When the political parties in Ontario’s election campaign are supposedly trying to outcompete one another on green issues and the best the mainstream parties can do is that one of the leaders will be riding in an SUV instead of a bus, it’s not much of a fight. (Kudos to the Toronto Star, though, for taking the time to ask exactly what form the carbon offsets some of them are buying will take: solar water-heating projects in Ontario itself, not some fly-by-night tree-planting Potemkin operation someplace nobody will ever inspect.)
The intersection of environmental concern and economics should be front-and-centre in this campaign, instead of relegated to the B list of political issues. The A list consists of one item so far, with the election just about a month and a half away: the question of extending public funding and supervision to currently private religious schools, which would supposedly cost about $400 million out of a $95-billion provincial budget and which nobody was talking about a month ago.
Relegated to positions of lesser importance:
- Ontario’s energy future. We’re and struggling to close a 4,000-megawatt coal plant. The governing Liberals have had n success reducing consumption and contracting for — not yet delivering, but it’s a long process — greener and more renewable power sources, but is it enough and is it happening fast enough. What are we going to do when our nuclear plants, the backbone of the publicly owned generating system, reach the ends of their lives in 10 to 20 years? We need to make those decisions now.
- Ontario’s industrial future. We make a lot of big cars, and the auto and parts plants have historically provided many thousands of good jobs at good wages. Big cars aren’t selling like they used to. The governing Liberals have spent hundreds of millions to help automakers retool and redesign, but is that the right approach? And if so, is it enough?
- Ontario’s transportation future. Most transportation of people and goods in this very large province happens on six- and four-lane divided highways. Is that system going to last? Should we be thinking about rail or shipping?
- Ontario’s climate future. Are we making any plans whatsoever for adapting to a warming planet?
These are burning questions of science, economics, urban and rural planning, and yes, even ideology. The answers matter.