NDP chooses cars over climate, again

A few days ago I was upset to see headlines all over the city announcing that the NDP would pump another $600 million dollars into the auto sector.

Reading the details, the plan is not quite as crazy as the headline sounds.  Only $100 million is new money.  It is contingent on maintaining agreed on jobs and includes a special incentive for developing green technologies.

I still oppose it.

Let’s begin with the fact that cars built in Ontario are the energy hogs of the world.  If we’re serious about combatting global warming, we can’t keep building them.  We need to negotiate with auto companies so that Ontario begins to build more sensible cars, or find manufacturing jobs in wind turbines and streetcars.  Locking our workers into products that have no place in a future market is silly.

Secondly, we need to expect job losses in the auto industry if we’re serious about global warming, even if the models built here are all compact hybrids.  We need to have fewer cars on the road.  The energy used to build a car is actually greater than all the energy the average car ever consumes in a lifetime on the road.  So the NDP plan to encourage everyone to buy a hybrid is wrongheaded.  The most important goal needs to be to reduce the number of vehicles owned, which means fewer jobs in automaking.

If we want to increase the efficiency of automobiles, there are two complementary methods that require no bailout.  One is a rise in the price of fuel, which can be guaranteed by a steadily rising carbon tax, completely offset by a corresponding decrease in personal income taxes.  The other is a simple adoption of better standards, which we can pick up for free from any number of jurisdictions.  True, there’s no guarantee that cars sold in Ontario will be built here.  That’s part of the conundrum.  But that’s a bigger flaw that won’t be fixed by enticements to make cosmetic changes to the SUVs sold primarily south of the border.

For Toronto-Danforth, there are important smog implications, too.  We urgently need to get cars off the DVP to bring down the high local rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  This is no time to be adding even more money to bail out companies making products we won’t want in the future.

If we need to invest in manufacturing jobs, let’s make solar panels, wind turbines, streetcars, trains, tracks, insulation and the multitude of products a green economy requires.  These jobs have another significant advantage — they generate more jobs in installation as well.

We need to keep good jobs in Ontario.  A good job involves a product with a future.

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