When the Speech from the Throne was delivered in the Ontario Legislature on Monday, Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner called it an “uninspiring throne speech that sets no vision or path forward for Ontario.” While it dealt with the ongoing pandemic, Schreiner noted that there was no mention of either climate change or housing affordability, so it’s forced the Green Party leader to do what the Ontario government won’t, make these issues a priority.
“Yesterday, I tabled a motion calling on the government to tackle the housing affordability crisis that’s leading to more sprawl, while at the same time addressing the climate emergency,” Schreiner said at a media availability at Queen’s Park this morning. “Together, we can greatly reduce pollution and tackle the housing and climate emergencies that we are facing in Ontario.”
This is the motion Schreiner tabled on Wednesday in the Legislature:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Government of Ontario shall immediately declare a climate and housing affordability emergency with a commitment to address both through complementary policies, including a massive expansion of affordable, infill housing development, the creation of a “15 minute neighbourhood” framework to be utilized by communities across the province, freezing urban boundaries to reduce sprawl, and the permanent protection of our farmland, wetlands, and other key environmental features.
According to Schreiner, climate and housing are organically connected. The number one source of emissions in Ontario is transportation, urban sprawl is making people drive more, and housing prices are pushing people further and further away from their jobs in order to find an affordable place to live. The solution, Schreiner said, is obvious.
“Ontario Greens have a plan to build 15-minute communities were all of life’s core necessities like grocery stores, pharmacies, schools, offices, parks, green space and libraries are just a 15 minute walk, bike ride or transit right away,” Schreiner explained. “This can be achieved by revising land use rules to incentivize infill development, and gentle density to build safe, healthy neighbourhoods that prioritize people, neighbourhoods where we can live, work and play.”
These are policies and ideas that Schreiner has been promoting for years, and promoting 15-minute communities was a key plank of Schreiner’s speech to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) this past summer. Shortly after that conference, the Ontario Legislature was prorogued, and Premier Doug Ford said it was because the Federal Election results would determine his government’s direction.
“The two top issues raised during the Federal Election by all political parties outside of how to address the pandemic was the need to address the climate crisis and the housing affordability crisis, so it’s time now for the Premier to step up and put forward plans that address both of these issues,” Schreiner said.
The Green Party leader said that it will require political pressure on the Ford government to move on these issues, but he’s confident that the Premier and his team can be petitioned to do the right thing, which is as easy as supporting projects that are already underway. “I think that all three levels of government are can work on together to address pressing needs in communities across Ontario,” he said.
“A very concrete example in Guelph is funding permanent supportive housing proposals. The Federal government has stepped up, the private sector has stepped up, social service agencies and non-profit organizations have stepped up. We have a capital campaign now that both the United Way and the Community Foundation are working on,” Schreiner explained. “We now need the Provincial government to step in with provincial funding for permanent supportive housing, not only in Guelph, but in communities across Ontario.”