Common ground

By Tony Muma
Read the original article at The Standard Freeholer

CORNWALL — The furthest left-leaning major party on Ontario’s political landscape has met the province’s furthest right-leaning major party and they both seem to agree on one thing: Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal minority government is budgeting for trouble.

Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner and GPO finance critic Kevin O’Donnell said it was good to see a budget passed and an election averted, though the budget left a lot to be desired.

Schreiner said that the McGuinty government buried legislation in the budget that affects environmental protections, including eight pieces of legislation that directly affect the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“The government likes to present itself as being green or environmentally friendly, but these changes undermine environmental protections,” Schreiner said.

“These laws protect our clean air, water and our health.

“We’re still calling for those changes to be pulled out of bill 55 (the budget bill).”

O’Donnell said the additional tax bracket that was tacked on to Ontarians who are making over $500,000 is “good policy.”

“We’re relieved that revenue will go to the province’s deficit and not expanding Ontario’s subsidy of energy.”

Schreiner said the Greens disagreed with Andrea Horwath and the NDP’s proposal to “subsidize the wasteful consumption of electricity.”

“It’s bad for the economy and environment.”

One of the first things the GPO called for when the budget came out was ending that subsidy and using that money to unfreeze social assistance, O’Donnell said.

There are several issues the Green Party would still like to see addressed, according to O’Donnell, which aren’t as much about fiscal policy as they are about principles.

O’Donnell said environmental problems aren’t getting any attention at Queen’s Park because there is no “environmental party at Queen’s Park.”

“The NDP are often perceived as the voice of the environment but they’re not. Their demand to take HST off of home heating illustrates that perfectly because it’s anti-environmental. We’re all for helping Ontario’s needy, but not at the expense of the environment and not to the benefit of the wealthy.”

The Greens were happy to see increases to the Ontario Child Benefit, said Schreiner.

“Why balance the budget on Ontario’s needy when other options are available?” he asked, adding the Greens will continue to work to change policy from the outside-in.

“Without a seat in the legislature, we’ve been affecting public policy. I can see it in the government’s changes to the feed-in-tarriff program and re-opening the aggregate resources act for review.”

The Greens have spoken out through social media, touring across the province and visiting communities, according to Schreiner.

“We’ll continue to make a difference and put forward our vision for a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable Ontario.”

Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell said he wasn’t surprised to see the Liberals and NDP collaborate to avoid an election in a press release issued after debates in the provincial legislature.

“Both parties have an appetite for tax-and-spend policies and we can see it in the details of the deal that were made available,” he said.

“The additional $1 billion of spending just confirms that the McGuinty government has a spending problem, not a revenue one.”

McDonell cautioned that neither the NDP nor the Liberals seem to appreciate the seriousness of staring down a $16-billion provincial deficit and re-iterated that the Ontario PCs refuse to support a budget that doesn’t include a better jobs strategy, less red tape and policies to make the province more competitive.