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Welcome back to The Globe’s Ontario election newsletter.

Today we’re taking a look at climate policy in Ontario, checking out the biggest environmental issues facing the province and how the parties have proposed handling them.

Adam Radwanski, a Globe and Mail feature writer and columnist who focuses on climate change policy, breaks it down for us:

Open this photo in gallery:

Illustration by Min Gyo Chung

When it comes to climate change, Ontarians face a stark choice in this spring’s provincial election campaign – albeit not quite as stark as the last time around.

Common themes from leaders’ campaigns
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Creation of more green space in the province
  • Planning for energy efficiency through alternative power sources
Where the leaders stand

Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford no longer rejects the need for any serious climate policy at all, as he did when he led his party to power in 2018. Now he is committed to delivering Ontario the green jobs of the future – recently touting hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies for electric-vehicle manufacturing and decarbonized steel production, as well as new strategies for low-emitting hydrogen and critical minerals.

That makes for some degree of consensus between Mr. Ford’s Tories, Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats, Steven Del Duca’s Liberals and Mike Schreiner’s Green Party on the need to attract such jobs to the province.

Where there is much greater disagreement between Mr. Ford and his opponents is around how much effort Ontario should be making to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, as both a moral obligation and a matter of credibility as it seeks green investment.

Emissions reductions

Mr. Ford is committing to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 – a modest goal, considering that Ontario is already most of the way there because it eliminated coal-fired electricity generation before he took office. (It’s also less ambitious than Canada’s national commitment of a 40-per-cent cut during the same time frame.)

The other parties are all promising a 50-per-cent reduction by decade’s end. And that disparity is reflected in how aggressively they want to target major emissions sources.

To speed the transition away from gasoline-powered cars and light-duty trucks, Mr. Ford’s opponents are all promising provincial sales quotas and rebates for electric vehicles (as much as $8,000 from the Liberals, up to $10,000 from the Greens and an unspecified “strong” incentive from the NDP). The Tories have promised neither, though like the other parties they now offer some supports for EV charging infrastructure.

Energy efficiency

There is an even bigger gap on energy-efficiency retrofits for homes and other buildings. The Liberals, NDP and Greens are all offering suites of policies that include grants, loans and major updates to the provincial building code. Mr. Ford has steered clear of the subject.

On electricity policy, the other parties are all promising to support renewable power sources and to phase out reliance on natural gas, with the NDP and the Greens both promising a zero-emission grid by 2030 and the Liberals pledging one “as quickly as possible.” The Tories have embraced increased natural-gas use to make up for some of the province’s nuclear power going offline and to meet rising demand.

Green spaces

The philosophical differences go on. The NDP, Liberals and Greens are all promising to significantly expand the protection of natural spaces, while attacking Mr. Ford for planning to build a highway through a section of the Greater Toronto Area’s Green Belt.

The controversy around the proposed Highway 413, though, is one of the few climate-related issues that seems to have significantly broken through in the campaign so far.

In this week’s leaders’ debate, climate change got only a few minutes of airtime, and few specific policy differences were enunciated.

But for voters who have strong opinions about whether Ontario should attempt to become a leader within Canada in reducing pollution or focus its climate policy squarely on economic self-interest, there is very much a choice.

Open this photo in gallery:

Left to right: Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Doug Ford, Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Liberal Party Leader Steven Del Duca and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner pose ahead of the Ontario party leaders' debate in Toronto on May 16, 2022.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

What’s been happening on the campaign trail?

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green party Leader Mike Schreiner have tested positive for COVID-19, while Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca both tested negative today.

Across the province, advance voting locations have opened. Voting day is officially set for June 2 but people can start casting ballots at any of the advance voting locations in their electoral district as of today.

The deadline has passed for Ontario’s political parties to finalize their lists of candidates, and it’s become apparent that an unusually high number of MPPs will not be seeking re-election in the June 2 vote – some by choice, others for more complicated reasons – setting the stage for a big crop of new faces at Queen’s Park.

Ontario Liberals, NDP state their intentions on rent control in election platforms

Opinion: With the debates now finished, only two factors could shake up Ontario election

The Globe’s platform guide breaks down each party’s promises on key issues such as health care, the economy, transportation, the environment, education and housing.

This week’s edition of The Globe’s climate change newsletter took a look at two Ontario chefs-turned-fishmongers who are working to create a greater reliance on local freshwater fisheries for both environmental and supply-chain reasons. While food systems aren’t a topic often brought up during election campaigns, stories like this demonstrate the integration of environmental concerns into daily life.

Important upcoming dates

May 23 – deadline to register to vote

May 27 – deadline to apply to vote by mail

June 2 – election day

Look for more information on how and where to vote, as well as who is running in your riding. The Globe’s Ontario election page has all the answers.

Vote of Confidence is The Globe and Mail’s newsletter focused on the 2022 Ontario election. Write to us about which issues you want to hear about and express your opinion on the policies and people we’ve examined. If you’re reading this through a browser, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

Follow Adam Radwanski on Twitter: @aradwanskiOpens in a new window
Follow Rebecca Zamon on Twitter: @rebzamOpens in a new window
Follow Caora McKenna on Twitter: @caora_mckOpens in a new window

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