May 2, 2017
By Michelle Brownlee
On April 27, the Government of Ontario presented its first balanced budget in 9 years. The headlines had to do with its focus on health care (a universal pharmacare plan for everyone under 24) and housing (including a 16-point plan to address housing issues in the GTA in particular). But there are a number of clean economy efforts included in the budget as well.
On building a low-carbon economy, the budget provides some new details on the province’s efforts. The budget projects carbon pricing revenues from the cap-and-trade system to be $1.8 billion in 2017-18, and $1.4 billion annually starting in 2018-19. It also explains how $734 million of those initial revenues will be spent, including:
- $377 million through the Green Ontario Fund to make it easier for households and businesses to adopt proven low‐carbon technologies;
- $200 million for schools to improve energy efficiency and install renewable energy technologies;
- $85 million to support additional retrofit activities in social housing apartment buildings across the province;
- $50 million for commuter cycling infrastructure; and
- More than $22 million for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure across the province.
While there isn’t much new for clean innovation explicitly, the budget provides an update on the new Cleantech Equity Fund (a $55-million fund that will make equity investments in cleantech firms), noting that in January 2017 an Expression of Interest was issued for a fund manager. The budget also references a number of previously-announced and new measures to support business innovation broadly, and includes an R&D support for autonomous vehicles among other emerging technologies.
On infrastructure, the budget references a number of commitments that support clean/green infrastructure, including reconfirming the government’s intention to invest significantly in transit. This includes prospective efforts like exploring high-speed rail for the Toronto-Windsor corridor, reconfirming investments in transit in the GTA and other cities. It also includes a commitment to a “Northern Ontario Multimodal Transportation Strategy,” which would be “the first pan-northern, integrated multimodal strategy that encompasses road, rail, air and marine transportation systems.” The Budget also notes that Ontario plans to continue issuing green bonds annually (having issued 3 so far, funding mainly public transit projects).
And finally, the budget also includes two other clean growth related measures:
- A commitment to a Sharing Economy Strategy in 2017
- Through the Budget Talks platform, in which Ontarians voted for the proposed initiative they would most like to see in the budget from among a list, a $600,000 initiative to reduce food waste ranked #1 (the top 3 received funding). According to the Budget, “the Province will introduce a Supermarket Recovery Program to redistribute food to Ontarians in need. The pilot program will make grants available to food banks and food rescue organizations to expand their capacity to transport and store surplus perishable and prepared foods.”