In the past, Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner has gone to the media studio in Queen’s Park, and presented ideas for the reigning Progressive Conservative government to implement. On Thursday, he did it again by offering 10 principles for a “Greener and More Caring COVID-19 Recovery”, but will the Premier Doug Ford take him up on the offer?
“This economic recovery will require historic investment that will shape our economy and our communities for generations,” Schreiner explained. “We must embrace the sustainable path joining the multi-trillion dollar green economy that is reshaping the world of work around us. Ontario cannot afford to be left behind.”
Schreiner highlighted five points out of his 10-point plan at the press conference. Some of them are standard Green Party fare like protecting local food and water supplies, and making shifts to a green economy. Other points are more COVID-centric like respecting frontline workers, supporting local businesses and non-profits, and prioritizing affordability in Ontario cities.
The points include action on racial discrimination, more investment in schools, and moving to a basic income guarantee, but Schreiner said that the five items he chose to highlight at the press conference represented areas where urgent action is needed.
“We have to support our independent businesses now, the rent relief program has to be fixed now, support for PPE has to be fixed now, and we have put protections in place for frontline workers now,” Schreiner said. “If there’s a second wave, and we don’t have those protections, like ending sick notes for example, that’s going to make it harder for us to combat that second wave.”
Schreiner has spent much of the summer pushing the Provincial government on rent relief for commercial businesses, and having a comprehensive plan to re-open schools and childcares. If the government isn’t going to listen to him, then Schreiner said he wants the people of Ontario to speak up.
“I think parents need to continue to speak out, particularly on the back to school plan along with educators and the public, and I’m strongly encouraging business owners to speak out as well,” Schreiner explained. “I know in committee this summer, a number of business owners expressed deep concern that if back to school plans are not successful, and that contributes to a second wave, the potential shutdown that will have devastating consequences for economic recovery and the viability of a number of businesses in the province.”
Schreiner’s press conference came on the same morning that the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) report on the Federal and Provincial government’s financial response to the pandemic. The FAO report said that Ontario has received $102 billion from 61 Federal measures, while the Provincial government has provided $10.8 billion in pandemic recovery support across 65 different measures.
If that seems disproportional, the FAO further pointed out that only $3.6 billion of that $10.8 billion from the Province came from the provincial coffers, with the rest coming from Federal cash transfers to the Ontario government. The Federal government has accounted for 97 per cent of the financial support for Ontarians, while the Provincial government has contributed three per cent.
“I think it just shows how the Premiers word’s ring hollow,” Schreiner said. “Premier Ford has said that the Province will spare no expense helping the people of Ontario get through this pandemic, and the FAO report today clearly shows that the Province has penny pinched our way through this. I think where we’re particularly feeling that with the underfunded and inadequate back to school plan.”
Schreiner once again called on the Premier and the Ford government to put aside partisanship, and start working actively to find more resources and new ideas to help Ontario move forward in the face of the pandemic.
“Every one is saying we’re in this together, and Ontarians have shown what we can accomplish if we work together,” Schreiner added. “I think it is the Premier’s responsibility, as we talk about working together as a province, to work together with all parties and all members in this Legislature to find the best solutions to put the people of Ontario first.”
The Ontario legislature resumes sitting on Monday.