News

New Year, new brand of politics needed at Queen’s Park

QUEEN’S PARK – The 2017 fall sitting of the Ontario legislature confirms what Ontario voters already know: Ontario cannot afford another four years of majority Liberal government.

 

“It’s time to shake up the status quo at Queen’s Park,” said Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner. “The Liberal electricity plan—now supported by the Conservatives— to buy votes by lowering electricity rates a year before the election will cost nearly $40 billion. People cannot afford these cynical political games and the higher prices they will pay after the election.”

 

Ontario’s independent legislative watch-dogs – the Auditor General and the Financial Accountability Officer – both dispute the Liberals’ claims to have finally balanced the books. They say there will be years of deficits. The FAO also reports Ontario’s debt will rise $75 billion in four years to a staggering $400 billion, mainly to pay for the temporary hydro rate cut.

 

“The Liberals decided on the most expensive temporary electricity rate cut in history,” said Schreiner.  “Instead of cancelling plans to spend over $13 billion to squeeze more life out of old nuclear plants and triple electricity prices, the Liberals have bought an expensive band aid to get through next year’s provincial election.”

 

“We will pay the price for these political games,” said Schreiner. “But there is a better way. At the Green Party, we are committed to standing up for people and presenting honest solutions to our energy challenges.”

 

Under Liberal management, things only got more wasteful and expensive this year:

 

  • The Auditor General also found the government spent a record $58 million on advertising in the year ahead of the election – on self-serving ads, 30% of which she said were designed to make the government look good and that would have been rejected before the Liberals changed the rules.
  • Energy companies have gamed the system for hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The province is not prepared for a large-scale nuclear emergency because the provincial nuclear response plan hasn’t been updated since 2009.
  • The newly-privatized Hydro One invested in a coal-fired generating station in the U.S. and wants to introduce pre-paid hydro meters.
  • There are more people on the waiting list for social housing than there are social housing units.
  • Endangered species are under threat from development with no oversight, because protections have been gutted under the Liberal watch.
  • And the Liberals decided an LCBO-run monopoly would be the only legal retailer of cannabis in Ontario, with only 40 stores initially and little hope of stopping the underground market.

 

“We need to transform politics in Ontario to put the needs of people, communities and local businesses before big donors and corporate insiders,” said Schreiner. “Ask yourself if the status quo is working for you? Ontario desperately needs better stewardship of our finances, environment and communities.”

Happy Hannukah!

Tonight at sunset, Jewish communities across the province will come together to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

Families will come together to light the first candle on the menorah, marking the victory of light over darkness, and of joy over despair.

For all those celebrating, may the light of the menorah brighten your home and warm your friends and loved ones’ hearts this holiday season.

Chag Chanukah Sameach

Monopolizing cannabis sales in Ontario the wrong move

The Green Party of Ontario remains opposed to the government’s monopoly on the retailing of cannabis.

Cannabis legalization plan should allow local businesses to participate

The Green Party of Ontario strongly supports a cannabis legalization plan with regulations focused on safety. We believe in placing restrictions on under age use.

We support a cannabis distribution plan that puts an end to the underground market and the criminalization of cannabis. We believe cannabis legalization should enrich our communities and not be a drain on resources.

We support a legalization plan that benefits small business, local farmers and indigenous entrepreneurs.

Sadly, the Liberal government’s proposed marijuana monopoly undermines all of this.
A small number of government-controlled dispensaries will do nothing to deter the underground market. It might even make the underground market stronger.

A vibrant underground market will do nothing to deter the high rate of young people using cannabis in Canada. An underground market will continue to benefit organized crime, lead to the use of unregulated and possibly unsafe cannabis, and make our communities less safe.

The government’s monopolization plan seems to ramp up the criminalization of existing dispensaries, which will unnecessarily drain resources from programs for mental health and addictions to support additional law enforcement.

The Liberal plan is designed to support insiders and the well-connected. It is a plan written for Bay Street, instead of Main Street.

The GPO believes there is a better way forward. Ontario could achieve the goals of eliminating the underground market and making our communities safer. We could have a plan that benefits communities by making them safer and more prosperous. We could achieve this while also placing restrictions on cannabis, especially youth access.

The Green Party is calling on the government to reconsider its monopolization plan. Instead the Green Party is asking the government to develop a cannabis distribution plan with strict regulations on licensed dispensaries.

The GPO is calling for a system that:

1. Regulates and licenses small businesses and dispensaries to sell cannabis in a safe and controlled way;
2. Ensures tax revenues from cannabis sales are used to fund education, mental health and addiction programs;
3. Creates more local jobs and prosperity by supporting small businesses, local farmers, and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

Why not legalize – under strict regulations – the tens of thousands of cannabis providers who want to operate safe, legal businesses, but are currently defined as criminals by government policy?

The vast majority of these people are otherwise law abiding citizens. They want to come into the light, but the Liberal plan forces them to stay in the shadows.

Justice Department records support this: ninety-five percent of cannabis growing cases in court have no connection to organized crime or gangs, and the people charged were “otherwise law-abiding.”

The legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada should be designed to end the criminalization of law abiding citizens.

If structured properly, the cannabis market could provide local economic and community benefits that the craft beer industry is starting to provide. After decades of fighting for market access—trying to break through the government and big beer oligopoly–craft breweries are popping up in communities across Ontario. These breweries are creating local jobs, providing local economic benefits and contributing to the vibrancy of our communities.

Likewise, licensed and regulated boutique cannabis dispensaries could provide opportunities for creative new business start ups, local job creation and a market outlet for local farmers. Bringing cannabis out of the shadowy underground market would make our communities safer and more vibrant.

Hopefully we’ve learned by now that monopolizing beer sales was a mistake. Why make the same mistake with cannabis sales?

I understand that people have valid concerns about cannabis legalization. Legitimate concerns about the locations of retail outlets, the safety of how cannabis is sold and used, and the social and financial costs of regulating the market. People are concerned about the rate of use, especially among young people.

We share these concerns about the individual and public health effects of cannabis use.
But we believe these concerns can be addressed with strict rules and regulations, not with a monopoly that will undermine the reasons for legalization.

I strongly encourage the Ontario government to abandon its cannabis monopolization plan.

Instead, look to provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Alberta who are developing plans that do not monopolize the retailing of marijuana. Government’s role should be to regulate the retail cannabis sector, not to become the exclusive legal retailer.

Thank you,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

Grassy Narrows needs local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre

TORONTO – The Green Party of Ontario fully supports the call by the people of Grassy Narrows for construction of a local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre to help the survivors of decades of mercury poisoning in the First Nations community.

GPO Leader Mike Schreiner says Grassy Narrows residents should not have to travel to distant health facilities, where they report intense loneliness and alienation because they are separated from their families, their community and their culture.

“It is shameful that successive Ontario governments ignored the devastating impact of mercury poisoning on the people of Grassy Narrows. We owe them proper treatment close to home,” said Schreiner. “It is wrong to force people to travel hundreds of kilometres to receive the health care they deserve.”

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister has said researchers have concluded that more than 90 per cent of the people in Grassy Narrows and the nearby Wabaseemoong (White Dog) First Nation have symptoms of mercury poisoning, including neurological problems and birth defects.

A 2016 report, recently published by The Toronto Star, found mercury contamination in the area has lingered for decades and likely still does, despite repeated assurances from public officials over the years that there was no ongoing source of mercury in local rivers.

As scientists sounded the alarm that the neurotoxin was poisoning the fish and the people who eat it, “government official after government official kept repeating that there was no ongoing source of mercury in the Wabigoon River that is the lifeblood of Grassy Narrows,” reported the Star.

“It was a betrayal for successive provincial governments to hide the fact they knew mercury was still present at a former paper mill in Dryden. We can not tolerate environmental racism in Ontario,” said Schreiner.

“No one wants to live in a province that allows people to be poisoned.”

The mercury contamination also destroyed the local economy by forcing the closure of the commercial fishing industry. The Liberals must take real action to clean up the mercury contamination.

“How can the Grassy Narrows First Nation thrive when the river they rely on for water, food and their economy continues to be poisoned by mercury?” asked Schreiner.

The Green Party will continue to support the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations to make sure the government fulfills its duty to them.

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Real People, Real Solutions – Rowanwood Conserver Society Coop

Real People, Real Solutions is a series of interviews with people who are making a difference in communities across Ontario. Hosted by GPO leader Mike Schreiner.

In this episode, Mike talks to Gord Ball from Rowanwood Conserver Society Co-operative Inc., who is one of the early adopters of solar power in Ontario. In an effort to conserve energy, Gord was one of the pioneers who installed a solar microfit system, which has helped him save energy and make money with clean community power.

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