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Citizens Reclaim Government

There was a single clear winner in last week’s municipal elections: the voters. I am inspired by how citizens reclaiming government has emerged as a theme in Canadian politics. I am excited that average folks in elections across the province rejected scripted politicians and replaced them with people committed to listening to and engaging with their neighbours. I’m excited that the Green Party is aligned with this grassroots shift in citizen engagement.

Although the mainstream media is focused on the Toronto mayoral race, what’s interesting in races across the province is that this shift is not an ideological left/right statement. Instead, it is about ending the traditional political party’s sense of entitlement, ending the trend of insiders from all the old parties taking their turn at the public trough, and ending governments who abuse power, circumvent rules and ram projects through without proper consultation.

This shift was seen in results across the province.

The Holland Marsh gas power plant, opposed by the citizens of King Township and the Green Party of Ontario, cost the King mayor and a sitting councilor their jobs for not doing even more to oppose the plant. Over in Simcoe County, a trio of Guergis family candidates lost in part due to their position in favour of Site 41. In Ottawa there are ten new councilors, including 25 year old Mathieu Fleury who unseated the Liberal Party supported incumbent.

In Toronto the voters turned out in droves, especially in wards where incumbents were facing significant challenges. In Beaches-East York, for example, Mary-Margaret McMahon, a local food activist and fiscally responsible environmentalist, beat the incumbent with over 60% support in a ward where 62% of voters cast a ballot.

This isn’t simply an anti-incumbency sentiment. The mayor of Oakville was returned to office after standing with his community and pulling out all the stops in opposing a planned gas fired power plant.

Rather, this is a clear indication that it’s time for governments that respect and engage citizens and communities. It’s time for government to partner with citizens and communities to develop sensible solutions, not top down bureaucratic solutions.

It’s time for a new approach to governing, an approach that the Green Party of Ontario is excited to champion.

It’s Time to Invest in Home Care

Honouring our Seniors, Investing in Home Care

Over the coming decades, the success of Ontario’s health-care strategy will depend on providing cost effective and dignified care for our seniors. In my consultations with citizens and frontline health care providers, it is clear that professional home care services are an important part of enriching the quality of life and the health and well-being of our seniors. Yet, funding for home care services is not keeping up with demand for service.

According to the Ontario Home Care Association in a recent report, Home Care in 2010 – Essential for an Aging Population, “Over the past five years the number of individuals receiving home care has increased at 1.5 times the rate of funding.” Since funding is not keeping up with the number of people in need of home care, the time available for personal support and professional visits evaporates. This has serious cost implications for the health care system since home care visits reduce the number of expensive, non-emergency visits to our already busy ERs .

Home care also has quality of life implications because seniors are left without an important service, which also affects family members struggling to balance competing demands. In short our seniors in need of home care are losing their independence and not receiving the quality care they deserve. The Green Party of Ontario supports increased investment in home care services, which includes seeking models that compliment the EI program for family members caring for seniors.

Currently, fourteen Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) are responsible for administering local home care services. CCACs receive their funding from Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). What this means is that the dollars for home care compete against many other demands on our system – hospitals, doctors, etc. These are tough decisions that truly have an impact on the type of care we can receive in our communities! A review of the LHINs (as promised by the McGuinty government when the legislation creating them was introduced) is long past due.

It’s time for funding models that provide our seniors with more choices for receiving appropriate care, at the appropriate time and place. It’s time to invest in frontline care, not high priced consultants. Last week’s Auditor General’s report reveals that the McGuinty Liberal’s use of high priced health consultants is taking money out of front line care.

The Green Party of Ontario will prioritize investments in health promotion and preventing illness, which are financially responsible and improve quality of life. Quality home care is an important part of this strategy. It’s time to honour our seniors. It’s time to invest in home care now.

Democracy in Action

Yesterday, millions of Ontarians took the opportunity of municipal elections to make a statement about the type of province they want to live in…by voting.

Their vote mattered! In dozens of contests across our province, new mayors, councilors and school board trustees were elected. For the next four years, they have the privilege to serve and be responsible for ensuring that our province continues to have prosperous, healthy, strong local communities.

Citizens are tired of old-style politics and want fresh ideas and a new approach to politics. They want responsible government that engages citizens and communities, smart planning, and leadership that values a sustainable vision for strengthening our province. Yesterday’s results is a testimony to that voice being heard loud and clear, and Ontario Greens are eager to work with municipal councils to engage citizens in building the strong, sustainable communities we all deserve.

Thank you to the thousands of Ontarians who put their name forward as a candidate and to the millions who voted. You have done democracy a great service yesterday, and you have our gratitude.

2010 EcoCare Conference

Long-term Planning Necessary to Heal our Health-care SystemI was in London Monday for the 2010 EcoCare conference, which focused on links between health care, healthy communities and the environment. An approach the Green Party advocates.

Simply put, the government of Ontario cannot hope to improve health care without addressing the sustainability of the system, as well as the lifestyle and environmental issues facing us today. Our lack of environmental sustainability has partly caused a lack in health care sustainability that we simply cannot afford. We are failing to leave the health care legacy our children deserve.

The challenges in our health care system are not shrouded in mystery. Over the past decade the reports have been piling up: Kirby, Romanow, Clair, Menard, Sinclair, and the Special Senate Committee on Aging, along with further reports from professional organizations and numerous academic papers. What we need now is to move forward, gathering up all of the key reports and studies, finding the common ground to pull together a coherent plan. Then we must engage the people of Ontario in a post-partisan conversation about the difficult choices ahead, a job best suited to the Green Party of Ontario, which is not bogged down by yesterday’s ideologies like the old parties at Queen’s Park.

It’s no surprise that the policies needed to get us back on track to developing an accessible and sustainable quality health care system are policies the Green Party champions:
● connect the dots between strong, sustainable communities; personal lifestyles; air and water quality; and their affect on increased hospital admissions;
● realign the Ministries so that all of the determinants of health can be viewed holistically and acted upon comprehensively;
● Fix the funding model by moving away from Fee for Service to models that create incentives for patient centered care and health promotion;
● Invest in front-line care, not more administration and high-priced consultants;
● Invest in better home care, transitional care and long-term care facilities;
● Promote multi-disciplinary clinics that include complimentary health care providers;
● Make healthy eating and local food a priority;
● and close coal plants now, putting them on stand-by for use only in emergency.

In order to get the health care system that we want and deserve we need a change in culture both within government and within the current health care system. Health care requires a long term view, we need lasting improvements, not a new bandage every 4-year term. Incentives must be re-aligned from managing illness to promoting health.

It’s time for a plan to promote healthier, happier citizens living in strong, sustainable communities that promote the health and well being of all.

GPO Leader Mike Schreiner Responds to Release of Auditor General’s Report

Reading Auditor General Jim McCarter’s Special Report–Consultant Use in Selected Health Organizations–revealing the millions of dollars spent on high-priced consultants under the McGuinty government without proper hiring practices or oversight is hazardous to your health.

The report is a sad comment on the lack of proper rules and sound fiscal management, and it highlights the need for open, transparent and accountable government. Although the three old parties at Queen’s Park will likely blame each other for these age-old practices, the Green Party believes the report highlights the need for a new approach to government in Ontario.

The Green Party is calling for new rules to limit the use of consultants and the amounts paid out to them, an open and transparent tendering process, and better management and oversight rules.

It’s time for the Liberal government to prioritize investment in frontline care, not high priced consultants. It’s time to engage frontline staff and mangers in developing sensible solutions to improve care and create a more efficient and effective health care system.

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For Further Information:
Jaymini Bhikha
416-977-7476
jbhikha@gpo.ca

Open Letter

Congratulating Citizens for Clean Air for hard work in Oakville power plant winNancy Robertson
Director & Youth Chair
C4CA

Dear Nancy,

I’d like to congratulate you and all the citizens of Oakville for taking a stand and winning the fight to stop the ill-conceived gas plant in Oakville. Your successful effort is an inspiration to all citizens speaking out for healthy and safe communities across Ontario.

Having toured the proposed Oakville site with you, it was clear that the location for this large gas plant made absolutely no sense. I think it is important to acknowledge the sacrifice of time, money and energy that it took for you and the citizens of Oakville to fight this gas plant. No community or group of citizens should have to make such sacrifices to stop something that was so obviously wrong.

I hope your successful campaign will be a reminder to all governments and political parties of the importance of citizen engagement and consultation in developing sensible solutions for our communities. It is my hope that your legacy will be improved rules and regulations surrounding proper site planning, and more respect for local decision-making regarding energy and infrastructure projects. Only with these changes can we lead the way to healthier and safer communities and avoid the financial costs associated with making poor decisions.

On behalf of the Green Party of Ontario, I want to express our appreciation for your hard work and sacrifice in standing up for your community and communities across Ontario. The GPO was pleased to have had the opportunity to support your work by adding our voice to your efforts.

Thank you for a job well done.

Warm regards,

Mike Schreiner, Leader
Green Party of Ontario

The Countdown Has Begun!

Dear Green Party Member:

The countdown has begun! We are 12 months from the start of the provincial campaign, with just over 365 days to prepare for Election Day on October 6th 2011.

Thank you very much for your past support to the Green Party of Ontario (GPO). We’re thrilled about the progress we’ve made to date, and are well underway preparing for next year’s campaign. In fact, we’re very excited to be bringing the framework of our Generation Green platform to communities like yours this fall (visit www.gpo.ca for details).

The Countdown Has Begun!Our primary goal for the 2011 election is to elect the first (of many) Green MPPs to the Ontario Legislature. We plan to run the biggest, most ambitious campaign ever, proving to voters across Ontario that we are the only political party that represents real change.

To accomplish this, we need your help.

As an organization with increasing momentum, we hope that you will consider renewing your membership. Membership is an important building block in our path to October 6th 2011. Together, we can continue to present a fresh vision and sensible solutions for a prosperous economy, strong communities and health and well being for everyone.

If you’re able, I also ask you to consider joining myself and our other sustaining members by starting a monthly donation. Monthly donations are great for the GPO because they provide a stable funding base that allows us to better plan. Plus, monthly donations mean your membership will automatically be renewed next year!

Please click here to renew your membership today! You can also reach us by phone at 416-977-7476 or by email at admin@gpo.ca if you have any questions.

We absolutely need an MPP at Queen’s Park to stand up and voice the issues that matter to us most, and with your help today, we can get there. Thank you so much for your continued support of our party.

Yours Sincerely,

Becky Smit
Executive Director

Leader’s Blog

Comments from Mike Schreiner on the Gas Plant Proposed for King Township

A week ago, the Minister of Energy Brad Duguid announced that the McGuinty government was going to pull the plug on the gas plant proposed for Oakville. The Minister clearly stated that the government had inaccurately projected electricity demand and the plant was no longer needed.

Both the Minister and the Premier have since stated that the same logic does not apply to the gas plant proposed for King Township, which is less than half the size of the Oakville plant. They say that projected growth in North York region requires a different approach.

This rationale might stand if the York Peaker Plant could island. But it can’t. This simply means that the gas generator does not meet York Region’s local power needs for system reliability and redundancy and will not provide local back up capabilities in emergencies. Power will feed directly into the grid, not York Region specifically.

This was originally a mandatory requirement for the York Peaker Plant. The inability to island completely undermines the main rationale for this plant in the first place and the government’s reasoning that the situation in York is different than in Oakville.

The Minister also continually says that the York Peaker Plant has fulfilled all environmental and planning requirements. This may technically be true, but only because the Liberal’s have misused and abused their power to do an end run around important planning and environmental legislation.

The government’s unprecedented action to exempt this gas plant from the Planning Act threatens its own Greenbelt legislation and the integrity of the Planning Act itself.

In an absurd logical twist the government gave the gas plant a conditional Environmental Assessment provided it complied with all local planning requirements. The government then exempted the plant from the very same local planning laws. And I will remind you that this is the very same EA process that the Environmental Commissioner declared to be inadequate in his report last month.

Only a government that is out of touch and being advised by a bunch of board room bureaucrats would think that building a gas plant near a school, church and homes located in legislatively protected countryside adjacent to some of the most productive farmland in North America makes sense. I suggest they get out of Toronto and engage community leaders like those with me yesterday to find a sensible solution to York Region’s energy needs. It’s not too late to stop this ill-conceived gas plant.

Yesterday I attended the “Our Water, Our Lives Rally” at Queen’s Park where I was joined by a number of citizens speaking out for a sensible solution to the proposed gas plant in King Township. Joining us to speak to the media were Margaret Black, Mayor of King Township; Debbie Schaefer, Board Member of Concerned Citizens of King Township whose organization is a plaintiff in legal action calling for a Judicial Review of this case; and Avia Eek, whose family farms in the Holland Marsh is also a plaintiff and is known as the twittering farmer.

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