November 19, 2012
The CAW and the CEP are calling on the federal government to appeal a World Trade Organization ruling that finds Ontario’s Green Energy Act contrary to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
The long-rumoured finding found that the act, which favours Ontario-built green energy products built in Ontario through subsidies, was in violation following a complaint by the European Union and Japan.
The feed-in-tariff program requires regional and national electric utilities to purchase electricity from renewable resources like solar, wind and hydro-electric.
“This decision aims to destroy the kind of inventive, creative job creation policies that are absolutely necessary to put our economy on the right foot and to prepare for the future,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a news release.
"Governments in Canada at every level must have the capacity to encourage local production through procurement policies. These kinds of thoughtful policies should be replicated right across the country, not dismantled.”
The CAW and CEP are merging to form one union next year.
Sean Moore, founder and CEO of Unconquered Sun Technologies, which makes solar panels, said he is confident the government will appeal and the process will take time.
“I think reaction has to be a little bit tempered because there is, I believe, a two-year appeals process,” said Moore, whose company expanded earlier this month with the acquisition of the assets of Siliken SA, a competitor that shut down earlier this year.
“It’s not like it’s something that is going to have an immediate impact.”
Moore said companies like his have to turn their attention to markets beyond Ontario.
“In Windsor we’re perfectly positioned geographically to take advantage of some stuff that’s been happening down in the United States right now,” said Moore.
He said the WTO recently slapped a 30 per cent tariff on Chinese solar products.
“I think that most people in North America now understand that you’ll never see entrepreneurs getting into manufacturing ever, ever, ever unless there is some sort of incentivization for it,” said Moore.
“Because you just cannot compete from Day 1, Week 1 with any Asian solar panel manufacturer. It’s absolutely impossible, especially when they sell their product for less than what it costs to ship it and produce it.”
Moore said an increasing number of North American jurisdictions are following Ontario’s lead.
“North America as a whole is opening up,” said Moore.
“The field is kind of levelling out for other North American companies. My advice to any manufacturer, if they haven’t already done it, we at Unconquered Sun have never had our goal to feed off government subsidies forever, we just wanted long enough to get our legs underneath us and hit up some of these new export opportunities.”
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union national president Dave Coles said the provisions of the act are helping to boost a struggling domestic manufacturing sector.
“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,” said Coles.
“It’s blatantly undemocratic that an unelected body like the WTO can quash this initiative. Governments should have the power to implement policies that promote the economy and the environment simultaneously, without big business interests looking over their shoulder.”