A number of Ontario municipalities have opted to make pronouncements regarding a ban on natural gas of late.
The first city involved was Kitchener, Ontario, whose city council last week called on the provincial government to phase out natural gas power generation by 2030. Kitchener was following the example of the town of Halton Hills, which previously made this demand.
Other Ontario municipalities are now considering jumping on this foolish bandwagon, with Hamilton stating just this week that they were thinking along the same lines. There have been similar developments in other provinces recently, such as Vancouver limiting natural gas use in new construction and considering banning gas appliances for low-rise buildings.
It wasn’t that long ago that the self-professed “green” Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty built new gas plants to replace the generation of electricity by coal in the province. Scandal surrounded the construction of the gas plants as McGuinty spent over a billion tax dollars needlessly for purely partisan reasons to change the location of the plants, but there was no controversy over the fact that natural gas is a much cleaner energy source than coal. In fact, decades ago, consumers were encouraged to convert oil furnaces to natural gas and many did at considerable personal expense.
The majority of the new home construction in Canada in recent years has involved installing natural gas furnaces as the norm and often natural gas appliances as well. Now it seems that some governments want to once again change the goal posts as to which energy source is viewed as most desirable, and consumers rightfully are fed up with being asked to spend yet more money to comply with the latest government whim.
Another key reason for increasing natural gas-generated hydro capacity in Ontario was to provide back-up for unreliable solar and wind power generation. When McGuinty brought in the Green Energy Act (GEA) in 2009 with great fanfare about how wonderful it would be for the environment, those promoting wind and solar were well aware of the fact that back-up would be needed if Ontarians were not to freeze in the dark. Nothing has changed on that front, although the GEA drove hydro prices through the roof and Ontarians are to this day spending much more for hydro than they should, putting them at a disadvantage relative to other provinces and US states that did not implement such a punitive and unnecessary policy.
In addition, governments that think eliminating natural gas is feasible have no logical answer to what will replace it. Ontarians are already paying dearly for the billions that were sunk into “green” energy sources, and don’t need any more failed experiments driven by politics, not economics and common sense.
Another question is why are municipalities meddling at all in an area that has nothing to do with their jurisdiction? Energy policy is in the domain of the provincial and federal governments, not municipalities. It is easy to conclude that this recent trend of making grand gestures on such issues as banning natural gas is merely an exercise in virtue signalling.
The more time city councillors spend on things outside of their purview, the less time they have to spend on their actual job to perform such functions as garbage collection, keeping local infrastructure in shape, maintaining sewers and transit systems and hopefully doing so in a tax-efficient manner. Too many municipalities seem to distract themselves from their real job these days by getting involved with the latest trendy cause. For example, Niagara Regional Council and St. Catharines City Council has for some reason found it necessary to petition the federal government in recent months on issues such as the decriminalization of drugs, defunding the police, guaranteed income and other issues that have nothing to do with municipal government. If municipal politicians would stay in their lane and do their real job, they would be serving taxpayers more effectively than when they are wasting time and taxpayer dollars on ideological flights of fancy outside of their sphere of influence.
By all sensible reasoning, natural gas remains an affordable, clean and reliable means of satisfying Ontarians’ energy needs. Many different so-called green policies have been inflicted on Ontarians and their fellow citizens across Canada, including the GEA, carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, emissions controls and others.
The major impact of these green policies has been to increase the cost of living for average citizens, line the pockets of producers of alternate energy and environmental activist organizations at taxpayer expense, and have minimal if any positive results for the environment in proportion to all the money spent.
The last thing we need, especially as businesses and households struggle to cope with pandemic-related hardships, is more virtue-signalling from the elected representatives that are supposed to be working in our best interests.
Catherine Swift is currently President and CEO of Working Canadians (www.workingcanadians.ca. Prior to that, Catherine Swift had been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business since September 1987, initially as Chief Economist. She became Chair in June 1999 after being named Chief Executive Officer in July 1997 and President in May of 1995. Her various responsibilities included coordinating policy issues at federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, representing CFIB with politicians, government, business, media and other groups.
Ms. Swift has worked with the federal government in Ottawa holding several positions with the Departments of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Industry and Communications. Her areas of specialization included corporate and industrial analysis and international trade. Catherine Swift has a MA in Economics.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines and other media on such small business issues as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship and women small business owners. Ms. Swift is a Past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the C.D. Howe Institute and past President of the International Small Business Congress. She was cited in 2003 and again in 2012 as one of the top 100 most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network.