Ontario Plans to Expand Use of Natural Gas to Generate Electricity. What's Up With That? Why Should I Care?

Back in early July '23 several constituents in Parkdale-High Park met virtually first with our MPP Bhutila Karpoche, and then with our MP Arif Virani, and voiced our concerns about the provincial government’s plans to expand existing gas plants and build new gas plants in order to produce electricity. We underscored the serious public health concerns, and the impossibility of meeting our climate targets if we were to allow this path. We asked our MPP to please, in conjunction with our MP, host a town hall to raise public awareness of what’s at stake.

The Town Hall on Gas Plant Expansion in Ontario took place early evening October 17th at Swansea Town Hall. MPP Karpoche provided an overview, along with MPP Peter Tabuns, NDP Critic for Climate Action and Critic for Energy. Keith Brooks, Programs Director, Environmental Defence, spoke about alternative, cheaper, faster, safer ways to generate electricity. Dr. Mili Roy, Ontario Regional Chair of Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Co-Chair of Ontario Climate Emergency Campaign,  presented up to date information on the health hazards of using ‘natural’ gas, i.e. methane, to generate electricity.  Rita Bijons spoke on behalf of Green 13 and Parkdale-High Park for Climate Action, and expressed serious public concerns regarding gas plant expansion, and promoted local actions towards a climate-safe, healthy, sustainable present and future.

Dr. Mili Roy presented very sobering, worrisome information regarding the health impacts of gas plants. She has kindly shared her slides here. This is essential information. Please take the time to view these slides, and better understand what is at stake, and the urgency to refuse gas plant expansion, indeed to phase out the use of gas.

Let’s think back. 1988.  Stephen Lewis chaired the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security. The “ first global scientific consensus” that the world was “entering an era of unprecedented climate change” emerged from that meeting. They concluded that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution "represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe. Among recommendations, the 1988 conference “proposed a specific initial target of global reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide - 20% below 1988 levels by 2005".

We live in a time of distressing news - overwhelmed by word of grotesque, dehumanizing wars; concerns about housing, inflation, financial insecurity, food insecurity; a summer of fire, floods, storms, heat. Enough to make you shut down, and stop following the news.  Enough to make you not pay attention to big decisions being made by our provincial government that affect our energy future and obliterate chances of keeping our climate safe. But - - what we want, what we need,  is a climate-safe, healthy, sustainable present and future.

Last summer, the smoke from fires hundreds of kilometres away came to fill our lungs, reduce our activity and keep us indoors. Let’s remember - we have one aerial ocean on this planet. What is pumped into the air somewhere, can go anywhere, and does.

Local climate action:
We live in this community, and love it. Over these past 15 years, fully acknowledging climate change is real, dangerous, and that we should do something about it, Green 13 has worked on projects such as
1/ Project Neutral (helping households assess and take measures to reduce their carbon footprint)
2/ Urban Forest  (helping identify ash trees at risk by the EAB; holding events for TreeMobile, Tree For Me; organizing JAAST, Junction Adopt-a-Street-Tree; providing bursaries for LEAF’s Tree Tenders training...)
3/ Junction Geo (Two members, Nataša Zupancic and Paul Mero,  devoted over a year to a serious, innovative study as to how to bring a district-based geoexchange system to the Junction area)
always with a view to reducing GHGs, decarbonizing, assuring the safest climate possible.

Just prior to the provincial election of 2018, Green 13 worked hard to promote public awareness/understanding of the Green Ontario Fund. The many GHG reduction incentives offered through the program promised to accelerate the reduction of GHGs in Ontario. This fund was terminated by the PCs when they terminated the Cap and Trade agreement, pretty well at the same time as some 750 green energy projects were cancelled. Valuable time has now been lost, during which we could have been accelerating the transition to safer sources of energy, and a safe climate.
G13, PHP4CA (Parkdale-High Park for Climate Action), and GNN (Green Neighbours’ Network) have been collaborating to provide meaningful opportunities for young people, e.g. through summer jobs, to act to reduce GHGs.

We continually strive to increase public awareness and discourse around this issue, the folly of gas plant expansion, among other issues in the climate crisis. Hence this town hall.  Residents must speak up - to all our elected representatives - and press them to work together,-  because we need interjurisdictional collaboration and problem-solving, e.g.
  -  co-host demonstrations here in our riding/ward e.g. of heat pumps  
  -  provide clear information regarding incentives; provincial and federal rebate programs should be connected and simple to use
  -  remove barriers, make the transition equitable:  provide incentives for both home owners and renters; free for those who qualify by income; free or low cost              utility/electrical upgrades
  -  mandate energy efficiency requirements - must be written in to policy and/or code; new build, new developments should be required to be net-zero
  - create an Energy Efficiency Ministry
  - CONSERVATION: Has that fallen by the wayside??

What is possible through collaboration:
• November 5, 2023 15th annual EcoFair Toronto  Artscape Wychwood Barns. This is orchestrated by GNN, Green Neighbours’ Network 
   - sign up  to GNN’s superb newsletter - and be connected with green, neighbourhood level groups across the city
• Ward 4 is fortunate that a Neighbourhood resiliency map - has been developed by map makers
  -  learn about extreme heat, flooding and more

Take action:
• Speak up right (Nov. 2'23 deadline)now for rigorous Clean Electricity Regulations - with no loopholes. Read the draft regulations.  Go to the websites of OCEC signatories, the David Suzuki Foundation  , Ontario Clean Air Alliance  , and Environmental Defence , for ways to add your voice on the federal Clean Electricity Regulations before the Nov. 2 deadline. Advocate to eliminate the loopholes that enable the Ford government’s new or expanded gas-fired power plants, in operation by 2025, to continue power production for another 20 years. Read additional suggestions for your letters to ensure the CERs don’t defeat their own purpose.
• Letter: Stop the Expansion of Gas Plants in Ontario. Tell Doug Ford and  Energy Minister Todd Smith to take our climate crisis seriously, stop expanding gas generation, and build a clean energy grid now.

• Petition: to the Ontario Legislative Assembly - Pause the expansion of methane-fired electricity generation. This petition was created by CCL, Citizens’ Climate Lobby
• Petition:  Hold the Government of Ontario accountable to a livable climate future Sign the petition here.  
- CAPE has a number of ways for you to join their campaign to ban fossil fuel advertising.  Check them out here. https://cape.ca/focus/fossil-fuel-ad-ban/

This is the time, “our fragile moment”, as Michael Mann names it, to cast off the now dangerous energy regime of the past, and bring about the vibrant energy regime that supports a climate-safe, healthy, sustainable present and future.

Well, how about this :

Nova Scotia has just released (Oct. 16 ’23) Nova Scotia’s 2030 Clean Power Plan    
• achieve 80% renewables (new wind and solar projects; continued imports of hydro from Labrador)
• cut electricity GHGs by 90%
• close coal by 2030
• improve grid resiliency