Ottawa set to unveil climate plans
Harper government lays groundwork by borrowing Liberal initiatives
OTTAWA — The Conservative government is launching a series of new climate-change policies this week before MPs return for what is expected to be a heated parliamentary session dominated by divisions over the environment.
Some of the measures will have a familiar ring, as they include elements of Liberal climate-change programs scrapped or frozen last year by the Conservatives. One will include the revival and expansion of a Liberal incentive for companies to build more wind power. Another, dealing with energy efficiency for homes, is sure to be compared with the Liberals' Energuide program that had been scrapped.
The Conservatives froze or axed dozens of climate-change programs upon taking office, promising a review of whether they were cost-effective and achieving results.
The announcements begin tomorrow and will mark the government's first policy moves since Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to do "a lot more" on climate change as he shuffled his cabinet this month.
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That will be followed by an announcement Friday in Victoria, where new incentives for renewable power production will be rolled out. Then on Sunday in Toronto, the government will announce new energy-efficiency measures for vehicles and residential homes.
The announcements are likely aimed at building momentum for the Tories on the environment as they prepare to square off with the opposition over how to address the most challenging climate-change hurdles -- namely the emissions from Canada's big oil and power companies.
Advocates of wind power have been waiting for a signal from the Conservatives since a federal subsidy, introduced by the Liberals and called the Wind Power Production Initiative, was frozen early last year.
The program, launched in 2002, gave a federal subsidy of one cent for every kilowatt hour produced through wind power for the first 10 years of a new operation.
The 2005 Liberal budget promised to extend the program over 15 years for a total cost of $920-million, but the Conservatives said the incentive was on hold while all federal climate programs were reviewed.
The Liberals also promised a new program for all other renewable fuels -- such as solar and tidal power -- that would be worth $886-million over 15 years, but it was never implemented.
Mr. Lunn is expected to revive both programs this week and merge them under a new name and increased funding.
Bruce McCallum, president of the Canadian Bioenergy Association, said he would welcome a federal commitment to renewable power, but said industry is concerned about the lack of certainty.
Just as the previous Liberal commitments were derailed by a federal election, Mr. McCallum said, it is uncertain whether any announcements made this month would survive if the government is defeated this spring.
"Industry is getting very confusing signals," he said in an interview.
On energy efficiency, Mr. Lunn has previously promised a range of new regulations under the Energy Efficiency Act. The Conservatives gave notice last May that a range of air conditioners and other widely used appliances such as vending machines would be forced to use less power.
Air conditioners are a major drain on power supplies during hot summer days and ultimately produce more heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In Ontario, for instance, high power use in the summer forces Ontario Power Generation to fire up all of its coal-power plants, which are a leading source of greenhouse-gas emissions.
The David Suzuki Foundation issued a report yesterday calling for a 6-per-cent rebate on energy-efficient appliances that would be paid for by a 6-per-cent tax on non-efficient appliances.
Calling the proposal "Switch Green," Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Pierre Sadik said the idea has been well received by federal public servants.
"Everyone sees this as a win-win proposal and the way of the future," he said. "Now that the Harper government claims it's turned over a new leaf, the big question is, do they have the political will to make polluters pay?"