New legislation the Liberal government promised would create 50,000 new jobs and make more room for renewable energy passed in the Ontario legislature Thursday, amid warnings from environmentalists the province remains too dependent on nuclear power.
The Green Energy Act, touted as a key piece of legislation that will transform the province’s struggling economy, passed third reading by a vote of 59 to 13, with opposition from the Progressive Conservatives.
The Tories have long argued some of the measures in the act amount to extra costs for already strapped consumers.
However, Energy Minister George Smitherman said the government is taking steps to help people lower their power bills, such as introducing time-of-day pricing for electricity, and noted the legislation would make it easier for the province to bring renewable energy projects online.
The Green Energy Act also replaces a patchwork of local bylaws with province-wide standards to govern where energy projects can be located.
Environmentalists complained Thursday the plan relies too heavily on nuclear power, and said the real test of the Green Energy Act will come next month when the government announces whether Ontario will build new nuclear plants.
“If the government is sincerely interested in expanding green power, it’s going to say no to new nuclear plants,” said Greenpeace spokesman Shawn-Patrick Stensil.