The cancellation of Ontario’s cap and trade system is killing a London bid for cash to launch a green bin program.
Premier Doug Ford’s move to axe cap and trade – and the programs it funded – eliminates London’s chance to tap into a provincial fund to offset the costs of starting curbside organic collection.
London had a $2 million ask in the pipeline as part of the second phase of the province’s greenhouse gas challenge fund. But that pocket of provincial cash is no more.
“Ontario has taken swift action to cancel the cap and trade program as part of its commitment to bring gas prices down and help reduce costs for Ontario families and businesses,” a spokesperson from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks wrote in an e-mailed statement.
“All programs currently funded through cap and trade proceeds will be cancelled.”
Jay Stanford, the city’s waste and environment boss, isn’t ready to write off the Progressive Conservative government.
“They have been in power before and they did a lot of good things for the environment. They’re very big on making sure that the value is there for the items being spent on,” he said.
London picked up $1.45 million through the first phase of the greenhouse gas challenge, a provincial fund for climate change-fighting projects. Those dollars are slated for a bike share system and a conversion plan to switch garbage trucks from diesel to natural gas.
The start-up cost of an organics program is pegged at $12 million, and the city expects collecting food waste at the curb could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 11,000 tonnes a year. Operating costs were estimated at more than $4 million in a 2016 business case.
But even if the end of provincial cap and trade revenue spells doom for the greenhouse gas challenge fund, the city can tap other sources to offset the start-up costs of a green bin program, Stanford said, like federal gas tax dollars or a green fund doled out by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Coun. Stephen Turner, a green bin advocate, called the cap and trade cancellation “indirect downloading.”
“Where we had another source of funds to help offset the costs of these programs coming from taxation and a provincial program, now it’s shifting the responsibility fully to municipalities to bear these costs,” he said.
And he stressed London will have to create some kind of organics program to manage its food waste, with or without help from other levels of government.
“We’ve had a couple of carrots dangled in front of us that have been removed, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re going to have to do something with our landfill space,” he said.
The city dump only has seven years of capacity left.
Skylar Franke, executive director of the London Environmental Network, said it’s time for the city to invest money in launching a green bin program.
“It needs to be paid at some point. The sooner we do it, the easier it is to swallow that number,” Franke said.
“It’s definitely required and needed for a city of our size.”