Ontario, as expected, delays bulb ban — and its reason for doing so doesn’t stand up

On Dec. 16 I first hinted it would happen — and now it has.  Just days before Christmas, the Ontario government has backed away from plans to start phasing our inefficient light bulbs on Jan. 1, 2012. You can read in my earlier post why I think that is a mistake, and how the McGuinty government can no longer be believed when it says it cares about the impacts of climate change and recognizes the urgency of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Let me be clear: the Green Energy Act is great and full of potential, and the feed-in-tariff program is helping create green jobs, but it’s probably one of the most expensive ways to reduce emissions in Ontario. The government likes to point to the coal phaseout as if that’s all that needs to be done, but by neglecting the low-hanging fruit that is energy efficiency, it is showing that it’s still only interested in half-measures and sexy solutions that make for a great photo opp.

But what fires me up most is Energy Minister Chris Bentley’s reason for the delay to 2014.  He more or less blamed the federal government for being first to impose a delay, telling the Toronto Star it was essential to harmonize with the federal schedule. “To ensure a consistent approach and to make compliance easier for consumers, retailers and manufacturers, the province proposes to harmonize compliance dates for incandescent light bulbs with the federal government,” the Star quotes an energy ministry official in a statement.

This completely contradicts Ontario’s earlier motives. Remember, it was Ontario that made the first move, announcing in mid-April 2007 it planned a phaseout of inefficient bulbs. This made it the first jurisdiction in North America to make such a commitment. Apparently harmonization of policy wasn’t a concern back then, as the federal government didn’t announce its intentions to do the same until a week later. McGuinty at the time basked in the glow of showing leadership on this issue. Leadership and setting an example mattered. Now it apparently doesn’t. Following is more important now.

British Columbia, meanwhile, announced its own planned ban after Ontario and has already followed through. That’s leadership, the same kind of leadership it showed by introducing a carbon tax.