Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
HUNTSVILLE — Mike Schreiner has come a long way as leader of the Green Party of Ontario.
For a guy without a seat in the Ontario legislature, he’s logged a lot of miles promoting the greenway.
Wednesday he was in Huntsville with local candidate Matt Richter, who has been carrying the green since 2007.
They were at Partner’s Hall in the Algonquin Theatre, where a decent-sized crowd of 50 or 60 had to walk past a statue of Tom Thomson to get inside.
Supporters from right across the full breadth of the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka were onhand after Richter and Schreiner did a Main Street walkabout downtown Huntsville, his only Muskoka stop this tour.
They were there to lend their support to the two aspiring legislators — both still without seats.
But their message clearly resonated.
As Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa was busy in Toronto presenting his big bucks Care budget, the Greens were lamenting the “buying of votes” and the lack of employee payroll tax breaks for employers and more affordable housing.
He said the government should force developers to put aside 20 per cent of their housing stock as affordable housing that is “sustainable” in the future.
“It’s really a mess,” he said.
He called Richter, a small business owner, “the kind of champion we need” in government and on the issues of the environment the former teacher waged a long campaign on in past election bids.
In a phone interview afterwards before going down to Barrie, Schreiner told MuskokaTODAY.com that there were “no surprises” in the budget.
He called the deficit spending “not responsible.”
He asked why didn’t the Liberals do this years ago?
He said the Greens “would do it differently.”
He called the minimum wage increase a “wedge issue” between the government the PC Party, claiming the Liberals are working for “corporate interests.”
And “I don’t think” it’s better late than never.
“The 2017 Ontario budget is about politics, not policy that works for people,” he said in a statement release later.
“It’s a smoke and mirrors budget that benefits Bay Street bankers more than the people and communities our government is elected to represent.
“Interest on debt is still the largest growing expenditure in the Liberal’s budget — higher than health care, education or social services. Sadly the government uses cap and trade revenue and asset sales to balance the budget.”
On Hydro, he said the Liberals are proposing “an expensive Band-aid that costs $2.5 billion per year and benefits the wealthy the most.”
As for the environment, Schreiner said the budget “continues to give away our natural resources.
“These resources should benefit all of Ontario. Yet despite higher-than-expected economic growth, royalty payments for our precious natural resources actually go down. Again, corporations are put ahead of people.”
Continuing on in the release, he referred to transit policies that “fail to help people get around.”
He said “although Greens support the government’s plan to offer a transit tax credit for seniors, it should be available for all citizens.
“We are deeply disappointed that the government has not used better economic times to restore operational funding for transit.
Additionally, he said the government continues to ignore cycling and walking in the transportation budget. We call on the government to dedicate 2 per cent of the transportation budget to walking and cycling infrastructure.
“Our roads should be safe for all users.
And although the GPO applauds the Liberals for finally acting on our call for a Basic Income Guarantee, “we urge them to also increase the rates for people receiving ODSP and Ontario Works to levels that reflect the cost of living in Ontario now.”
Schreiner said: “Ultimately, the budget fails to deliver honest solutions for people.
“A fair plan would be honest with people about how to pay for transit and other infrastructure. Tax dollars should be spent on public services and infrastructure, not interest payments to banks.
“The people of Ontario deserve better.
“The Green Party is committed to honesty, integrity and making decisions that work for people.”