Right from its origins in 2003, Premier McGuinty’s claims that Ontario’s coal power was killing hundreds of Ontarians and maiming thousands of others did not withstand scrutiny.
The leading academic challenging the government’s talking points was Ross McKitrick from the University of Guelph. McKitrick undertook point by point critiques of the government’s claims that air pollution was getting worse, that Ontario’s coal power was a big part of the problem, that existing emissions had massive mortality and morbidity impacts, that replacing coal would be cheap, and on and on. Here is one example, and another, and another of McKitrick’s work trying to bring relevant science to public attention during the peak of Ontario’s official anti-coal power hysteria. Here is an example of his scientific work on the subject.
The government’s messaging that all coal was equally polluting was a particular expression of ignorance. Since Ontario citizens had invested in extremely effective scrubbers for some units at Nanticoke and Lambton, those units were among the cleanest in North America from a smog perspective.
As the reality of drastically escalating rates became obvious and official promises that replacing coal power would be cheap and easy became disgraced, the government has felt a need to recycle its killer coal talking points.
If Ontario’s Opposition parties were more agile in holding the government to account, one item they would be picking apart would be the health “savings” from the coal shutdown policy.
Over the last week, the government has continued to claim that “Ontario’s coal-fired plants cost the people of Ontario an estimated $4.4 billion per year in health, environmental and financial damages.” Energy Minister Chiarelli said this in Hansard this week.
How strange, therefore, that the government continues to collect the Health Care Premium, and states that “Revenue from the Ontario Health Premium should be approximately $3 billion to the health care system each year.”
If killing coal saves $4.4 billion per year in health care and enviromental costs, isn’t it time to retire the Health Care Premium?
The rate of growth for government spending on health and long term care has been virtually constant since 2008, while coal-fired power production has plunged from 23.2 TWh to 4.1 TWh. If coal phase-out led to all these savings, where are the savings?