Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner took a break from the debate and lawmaking at Queen’s Park to have a sit down with Guelphites Thursday night to talk about the latest issues in provincial matters. For Schreiner, he’s pleased to see a change in tone from Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government, but there’s still room for improvement.
“There has been in the first two weeks a noticeable change in tone in the Legislature, and not just by the government, but by everybody in the Legislature,” Schreiner said crediting House Speaker Ted Arnott. “The Speaker’s done a really good job of shutting down any inappropriate behavior in the House.”
Still, the government has definitely made an effort, Schreiner added. “They’re even proposing some changes to the standing orders that would give independent members, which would include me, more rights and privileges in the Legislature,” he said. “So there’s been a lot of positive things like that I feel encouraged by.”
Still, Schreiner has concerns.
The passage of Bill 124, which sets a limit on the rise of public-sector compensation to one per cent annually for anyone that gets a paycheque from the Government of Ontario, is one of those concerns. Schreiner said that the bill was passed with great haste over the course of a week, while at the same time sending the exact wrong message as the Province tries to negotiate with teachers.
“That, to me, was like, ‘Okay, you changed the tone, but you still ran legislation through without proper public input,'” Schreiner added.
Another change that Schreiner said that he would like to see at Queen’s Park is the government’s approach to climate change. “The Ford government is essentially denying that climate change is an urgent issue, and they haven’t backtracked on any of their cuts to any of the climate initiatives,” he said.
Specifically, Schreiner cited the government’s plan to continue a Supreme Court appeal of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, or the carbon tax. Ford said this past summer that he would drop it if the Federal Liberals won last month’s election, but he’s since clarified that the appeal will carry on.
“They’ve really decided, for whatever reason, that any price on pollution is a line they won’t cross,” Schreiner explained. “I can also tell you that the meetings I’ve had with the ministers of the environment have often started with, ‘I’m open the any ideas you have around climate action, Mike, as long as it doesn’t include a price on pollution.'”
Schreiner said he’s been advocating for the expansion of EV charging stations and offering incentives for coffee shops and restaurants to install them in their parking lots, as well as more investment in transit options, especially beyond the borders of the GTHA. Schreiner noted the frustration on climate action, but if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do, it’s tear the carbon tax stickers off your local gas pump.
“I’m encouraging people that no matter how much you disagree with the stickers, do not vandalize the gas station,” Schreiner said, because the station will be subject to fine if the stickers are not displayed, and there’s a cost to every sticker that has to be replaced.
One environmental policy that Schreiner is happy to back up the government on is enacting provisions of the Waste Free Ontario Act, which will put more of a burden on manufactures and packagers to reduce the amount of waste in the packaging of their products.
“I think it’s an idea that people from across the political spectrum should be supporting because if you don’t want to see your property taxes go up, then let’s stop paying for waste and have industry pay for it, and if you want to see less waste and less pollution in our environment, then let’s incentivize industry to reduce waste,” Schreiner explained.