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Carbon tax will deplete millions from Ontario hospitals: Ford government

Last Updated Apr 3, 2019 at 3:41 pm EDT

Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks stands at the podium at Milton District Hospital on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. Peter Dworschak/CITYNEWS

The government of Ontario continued to rail against the federal carbon tax on Wednesday, holding a news conference at Milton District Hospital that outlined how the tax would siphon tens of millions of dollars out of the already-burdened health care system.

The carbon tax came into effect on Monday, and while it had an immediate impact at the pumps in the form of a gas price spike, Christine Elliott, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, warned that its ramifications would be even more far-reaching and detrimental to Ontarians.

“The federal tax will impact Ontario hospitals by increasing annual heating costs by $10.9 million in 2019, soaring to $27.2 million in 2022,” she said. “For $27.2 million, Ontario could offer an additional 104,615 MRI operating hours, providing scans for an additional 157,000 patients. This amount of money could also fund over 3,300 pace maker implementations.

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

But Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers argued that the Ford government hurt hospitals when it repealed the provincial cap-and-trade program.

“It’s somewhat ironic to be here claiming that poor hospitals will have to pay more money when in fact they had a program where they could actually retrofit and benefit from the cap-and-trade money,” she argued.

“We used to have a cap-and-trade that was meeting the federal objectives and at the same time was generating revenue that could be spent on hospitals and schools to retrofit so that they would save energy.”

The end of cap-and-trade also spelled the end of the former Liberal government’s Hospital Energy Efficiency Program.

The program, which funded energy efficient projects at hospitals across Ontario, was fueled with money from cap-and-trade.

Des Rosiers also noted that the federal carbon tax would come with a rebate.

“Many institutions expect to get some money back so they can alleviate the cost of the carbon tax,” she said.

The federal government has promised to provide a rebate on the carbon tax, but Premier Doug Ford expressed his skepticism on Monday while announcing that his government was scrapping Drive Clean Tests for passenger vehicles.

“Nobody trusts the federal government when they cross their fingers and say they will eventually give the money back to us,” Ford said.

According to the Canadian Press, rebates for individuals are already flowing as tax returns get filed, but the rebate program to aid businesses and institutions hasn’t been finalized.

Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, argued that the federal carbon tax was punitive and unnecessary, saying the province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment plan meets the federal government’s environmental targets.

“They’ve (federal government) set an objective … we’ve aligned to that objective,” he said. “But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t punish people … You can fight climate change without a carbon tax.”

“It would certainly be news if we were coming here announcing a $27 million cut in health care and that’s effectively what Justin Trudeau is announcing,” he added. “A $27 million cut in health care with all of the incumbent impacts.”