Open Letter to Premier Wynne: Budget is time for action

Dear Premier Wynne:

It is essential for the government to reduce the province’s deficit in a fair, balanced and fiscally responsible way.  The financially responsible approach is to spend our tax dollars on public services, not interest payments on debt.
Ontario faces major challenges – gridlock, a struggling economy, and rising income inequality. But we also have opportunities to make innovative changes that will allow us to make long-term investments to secure our future. 
You have shown a willingness to cooperate across party lines in the search for solutions that will benefit Ontario. In this spirit, we have submitted our recommendations to the 2013 budget. In particular, I would like to highlight a few suggestions that will help us live within our means while improving public services.
1. Save $1 billion annually by merging the school boards 
Merging the Catholic and public school boards will provide ongoing savings of an estimated $1.3 billion per year. These savings will allow us to reinvest in the classroom and provide higher quality education for our children.
2. Create dedicated funding for transit and active transportation
You have said that you are open to improving our transportation system with funds for public transit. Now it’s time for action. We need new, dedicated sources of revenue to fund public transit, as well as direct funding for safe streets with cycling and walking infrastructure.
3. Reduce poverty and pollution
The deceptively named Clean Energy Benefit rewards the wasteful use of energy to the tune of $1 billion per year. We can reduce pollution and poverty by using this money instead to fund programs that support our most vulnerable citizens including a targeted energy rebate program and funding the recommendations from the Commission to Review Social Assistance.
4. Invest in our environment and science
We need to be good stewards of water for our children and future generations. By stopping operational funding for the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), the Prime Minister has refused to protect Canada’s water. Without the sound science and data the ELA provides, the safety of Ontario’s freshwater resources is at risk. You can step in and bridge funding to keep the ELA running, before it’s too late. 
5. Support local job creation
Businesses in the emerging clean-tech sector can seize opportunities to transform our economy: improve productivity, facilitate innovation, create jobs, address climate change, and have a positive influence on the well-being of our communities. This is a win-win for the economy and environment. By closing corporate tax loopholes designed in and for yesterday’s economy, we can invest in the right incentives to spur job creation and business development in the new global economy.
Premier Wynne, I thank you for your consideration of these recommendations.
I have one final request. Last year, changes to 69 acts, including eight environmentally significant laws affecting the Ministry of Natural Resources, were buried in the 327 page omnibus budget bill. This was not honest, transparent or good governance. 
Deceptive omnibus budget bills weaken democracy and public participation, and undermine transparency and accountability. This year, I ask that you please do the right thing and not hide changes to significant legislation – including to our environmental protections – in the 2013 budget bill. 
Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario