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Critics take aim at Liberals' coal-plant closings


A man is pictured fishing next to the Lakeview coal generating plant in Mississauga in 2005. The plant was eventually torn down.

A new report on the closure of coal-fired electricity plants in Ontario proves what opposition PCs have been saying all along — that the Liberal government was misleading the public on the health-care savings, says Tory MPP John Yakabuski says.

“They come out with lofty numbers about lives being saved and hospital admissions being avoided and health-care dollars being saved yet our health-care system’s more expensive than ever, delivering less services than ever,” Yakabuski said Tuesday. “They just take these numbers out of the air and claim that they have somehow reduced these deaths.”

The Fraser Institute released a report Tuesday that looks at the decision to close all coal-fired plants in the province, and the government’s claims that air quality improved dramatically saving the health-care system billions of dollars a year.

Co-author Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economics professor, said that the government had information in 2005 that coal plants were not a significant source of major air pollutants like fine particulates, but argued the opposite to bolster its expensive decision to close the plants.

The report says there’s little evidence of improvement in air quality in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa due to the closures.

Yakabuski said some of the coal plants already had pollution-controlling scrubbers and others were in the works when the Liberals gained government in 2003.

“Our airshed was not going to improve unless the amount of the particulate that was being released into the atmosphere from across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River was going to be reduced as well,” he said.

The coal plant closures were used as an excuse for the expensive green energy contracts that followed, driving up electricity costs, even though the energy was actually replaced with gas and nuclear power, he said.

Don Moulton, a spokesman for Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, said in a statement that studies by the Ontario Power Authority in 2012 found “dramatic” reductions in particulate matter and drops in nitrogen and sulfur oxides that were largely attributable to the province’s phase out of coal.

“It’s really no surprise to see the right-wing Fraser Institute and well-known climate change skeptic Ross McKitrick argue against reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Mouton said. “But the overwhelming consensus is clear ... that the closure of coal plants in Ontario has resulted in significant reductions in air pollution and improved the lives of Ontarians.”


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