her government would be dancing on the corpse, was because The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (The ECO) was delivering a report at the same time – one titled Looking for Leadership: The Costs of Climate Inaction. The ECO title his blog entry on the reports release “Ontario Failing in Fight Against Climate Change.”
The Toronto Star noted, in Ontario warned it will mess 2020 emissions targets, the Minister introducing the legislation “conceded… it is time to stop applauding the coal plant closures “and move on” ”
Toronto’s Premier, and Minister Murray, held the photo op, using coal closures as a distraction from the government’s inaction on emissions reductions, in the middle of Toronto, with children as their audience.
A competent Premier of Ontario would have held an event near Lambton, in front of the children of displaced workers and the engineers and operators that had worked at two of the cleanest coal-fired generating units on the continent.
A leader could have told the impacted crowd why their selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and Flu Gas Desulphurization (FGD) didn’t prevent their plant from closure while their government did nothing to lobby for the cessation of the plants across the river and upwind from their communities
A leader could have differentiated her “ban coal” approach from the approach being introduced by President Obama to allow states to reduce emissions as they see fit.
A really good leader would have noted those US targets are still multiples greater than Ontario’s current emissions, and could have actually attempted to reduce global emissions by championing carbon pricing – or an honest emissions trading platform that might have Ontario benefit from the cleaner generation system once built by engineers and professionals.
A lousy leader would collect the next generation of citiots to indoctrinate with oversimplified propaganda.
As Toronto’s Premier did.