I grew up in rural southern Ontario. My childhood was spent fishing along the Rondeau River. During the province’s three summers of rain, we traipsed along the river back-country in our canoe and listened to the barometric pressure and the birdsong. Back then, the wild took precedence over the towns or cities and other pressures.
So I have little interest in highlighting the usual Environmental Protection Agency rhetoric about the need to manage and clean up our waters. But Ontario’s latest measures, its plan to allow oilsands producers to double their bitumen extraction rate in the province’s oilsands and proposed gas pipeline expansion, are downright shameful.
The province wants to revamp its energy sector, and, for the first time in decades, industry and not government officials will make energy policy decisions. But Ontario is taking too fast a course.
The province has promised increased investments in renewable energy and 50,000 new green jobs. It has invested $1.2 billion in a Green Ontario Fund. However, as I write these words, it has not announced a plan for how to cut its carbon emissions, much less tackle climate change. It’s not just about how fast it is rolling out these proposals, but how it is doing it.
My greatest regret is that we see little sign of improvement for our deteriorating water quality. So much depends on the management of our rivers and lakes. Unfortunately, in response to the population and economic demands in the south, money is going to big cities, such as Toronto, as opposed to promoting green energy. And where is the government strategy to reduce population and reduce air pollution and water pollution? I can’t find anything.
I raise these issues now not for their political merit, but because we have a chance to turn things around, if only we rise to it. We, in the North, are seeing more and more rainfall. A variety of climate models predict a dramatic increase in rainfall in Ontario, but we’re also preparing for a sea-level rise. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to invest in green, renewable energy.
There is no serious opposition to pipelines in Quebec or in Alberta. We’re all in it together. If we invest in clean, renewable energy, save our land, stop fossil fuel production, and reduce our population, we can end up in a healthier and fairer society.
Wouldn’t you rather stay in a place that means something? For a generation of North Ontarians, that may be the question we must ask ourselves. This is time for boldness.