Open Letter to Premier Wynne: Schreiner says budget is time for action on jobs, kids, food and water

 Open Letter to Premier Wynne: Schreiner says budget is time for action on jobs, kids, food and water
 
Queen’s Park – Today Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, sent the following open letter to Premier Wynne highlighting recommendations for the 2014 budget:
 
Dear Premier Wynne:
 
Ontario is facing major challenges. And we have a shared responsibility to face them. 
 
We desperately need a jobs plan to replace the 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost over the past decade. Gridlock is hurting our economy, health and quality of life.  Poverty and inequality are on the rise. Our natural resources are threatened. Youth unemployment is unacceptably high. We can and must do better.
 
Just last week, I submitted the Green Party’s recommendations for the 2014 budget. Our budget priorities focus on plans that protect the people and places we love by delivering solutions on jobs, transit, education, childhood poverty, and protections for food, water and natural resources.
 
A job creation plan that makes our local economies more resilient by supporting local businesses
Your government’s corporate tax cuts have not created jobs. By contrast, the GPO recommends closing corporate tax loopholes and reversing corporate tax cuts for big business so that we can afford to lower payroll taxes on small businesses to create good, local jobs. We also urge your government to support clean tech jobs with a tax credit for investments in clean tech innovation. The GPO supports tax credits for training programs and apprenticeship reform to help young workers build the skills they need to access these jobs. Lastly, we recommend a dedicated fund for local food processing infrastructure to provide homegrown businesses with access to affordable capital to invest in new and existing facilities.
 
Tackle gridlock to get our economy moving again
Gridlock is grinding Ontario’s economy to a halt. And I’m deeply worried that political games and gridlock at Queen’s Park will only make it worse. Don’t let the people of Ontario down by failing to invest in transit now. If the status quo doesn’t change, gridlock will cost the Ontario economy $15 billion per year. The Green Party strongly encourages your government to establish a dedicated revenue fund that will support expanded GO service, public transit and Ontario Northland. We also ask for 2% of the existing transportation infrastructure budget to be allocated for a dedicated fund for municipalities to invest in infrastructure to make roads safer for pedestrians, cyclists and wheeled mobility users.
 
Improve education
The Green Party is calling on the government to put our kids first by prioritizing investments in their classrooms. It is time to end segregation in our schools by merging the best of the Catholic and public school boards into a single public school system with French and English boards. Instead of closing schools, cutting support staff and eliminating special programs, merging school boards would save over $1 billion per year that can be redirected back into our kid’s classrooms.
 
Reduce Childhood Poverty
As a short term response, the government should prioritize finding the $340 million to fund recommendations from your government’s own Commission for the Review of Social Assistance. By ending the 10% subsidy for electricity consumption that mostly benefits the wealthy, Ontario can afford to fund reforms to social assistance that remove barriers to work and provide financial support for those who need it most. For the long term, we need a new approach that puts money in the pockets of people who need support. We are calling on the government to initiate steps in the 2014 budget to implement a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) in Ontario.
 
Protect food, water and natural resources
Ontario must stop the fire sale of our natural resources. We have the lowest mining royalties rates in Canada. We are losing 365 acres of farmland a day, an annual area the equivalent of the size of Toronto. We are the least efficient users of aggregates of any jurisdiction in the world. This must change, and a good first step is to follow the Drummond Report’s recommendation to make polluters to pay their fair share. Ontario must collect our fair share of resource revenue by raising levies and royalties for aggregates, water and mining. This will provide financial incentives to use resources efficiently, take the burden of dealing with pollution off the backs of taxpayers, restore funding to the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources, spur innovation and job creation.
 
Premier Wynne, I thank you for your consideration of these recommendations. Ontario needs a budget that will support the people and places we love by creating jobs, securing our kids’ future and putting food and water first.
 
We have the financial resources to deliver on these priorities now while balancing the budget in a fair, responsible and just way. We can do this by investing in the future we want instead of following the status quo.
 
I appreciate your government’s inclusion of some of our recommendations in last year’s budget. And I am available to meet with you again this year to discuss our budget priorities in more detail.
 
Regards,
 
Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario
 
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Find the Green Party of Ontario’s submission to the Ministry of Finances at www.gpo.ca/2014budget