Ontario Green Party leader visits Niagara West

By Tom Wilkinson, West Niagara News
Thursday, April 19, 2012 2:41:41 EDT PM
See original atricle at West Niagara News

An Ontario minority government can and should work, Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner said during a visit to Niagara Region last week.

Schreiner was in the region to support the Niagara West – Glanbrook Green Party’s Riding Association’s annual general meeting.

He also met with local businesses that used green or organic practices in their businesses.

Schreiner said the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) had offered some suggestions on the economy to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The party thinks that province should be fully funding the Ontario Child Benefit, embarking on a building retrofit program and helping people to save money by helping them to save energy.

A building retrofit program would give tax credits to homeowners and business owners for becoming more energy efficient. Everyone who paid heating or electricity bills would benefit.

“That is the only long term solution that is going to help people save money, by saving energy,” he said.

He said the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit which reduces electricity bills by 10 per cent only subsidizes consumption.

Schreiner scoffed at the NDP’s plan to tax high earners more and use the savings to take the HST off home heating bills.

“That’s a job creation policy for Alberta oil and gas producers,” he said. “Why not take that money and target it to the people who need it the most?”

Removing the subsidy would save $975 million. The GPO proposes using $220 million to help subsidize low income earners, using $600 million for a building retrofit program and then using $90 million to fully fund the Ontario Child Care Benefit and $65 million to avoid freezing social assistance rates.

The GPO believes in green energy and Schreiner said that green energy projects should be locally owned. He says that wind is a safer form of energy creation than most other methods.

“The conservatives want to kill green energy and kill local jobs,” he said.

Making sure that local projects were locally owned and giving municipalities planning control of where suitable locations would be would go a long way towards making wind energy more viable, he said.

“They should have done it that way from the very beginning,” he said, explaining that in Germany, over 50 per cent of wind energy projects are owned by local citizens.

The provincial government must continue to research various ways of producing energy and how safe they are, he said.

“How safe is nuclear… how safe is solar,” he asked? “We always need to follow the science,” he said. “We need to continue to conduct research on all forms of energy production.”

Schreiner also said that Ontario can make some huge gains in the area of energy conservation. He said that New York State uses 35 per cent less energy per capita than Ontario does and that should be the province’s immediate target.

“They just use energy more efficiently than we do,” he said.

Saving energy now can slow down the need for new production, he said.

“In about ten years, a number of our nuclear facilities will need to be replaced or refurbished,” he said.

Schreiner thinks there less expensive and safer options that the government should be exploring.

He said that some means of energy production may reduce pollution but not replace it, making it safer but not perfect.

He says the government is subsidizing the coal energy industry to the tune of $367 million.

“We could shut down coal right now,” he said. “It totally makes sense.”

Schreiner says that most economists he knows say that energy conservation and efficiency could be a top job creator.

Despite what the conservatives are saying about the Liberals being unable to eliminate the deficit with their current budget, they do appear to be on track to do just that. Schreiner just disagrees with some of the choices they’re making, like retaining the Clean Energy Benefit, which could be used in so many better ways.

By talking to the other parties and getting the public engaged and informed, he said the Green Party has been making a difference.

“The Green Party is influencing public policy and political debate whether we have a seat in the house or not,” he said.

Of course Schreiner says the GPO could be an even stronger voice for positive change with seats in the legislature.

He lauded the efforts of local GPO candidate Meredith Cross. It’s not an easy task to defeat a party leader in his own riding, and he said Cross did well, during the campaign and as a GPO candidate.

He also says that if the voters had been able to choose a Green government 30 years ago, we wouldn’t be in the kind of trouble that saw the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital renewal cancelled.

“Now is the time to start,” he said, encouraging people to explore the GPO.