Last week’s revelation of the Ontario Budget is the latest in a line of announcements from the Ontario government meant to amaze or confuse. From tax credits, to new license plates, to fewer restrictions on booze, the budget was meant to have something for everyone, but what did Guelph’s MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner think of it?
“For me, budgets always reflect the values and priorities of a government,” Schreiner said in an interview on today’s episode of Open Sources Guelph. “I think my biggest disappointment here is that this budget focuses so much on booze, gambling, and tailgate parties that it really failed to address some of the biggest issues.”
Schreiner said that’s he’s disappointed that there was barely anything in the budget on housing, affordability, health care, education, or all-day two-way GO service. “To put that into context, we did a quick word search, and [the budget] talks about booze or gambling 63 times,” he explained. “It only talks about climate change 15 times, and many of those were opposing climate solutions instead of actually offering any climate solutions.”
With the government saying that it’s looking to “respect taxpayer dollars,” Schreiner argues that moves like cancelling the cap and trade program, and forcing gas stations to post anti-carbon tax stickers on their pumps, is hardly showing respect to taxpayers.
“Here’s a government that’s spending $30 million on a frivolous lawsuit against the Federal government, trying to sabotage climate action, and I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on this campaign that they’re doing where the Premier and his ministers are traveling around the province trying to sabotage climate solutions,” Schreiner said.
“Now, they come out with this sticker idea where they’re going to mandate stickers on gas pumps that only talk about one-third of the story,” he added. “They only talk about what the carbon price is going to cost. They don’t talk about the rebate everyone’s getting, or the cost of the climate crisis is facing.”
If he wrote the budget, Schreiner said that he would be looking at ways to increase the revenue being generated as opposed to making cuts to core social programs.
“Ontario, according the financial accountability office, has the lowest rate of return on natural resource wealth of any province in the country, even though we’re the largest mining jurisdiction in the country,” he explained. “I’d also reverse the tax cut, the Conservatives brought in for the Fall economic statement that went to the highest earners. That took substantial revenue out of the Treasury.”
For people concerned about the changes being made by the Provincial government Schreiner notes that public pressure does work, and recent walk backs on Bill 66 and changes to autism funding are two examples.
“But it needs to be done in a peaceful and respectful way,” Schreiner added. “I ask tough questions, I put out some tough statements here and there, but I don’t hurl insults. I don’t engage in name calling, I don’t engage in inappropriate decorum, and I think that almost makes me more effective by approaching it that way.”
You can listen to the full interview with Schreiner on Open Sources Guelph today at 5 pm on CFRU 93.3 fm or cfru.ca.