Photo courtesy of Leamington District Memorial Hospital.

Federal carbon tax hurting hospitals, says Ford government

The Ford government claims the federal carbon tax is hurting public institutions like hospitals, universities and colleges, so it dispatched two of its ministers to explain it at a Milton hospital.

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott said collectively, hospitals will pay more than $10.8 million this year, a figure that will rise to $27.2-million in 2022-2023.

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“For $27.2 million, Ontario could offer an additional 104,615 MRI operating hours providing scans for an additional 157,000 patients,” said Elliott. “This amount of money could also fund over 3,300 pacemaker implantations.”

The federal government imposed the carbon tax on four provinces on April 1. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick were warned they would face the tax if they did not implement an adequate climate change plan by the deadline.

Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks Rod Phillips has insisted the tax is not needed in Ontario because it has its own Made In Ontario climate change plan. His statement appeared to catch at least one reporter off-guard as she asked if the climate change plan had been introduced. Phillips responded it was launched last November and is currently making its way through the legislative process. Phillips said the program is undergoing consultation with industry, but the ministry’s website said public consultation has closed after receiving 1,400 comments.

“It’s one of the reasons why we’re going to court with the federal government later this month. We see this plan with the objectives that they have set, and we see it as overreaching by charging this tax,” Phillips said. “I’ve been hopeful all along that the federal government would see that our program is in place and not impose the tax on Ontarians.”

Ontario and Saskatchewan are challenging the carbon tax in court saying it imposes too great a burden on their taxpayers.

Elliott returned to that theme during the announcement.

“Hospitals should be able to focus their resources on providing the quality, patient-centred care that Ontarians expect and deserve and not have to deal with unnecessary rising operational costs,” she said.

“It would certainly be news if we were coming here announcing a $27 million cut in healthcare, and that’s effectively what Justin Trudeau is announcing,” Phillips added later.

Here are the impacts on some of the larger hospitals across Southwestern Ontario:

* London Health Sciences Centre will pay $787,173 in carbon tax in 2019-20, going up to $1,970,929 by 2022-23.
* St. Joseph’s Health Care in London will pay $17,795 going up to $44,555 in 2022-23.
* Windsor Regional Hospital will pay $165,504 to start and $414,382 in five years.
* Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington will start by paying $15,290 rising to $38,284.
* For Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, the tax will go from $61,840 this year and next to $154,838.

The University of Windsor’s Welcome Centre. (Photo by Alexandra Latremouille)

Phillips said Ontario colleges and universities would be hit by the carbon tax too, to the tune of $20-million.

Ontario’s plan, which Phillips said has already achieved 22 per cent of its goal to cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent since 2005 with the McGuinty government’s decision to close Ontario’s coal-fired power plants, will offer industry $400 million not to pollute, but would still penalize the province’s largest polluters.

Before her position came to an end, Ontario’s Environment Commissioner Diane Saxe expressed disappointment with the plan saying part of it relied on technology that does not yet exist, and it was a third as ambitious as the Wynne government’s Cap and Trade program. She also said although the Ford government had renamed the part of its program that penalized big polluters, it was essentially the same as the federal government’s carbon tax.

Saxe’s position was eliminated April 1.