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Ontario Liberals strike committee to study carbon tax options

Reviving cap and trade and monetary policies are among the climate change and emissions control options the Ontario Liberals are willing to consider as the third-place party begins drafting its platform ahead of the 2026 election.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie said the party is striking a climate change and environment team panel to study a variety of measures to reduce Ontario’s carbon emissions that would eventually be adopted as part of an election platform.

The push to clarify the party’s position comes as the Ford government tries to label Crombie as the “queen of the carbon tax,” linking the new Liberal leader to the controversial federal price on carbon.

While the Ontario Liberals haven’t revealed who will sit on their panel, Crombie said its objective is to investigate “tools that can be used to address the issue of (greenhouse gas) emissions and pollution.”

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Crombie said monetary tools could be among the suite of options but stressed it fees would target polluters over families.

“We will make polluters pay, but it will be affordable for families,” Crombie said. “So we’ve got an expert panel struck to come up with suggestions for us on what is the direction we will go.”

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The Ford government has repeatedly used the federal price on carbon as a talking point in the Ontario legislature to highlight the impact on families and businesses. Friendly questions from backbench MPPs have asked cabinet members including the solicitor general and the minister of long-term care to explain tenuous links between the federal levy and difficulties in their portfolios.

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On Friday, Ford also fired off a warning shot to the federal Liberal government suggesting carbon pricing is impacting the party’s polling.

“Wake up, smell the coffee,” Ford said during an unrelated announcement in Milton, Ont. “Cancel this carbon tax, put it on hold, do whatever. And if you don’t, the people of Canada are going to annihilate you when the election comes up, simple as that.”

Liberal MPP Adam Van Koeverden shot back at the Ford government and said the premier only has himself to blame for the federally imposed carbon pricing.

“That’s a backstop,” Van Koeverden said. “The only reason that Ontarians pay a carbon tax is because Doug Ford cancelled cap and trade, which also eliminated over $3 billion in revenue.”

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Introduced by former Premier Kathleen Wynne, cap and trade was Ontario’s answer to carbon emissions. The program allowed emitters to purchase pollution credits from the province and swap unused credits with companies in Quebec and California.

The province was legally required to repurpose revenues from cap and trade into environmental benefits like rebates for retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient and subsidies for electric vehicles.

The Ford government cancelled the system immediately after taking office in 2018, leading to the federal importation of the price on carbon.

“The only reason it’s in place in Ontario is because Doug Ford decided to foolishly and recklessly cancel our cap and trade program,” Van Koeverden said.

While revenues collected under the federal price are returned to Ontario homes, critics of the price argue the increasing costs on residents and business owners will eclipse the rebate cheques handed out by the federal government.

While Crombie has ducked questions about whether she supports the federal price on carbon, she expressed support for the previous cap and trade system.

“It was a great program,” Crombie said. “Certainly cap and trade is something that would be considered.

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