The federal Liberal government plans to impose a national coal phase-out, based on the same faulty arguments used in Ontario — namely that such a move will yield significant environmental benefits and reduce health-care costs. One problem: those arguments never made sense, and now with the Ontario phase-out complete, we can verify not only that they were invalid but that the Ontario government knew it.
Together with Fraser Institute economist Elmira Aliakbari, I just published a study on the coal phase-out in Ontario and its effects on air pollution over the 2002–14 interval. Our expectation was that we would find very little evidence for pollution reductions associated with eliminating coal. This expectation arose from two considerations.
First, ample data at the time showed that coal use had little effect on Ontario air quality. Environment Canada’s emissions inventories showed that the Ontario power generation sector was responsible for only a tiny fraction (about one per cent) of provincial particulate emissions, a common measure of air pollution.