Over the past few weeks, Ontario politicians have engaged in heated debate about the province's much lauded and much criticized Green Energy Act. Some say it is the backbone of the province's promising green technology sector; others want to put a stake through its heart. Regardless of your political stripes, everyone agrees; the stakes are high.
So what is really happening in Ontario? Simply put, a lot. If you want to learn more, please read below. If you would rather spend the next few minutes watching a couple of Canada's "most trusted" people get up on a roof to install a solar panel, check this serious bit of journalism from the Rick Mercer Report.
The Province of Ontario is two years along a brave new path that is expected to bring future prosperity and cleaner energy to Ontario communities. It has done this by encouraging the private sector to invest in local power projects and companies that make the thousands of components that are required to make windmills whir and solar panels purr. At the same time, the province has begun promoting energy conservation and making huge investments in our energy infrastructure — measures that will reduce energy consumption and save taxpayers money in the long run.
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While parties scramble to convince voters that their plans to power the province into the future is the best, we feel we should take a moment to first look at the past to gain some perspective and insight into how to move forward.
More than one hundred years ago, Ontario Premier James Whitney was in hot water over his proposal to tap the power of Niagara Falls by building a hydroelectric generating station. His opponents said it would likely bankrupt the province. Instead, this source of green renewable power has helped fuel Ontario's economic engine ever since. Ontario now gets over 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable hydroelectric generation, thanks in large part to the foresight of Whitney and our great grandparents.
Germany embarked on its green energy strategy more than ten years ago. Since then the country has become a clean technology powerhouse, creating more than 370,000 fulltime jobs and tripling their production of clean energy — now 17% of their total power supply. This is something we can do in Ontario. We can all benefit the same way—or even more so—if we continue down the path we've begun.
Ontario passed its own Green Energy Act in 2009. Modelled on the German laws, this legislation has kick-started Ontario's green energy sector by encouraging investment by hundreds of companies, farmers, community groups and residents throughout the province. In only two years it is has spurred the private sector to invest billions of dollars in dozens of new factories and power projects and has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs, with tens of thousands more expected in the coming years.
These newly created jobs include skilled trades workers manufacturing components for solar panels and turbines, contractors installing them, and the engineers and entrepreneurs that dream them up. Good-paying, full-time positions. We aren't talking temporary or part-time jobs in the service sector.
And for many youth, these are the jobs of the future. This is why more than three-dozen green technology programs have been created at Ontario colleges and universities. They will be retooling students and professionals to meet the demands of this emerging new sector of Ontario's economy—part of the global trillion-dollar clean technology sector that has blossomed worldwide.
While job creation numbers can often seem a bit suspect, especially around election time, the progress on the ground has been remarkable. Ontario is now home to some of the most exciting green energy projects on the planet, including the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the world, in Sarnia. Countless farmers, community groups and entrepreneurial residents have also been getting some of the action with small installations that will provide them a second source of income for the next couple of decades. This will help support a sustainable economic and environmental future.
While this progress is impressive, candidates and parties intent on killing the program are now threatening the entire enterprise. They raise the spectre of rising energy prices without acknowledging that investments in green energy represent less than one per cent of the total price householders pay for energy.
This province has a history of leadership in manufacturing and growth. This is the sort of foresight that has made Ontario great. Treading into new territory undoubtedly will lead to a few potholes on the path. However, we believe Ontario is on the right track towards a green energy future that will wean us from dirty, old fuel sources and bring us closer to a brighter, cleaner, healthier future — and fuel Ontario's economic engine into the 21st century.
David Suzuki and Mike Holmes are two of Canada's most trusted and recognized personalities and were recently seen on a roof installing solar panels. For more information, please visit davidsuzuki.org and makeitright.ca.