Ontario's cap-and-trade plan will cost $8 billion in first few years: AG

Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

By Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Glen Murray talk to media about the new provincial climate change strategy at the Royal Ontario Museum on Nov. 24, 2015. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun files)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Glen Murray talk to media about the new provincial climate change strategy at the Royal Ontario Museum on Nov. 24, 2015. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun files)

Toronto - 

The Liberal government’s cap-and-trade plan will not “significantly” lower emissions in the province by 2020, Bonnie Lysyk says, calling their forecasts “unrealistic.”

But the auditor general warned Wednesday that Ontario’s cap-and-trade program will cost consumers and businesses $8 billion in its first years of operation to get minimal greenhouse gas reductions.

Households will pay an average of $156 next year in added costs on gasoline and natural gas, rising to $210 in 2019 plus another $75 that year in indirect costs on goods and services, she said.

The government has also earmarked $1.32 billion out of the expected $8 billion in projected cap-and-trade revenue to help offset the cost of residential and business electricity bills, but it doesn’t say how, according to Lysyk’s report.

The AG says that Ontario will fall well below its target of 18.7 megatonnes of emission reductions. Based on a study that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change commissioned, the province will achieve 3.8 megatonnes, or about 20% of the target, she said.

In addition, the ministry plans to count emission reductions that Quebec and California achieve in the system towards their goals.

“The potential exists for double reporting of emission reductions between California, Quebec and Ontario,” Lysyk said.

The Liberal plan will cost Ontario households and businesses $8 billion between 2017 and 2020, she noted.

The cap and trade system comes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

— With files from The Canadian Press

sjeffords@postmedia.com