GPO Priorities for the Spring Budget

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