Yesterday's Throne Speech. Yesterday's Approach.

Yesterday’s Provincial Throne Speech was filled with supposedly new ideas for the future of Ontario, but leaves Ontarians with many unanswered questions.If Premier McGuinty wants Ontario to be open in the future, who does he want it to be open to? Will he continue the pattern of only being open to multinational corporations at the expense of Ontario’s small businesses, to high-priced consultants under sole sourced contracts and to closed door tax deals with Jim Flaherty that don’t work for Ontario?

The Speech talked of opening more spaces in Ontario universities. But how many of those spaces will go to Ontario students struggling to gain access to post-secondary education and training programs? Will per student funding remain last of any province in the country, while tuition remains the highest for graduate and second-highest for undergraduate education, leaving many students with a crippling debt?

And while Liberals talk of education, per-student funding for primary education in Ontario is ninth out of Canada’s ten provinces. Students in New York City receive twice as much per-student funding as kids in Toronto.

A Green government would support our students, enhancing training, co-operative and apprenticeship opportunities. We would give communities more control of their schools, rather than giving the province more power. Tomorrow’s challenges require forward-thinking solutions, not yesterday’s approach

Will the McGuinty government finally respond to the unique economic needs of Northern Ontario? The North is mentioned with a plan to mine one mineral. Where is the plan supporting a full economic recovery with a diversified base that supports strong, sustainable communities across the north? Are we opening the last intact forest in North America to short-term exploitation at the expense of long-term prosperity? Is the door open for First Nations who have lived sustainable in the north for centuries?

The Green Party supports value-added and diversified economic opportunities throughout Northern Ontario communities. Green consultations would focus on community-based solutions that could work, from Rainy River to North Bay.

With a mention of climate change as a priority, the government offered no new plan. After the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario revealed the Liberals won’t reach their own climate targets, we see nothing from the McGuinty government except the possible dismissal of this Commissioner.

The government plans to spend $32 billion on infrastructure projects. While that is welcome as economic stimulus, is there a broader, long-term vision in spending this money to support sustained economic prosperity, sustainable communities and reduced poverty? Greens support investments in transit operations, green infrastructure and complete streets for all to make Ontario cities and towns competitive and desirable places to live.

While we welcome the fact that the Liberals are beginning to hear our call on green energy, the Green Party has serious concerns about the government’s priorities and implementation plan. The Green Party strongly supports opening the green energy door to community power projects that would support Ontario’s independent businesses, First Nations, co-operatives, municipalities and farmers. We would present green energy projects and green manufacturing with a system that is fair, transparent and consistent, and would not favour foreign multi-nationals over Ontario businesses. And we favour a comprehensive Green Building Program to create thousands of new jobs and save Ontarians money on their energy bills.

The Liberals like to talk about support for green energy and local food. Why then are they planning to build an inefficient gas-fired power plant in the Holland Marsh? As family farms continue to disappear, who will supply the local food the government purports to support?
It is encouraging to see that the government understands the value of our fresh water resources, and we await details on their plans. However, before we start shipping our intelligence and concepts to other countries, let’s fix things in Ontario first. Greens would give priority to the 650 communities that have been struck with boil water advisories since 2006. It’s time to ensure everyone in Ontario has access to clean water. In addition to new technology, Greens want to know if the government is ready to support farmers who own much of the Great Lakes basin land, for being good stewards of their land.

Greens have a real plan to support land stewardship, local food and family farms. We would compensate farmers who take part in land stewardship practices that clean our water, protect habitat and sequester carbon. We would also invest in infrastructure that supports family farms to process and distribute foods for local markets and review regulations to create a level playing field for family farms and small-scale processors.

Again Liberals talk about health care, but not about health and well-being. Health begins in our communities. With a focus on preventing illness, the Ontario government could grow a healthier province and a more balanced budget.

Finally, this government is implementing a Harmonized Sales Tax that will raise the price on a host of goods and services that families, farmers and small businesses need, while giving control over sales tax policy to the federal government.

Instead, Ontario needs to modernize our tax system by implementing our Green Tax Cut plan today. It’s a simple idea: If you’re someone who lives green, as many already do, you’ll be rewarded with lower taxes. The Green Tax Cut will be a permanent incentive to go green – it is sustainable stimulus that will spur a wave of job creation in green technologies, products and services, finally placing them on a level playing field.

The Green Party of Ontario welcomes the opportunity to work with the government and other parties to provide sensible solutions to the challenges our time. The Green door is open to all Ontarians, and we welcome your input and ideas for creating a better, more sustainable world for ourselves, our children and future generations.