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Ford government 'declaring war on the modern world', says Schreiner

On Thursday, the new Ontario PC government laid out its plans for Ontario in its speech from the throne
20180320 Mike Schreiner Green Vision Tour KA 05
FILE PHOTO — Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

Guelph’s newly-elected member of provincial parliament says he is concerned the wording and tone in Thursday’s speech from the throne relating to clean tech and the green economy will be a turnoff for businesses looking to invest in Ontario and in Guelph.

During Thursday’s throne speech, the Ontario PC party laid out its plans for the current session at the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

The speech was prepared by the government led by Doug Ford’s Torys, but read in the legislature by Ontario’s Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

In it, the new provincial government said it will work on creating and maintaining jobs in Ontario and will put the province on healthy financial footing. 

"Your government will take action to reduce gas prices, lower your hydro bills and provide meaningful, necessary tax relief to parents, small businesses and the working poor,"

The new provincial government will be one for the people, with an emphasis on trusting the taxpayer, the throne speech said.

"Together we can create unprecedented jobs and prosperity and sent a message to the world that Ontario is open for business.”

It was the tone and wording in the speech around clean tech and green economy jobs that Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said was most concerning.

In the speech, the government said it would be scrapping the carbon cap and trade system in Ontario, to applause.

The speech continued: “and opposing other carbon tax schemes in all of their forms. These oppressive taxes makes life unaffordable for families and put thousands of Ontario jobs at risk.”

“In a time of economic uncertainly, a punishing carbon tax is the last thing Ontario families and businesses can afford.”

Schriener, who was recently elected as the first Green Party MPP in Ontario, disagrees. He said clean tech and green jobs are a $7-trillion opportunity worldwide and that Ontario should be trying to vet businesses to invest here.

"This government is saying they are not interested in creating those jobs, they are not interested in generating that investment in Ontario. I think it's deeply disappointing and I think it actually contradicts what Conservatives campaigned on,” Schreiner told GuelphToday by phone after the speech.

“I think that is particularly important for Guelph because we have so much clean innovation happening in Guelph,” said Schreiner. “We see so much of our job growth and economic growth coming out of food innovation, clean tech innovation, water conservation innovation and I want Ontario to be able to capitalize on that.”

“I want Ontario to be open for business to create jobs that are being created in 2018 and moving forward,” he said.

He said it is concerning to him that the previous government’s cap-and-trade program is being cancelled with no replacement, which may end up costing Ontario in the end as it abruptly ends its commitments.

"If you are going to change direction it needs to be done in a responsible way to mitigate financial risks for Ontarians," said Schreiner.

In the speech, the government also promised to lower gas prices and lower the hydro bills of Ontarians.

Schreiner said the new government is not living up to that promise by announcing it is cancelling the GreenON rebates for home improvements and the cancellation of rebates for people purchasing electric and hybrid vehicles.

"Individuals and businesses that want to make investments to lower their electricity bill by saving energy — they have taken money out of their pockets,” said Schreiner. “Individuals who want to lower the costs of operating their cars by going electric, which is much cheaper than gasoline — they have taken money out of those people's pockets.”

With other promises from the government like scrapping the sexual education curriculum introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2015 and cancelling putting a price on pollution, Schreiner said he his biggest concern is that the new government is declaring war on the modern world.

Schreiner said he was encouraged by the mention in the throne speech for what he called ‘critically-needed’ investments in mental health and addictions services, long-term care beds and autism support services.

“I was happy to see them mentioned in the throne speech and that is one area I am hoping I can work across party lines to improve public services for Guelph and for Ontario,” said Schreiner.

Schreiner said he is working on building relationships with MPPs from all parties in an effort to work together in the best interests of Ontarians and his constituents in Guelph.

“It is just a real honour and a privilege to be able to serve Guelph," he said.

Multiple calls for an interview to the office of Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott over the last week have not been returned.