THOUGH it may not seem top of mind at the moment — what with forest fires raging, and the mercury in the mid-20s — many rural homeowners will by the middle of next month be looking to make sure their home-heating fuel tanks are topped up.
Climate change or no climate change, last winter was a doozy, with sledders and skiers able to hit the trails well into spring. It was cold, darn it.
One thing home owners won’t see on their heating bills this fall, if Premier Doug Ford is as good as his word, is an extra fee for the province’s cap-and-trade program. Ford says it’s been scrapped.
Home-heating fuel companies were required to add the fee to bills as of January 2017 to comply with cap-and-trade. Under that system, carbon producers pay for “permits” if they exceed designated “caps” on how much carbon they emit into the air. A similar system is still in force in California.
The former Wynne government took pains to emphasize that cap-and-trade wasn’t akin to a “carbon tax,” which, the Liberals said, would cost consumers even more. But many home-heating customers nonetheless saw the new line on their bill as just that — another tax. As if to add insult to injury, the HST was applied on top of the carbon fee, regardless of what a particular company chose to call it on invoices.
The result? A homeowner who was already paying about $2,000 a year for propane, saw, just like that, another $70 added to the bill for cap-and-trade.
Where did all that money go? By the time their term was coming to an end, the Liberals had collected $2.4 billion through cap-and-trade, insisting those funds didn’t end up in general revenue, but was reserved for rebates so that consumers could upgrade their furnaces, replace windows and install solar panels, for instance.
Some very well may have done that. But it was often difficult to find a contractor who participated in the Liberal’s Green Ontario program, and there were reports by some consumers that those that did overcharged for their services.
Many who could not afford to upgrade their windows or furnaces were stuck with the extra fee, having to accept on faith that the money was being used to stop the planet from over-heating.
Since most people like to see what they’re getting when they fork over their hard-earned dough, the take-it-on-faith approach was bound to very unpopular. It is no wonder Ford was able to tap into the skepticism over cap-and-trade.
When it comes to protecting the environment, the solution may ultimately be found in what consumers can easily see and understand, like a ban on plastic beads in cosmetics (they kill fish) or smoking in shopping malls (which might give non-smokers cancer).
By the same token, rain barrels have been popular because most people can appreciate a need to conserve drinking water and prevent municipal storm systems from getting over-loaded.
Adding a new tax in the name of the environment is usually viewed as just more money down the drain.