TORONTO—Two of the nation’s largest unions are urging the federal government to appeal a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling against Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FIT) program.
The soon-to-be amalgamated Canadian Auto Workers’ (CAW) and Communications, Energy and Paper Workers (CEP) unions issued a statement voicing their joint displeasure after word came down the WTO has allegedly sided with a complaint from Japan and the European Union (EU) against the province’s Green Energy Act.
“Although not perfect, the Green Energy Act at least has proposals to revitalize Ontario’s hard-hit manufacturing sector and set Canada on a path of greater local and sustainable energy development,” CEP national president Dave Coles said in the statement.
According to reports, the WTO handed down the ruling against FIT confidentially to Canada, Japan and the EU Nov. 16.
The same reports indicate the panel rejected claims from the EU and Japan that the FIT program also constituted an illegal subsidy.
While he declined to comment on the reports due to the ruling being kept confidential, Ontario Ministry of Energy spokesperson Nauman Khan said the ministry’s position “remains that the FIT program is consistent” with Canada’s obligations with the WTO.
“The requirements are helping to attract innovators and manufacturers to the province to create new job opportunities for Ontarians and invest in projects that bring long term economic opportunities to our communities,” Khan said in an email. “Through the FIT program, thousands of jobs have been created and more than 30 companies are currently operating, or plan to build, solar and wind manufacturing facilities in Ontario.”
Khan said the ministry “will continue to explore all options” to keep the jobs, including working with the federal government on a possible appeal.
The complaint took issue with the FIT system under Ontario’s Green Energy Act, which calls for electricity generators in the province to source up to 60 per cent of their equipment locally in order to be eligible for subsidies.
Japan first filed its complaint with the WTO two years ago, with the EU joinging the frey last year.
Both called the FIT system unfair.
In its complaint, Japan said the FIT program goes against international WTO provisions.
“It’s blatantly undemocratic that an unelected body like the WTO can quash this initiative,” Coles said. “Governments should have the power to implement policies that promote the economy and the environment simultaneously without big business interests looking over their shoulder.”
CAW president Ken Lewenza claimed in the statement the ruling aims to destroy job creation policies that are necessary to the future success of the provincial and national economy.