Cities Deserve Library Funding

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The Honourable Daiene Vernile
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
900 Bay St
Hearst Block, 9th Floor
Toronto, ON, M7A 2E1

February 13, 2018

Dear Hon. Minister Vernile:

I’m writing to encourage you to support increased funding for public libraries.

This issue came up a number of times last week during the pre-budget hearings we both attended in Kitchener.

Today, Guelph City Council will review and vote on the business plan for a new City of Guelph main library. The business case for the library is an important reminder of the essential role libraries play in supporting affordable, livable communities.

The Guelph vision for the future of our library highlights the evolving role of libraries in our communities. Libraries serve as inclusive community hubs that connect citizens with information, services  and each other. Increasingly, libraries play an essential role in bridging the digital divide, reducing the effects of poverty and providing access to information and digital services. Modern libraries are economic incubators that support innovation, entrepreneurism and community economic development. Libraries welcome new Canadians to our communities, support literacy and ESL services.

Libraries provide cities and towns with economic, social and community benefits.

Yet, for 20 years the provincial government has frozen the budget to support local libraries. This is a short-sighted move by the province with long term consequences. This policy of freezing library funding means libraries have 42% less money today due to inflation and places a further burden on an already stressed municipal property tax base to provide the services citizens need and want.

Minister, municipalities such as Guelph are making important investments in upgrading public libraries—like the very building in which we met last week in Kitchener.

It’s time for the provincial government to support these essential community investments by ending the 20 year budget freeze on funding support for local libraries. I encourage your government to support the Ontario Library Association’s request for a funding increase for public and First Nations libraries from $33 million to $50 million for 2018 with subsequent increases in line with the Consumer Price Index.

Minister, every dollar invested in libraries generates over $6 in local economic impact benefiting the people of Ontario.

It’s time to end the 20 year budget freeze on funding for libraries.

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

 

 

 

GPO Priorities for the Spring Budget

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Dear Minister Sousa,

The Green Party of Ontario strongly encourages the government to pursue a balanced budget in a way that does not put the burden on the backs of people and their children and grandchildren.

Ontario is deeply undervaluing our precious natural resources — the non-renewable assets that belong to all of us. Big mining and extraction companies are benefiting, yet we are becoming poorer. This must stop. Raise the royalty rates to stop giving away our natural resources and increase government revenues before it’s too late.

As a follow up to my oral submission, the GPO recommends the following five priorities for the spring budget:

1. Provide immediate cash flow relief for local businesses and non-profits so they can better afford to pay a living wage.

As a long time small business owner and non-profit leader, I believe the best way for the province to do this is to lower their payroll taxes by increasing the exemption level for the Employer Health Tax to $1 million.

This will provide immediate monthly cash flow relief to help non-profits and small businesses, in a way that lowering their corporate income tax will not.

2. Stop giving away the province’s natural resources.

Ontario has some of the lowest effective resource royalty rates in Canada.

This natural wealth belongs to all Ontarians. Once it is mined, it is gone.

It is wealth that should be spent on improving public services and environmental protections.

As the Drummond Commission noted in 2012, Ontario’s royalty rates and fees are too low. They are so low in fact that they do not raise enough revenue to cover the province’s cost to administer resource management programs, which the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has noted are grossly underfunded.  

Whether it is minerals, aggregates or water, the province has a responsibility to manage resources responsibly and to ensure that all people share in Ontario’s resource wealth.  

3. Rethink the government’s cannabis monopoly.

The Green Party calls on the government to license and strictly regulate the private market so that local businesses, farmers, and indigenous communities can benefit from a safe, highly regulated market.

In a province of almost 13 million people, 40 government run retail outlets will do nothing to stop the unsafe, illegal underground market. The government’s rhetoric seems to be ramping up the criminalization of cannabis use when the goal of legalization is to end the costly criminalization, stigma and waste of resources from the war on pot.  

This does not have to be an either or proposition. If the government decides to move forward with its expensive government monopoly, the Green Party strongly encourages you to at the same time pilot regulated and licensed craft cannabis outlets.

The Green Party supports using cannabis revenue to fund mental health and addiction programs and to share revenue with municipalities.

4. Create a dedicated revenue stream for municipal infrastructure.

Municipalities can’t solve the infrastructure deficit with property taxes alone. Homeowners can’t carry that burden.

My community of Guelph, like towns and cities across Ontario, needs a targeted source of provincial funds to build sustainable and affordable neighbourhoods—to finance community infrastructure such as libraries, recreation centres, affordable housing, transit, brownfield remediation, etc.

5. Reconsider the so-called Fair Hydro Plan in order to provide support for those in need instead of disproportionate benefits for the most wealthy in Ontario.

The so-called Fair Hydro Plan is essentially a tax cut for the rich that will cost the people of Ontario between $40 and $90 billion.

The Green Party of Ontario strongly encourages the government to target electricity price relief to the most vulnerable in our communities instead of a across the board rate reduction that disproportionately benefits the wealthy.

Money saved from a more responsible and progressive electricity rate reduction program could be used to increase social assistance rates for those living in extreme poverty.

Conclusion

Minister, budgets are about choices, choices that reflect who we are and what we want our province to be. I strongly encourage you to make choices that put people first.

The Green Party believes in a budget that spends tax dollars wisely and responsibly, to support a fair, just and sustainable province.

In the spirit of cross-party collaboration that puts people first, I believe the five recommendations put forward by the Green Party will make Ontario a better place today, tomorrow and for the next seven generations.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

 

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

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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.”