Open letter to Premier McGuinty: Don’t subsidize energy on the backs of our most vulnerable children

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April 4, 2012

Honourable Dalton McGuinty, Premier

Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier McGuinty,

The people of Ontario don’t want another election. However, we do want a society that respects lower-income families and other vulnerable citizens, and we want Ontario to move towards a sustainable energy future.

In the Globe and Mail (March 25), you were quoted as saying “We are not prepared to balance this budget on the backs of families who may find themselves in difficult circumstances for the time being, or on the backs of our children.” Yet the budget you have proposed continues to do just that in subsidizing wasteful energy consumption for the wealthiest Ontarians.

This is poor economic, social, and environmental policy, driven by short-term thinking.

You’ve shown a willingness to listen and make changes to the budget.  The GPO’s biggest disappointment with the budget is the misguided logic of spending a billion dollars to subsidize electricity consumption while withholding the $155 million needed to support Ontario’s most vulnerable children and families. We urge you to right this wrong now.

The Clean Energy Benefit is misleadingly named — it supports the wasteful consumption of electricity, clean or dirty. Canceling it would save $975 million.

Here’s how we’d advise investing those savings, while still balancing the budget:

  • $220 million for an energy rebate program targeted to lower-income families and seniors.
  • $600 million for an energy-efficiency building retrofit program to help homeowners, tenants and small business save money by saving energy.
  • $90 million to fund a full increase in the Ontario Child Benefit.
  • $65 million to avoid freezing social assistance rates.

In short, this strategy helps those who need it most, moves Ontario towards a low-cost, clean-energy future, and supports local job creation.

Putting these measures in place will secure GPO support. I hope that putting lower-income families, social assistance recipients, and energy conservation ahead of subsidizing energy waste will also appeal to the NDP.

I support your request that everyone contribute to balancing the budget. I applaud you for listening to the GPO’s call to cancel unsustainable corporate tax cuts, freeze public sector executive compensation, and prioritize health care funding increases to community and home care settings.

However, I want your government to take more action to reflect the values and priorities of Ontarians. This budget suggests your previous commitments to poverty reduction and energy conservation may be empty rhetoric. I strongly encourage you to work with the opposition parties to fix these shortcomings and make this legislature work.

I am available to discuss these and other changes to improve the budget. Many thanks for your time and consideration here.

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader

cc: Honourable Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance