Jobs, clean energy top Green party platform

By Jacqueline Lawrence

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MUSKOKA - The provincial election is still more than four months away, but local Green party supporters are wasting no time spreading their party’s message of hope for a cleaner, more prosperous Ontario. Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was in Gravenhurst last week to present his party’s five-point plan for the province’s future. He was met by a small crowd of supporters on May 31 at the Gravenhurst Train Station. According to Schreiner and Parry Sound-Muskoka Green Party provincial candidate Matt Richter, the Green party’s platform was built from the ground up by grassroots supporters.

“What I keep hearing is, this platform is by the people — you — and for the people — you,” said Richter. “Literally, it’s been written by thousands of people just like you.” The Greens’ top priority, said Schreiner, is creating new jobs.
“That starts by supporting small and medium-sized businesses,” he said. The party, if elected, plans to lower income taxes for small businesses. Schreiner said the party will “delay” tax cuts for large corporations until it has balanced the budget by its target of 2015. New supports for students, including a tuition freeze and expanded training and apprenticeship programs for youth are also planned.

Creating more renewable energy is its second top priority.

“One of the biggest concerns I keep hearing about is rising energy prices,” said Schreiner. “The Green party is going to confront Ontario’s energy challenges head-on to create long-term, sustainable solutions.”

The party plans to reinstate the home energy savings program, while removing regulatory barriers for those exploring new conservation technologies. Schreiner said the party will not invest in any more nuclear power. “Investing in new nuclear energy is one of the most financially irresponsible investments Ontario can make,” he said, noting that nuclear projects have a history of going over-budget. Schreiner said the Greens, if elected, would maintain Ontario’s nuclear plants until they are no longer operational, but would not plan to create any new plants. The party plans instead to negotiate agreements with neighbouring provinces to increase hydrogeneration in Ontario.

The Greens’ other main priorities include health care and illness prevention, new supports for farmers and food processors, and creating more open, transparent government. Schreiner stressed the importance of supporting Ontario’s food producers so all communities can have access to healthy food close to home. He noted that current regulations for things like abattoirs, for example, are hurting these businesses. “Right now, we have one-size-fits-all regulations that are really written for the big operators. We need smart regulations that take the size and scope of an operation into account.”
Schreiner is running for MPP in the riding of Simcoe-Grey.

The Greens have yet to elect a member to the Ontario legislature. When asked about his party’s chances this October, Schreiner was optimistic about voter support. He said Greens have the most support “in places where there is a strong sense of community and a deep understanding of sustainability.”

“Our vision resonates in places like Muskoka,” he said. “I think the folks in Muskoka want change and Matt Richter can bring change.”

The provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 6.