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“BAND-AID” SOLUTION.. Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner says the provincial government’s decision to offer industries a hydro discount for job creation won’t work well here in Muskoka. He says the program will only benefit large companies, while most businesses here are small and medium in size.
Lowering hydro rates to stimulate new job creation will not work well in Muskoka, Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner said during a visit to Bracebridge last week.
Schreiner’s opinions came after provincial Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced that the province will offer industries a 27 per cent discount on their hydro bills if they bring new jobs and investment to the province. Dubbed the Industrial Electricity Incentive Program, it is slated to start on Jan. 1, 2013.
Schreiner called the program a “band-aid” solution by the provincial Liberals, and said he does not see many businesses in Muskoka getting any real benefit out of it.
“From what I can see, the incentive program is really targeted to large manufacturing businesses, and a lot of the businesses you see in Muskoka are small and medium-sized businesses that probably aren’t going to benefit from the program,” he said. “That’s a band-aid solution. That’s a band-aid to a bigger problem that the Liberals are failing to address and I would argue that all parties at Queen’s Park are failing to address.”
That larger problem, Schreiner said, is that other parties at Queen’s Park are not focusing on helping small businesses cut costs in other ways.
“Everyone is so focused on generating electricity and where that generation is going to come from,” he said. “None of the parties at Queen’s Park are focused on actually helping save money by saving energy.”
Schreiner said the Green Party would look instead toward aiding job creation by helping businesses lower energy costs through increasing efficiency and by creating incentive programs that can help them lower payroll costs when it comes to hiring employees.
“I’ve talked to the (Your) Independent Grocers for instance, which is a very energy-intensive business, who have been able to reduce their utility bills by up to 40 per cent by investing in more energy-efficient equipment and energy-efficient changes to their building envelope,” he said.
“We were just speaking with a solar company up in Huntsville a few hours ago. Because the Liberal government has put the Feed-In-Tariff program on hold now for nine months, businesses like these that were creating jobs in Muskoka now are laying off workers because the program’s been completely frozen.”
Schreiner also slammed the federal government’s omnibus Bill C-38 and the provincial government’s Bill C-55 for their potential impact on the local environment.
“Bill 55 at the provincial level also changes legislation, 69 pieces of legislation, 11 of those directly related to environmental laws — eight of them directly affecting the Ministry of Natural Resources’ ability to protect our environment,” he said.
Currently, proposed laws affecting the environment must be subject to a 30-day public comment period on the environmental registry. Schreiner criticized the provincial government for skirting around the process by bundling proposed environmental laws into a larger package.
“The fact that they’re being threatened in an underhanded, non-democratic way through an omnibus budget bill, it’s just wrong,” he said. “Why are they slamming the door in the face of citizens who have the ability comment on legislation that directly affects the protection of our natural heritage and our communities?”