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Full Green Party campaign platform includes $65B for ‘new climate economy’ | CBC News

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner will unveil his costed election campaign platform on Thursday, a vision for Ontario that proposes nearly $65 billion in new spending to transition to a greener economy.

“Billions of dollars are flowing into a new climate economy,” says an advance copy of part of the platform. CBC News was given an early look ahead of its release at a morning news conference in Toronto. 

“If Ontario wants to attract these jobs and investment, we need to show that we’re a province that takes climate change seriously,” it continues.

At the core of the economic plan is a green retrofit program that Schreiner has previously detailed on the campaign trail. A Green government would aim to retrofit 40 per cent of existing Ontario homes and workplaces by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2040, the party says.

They say the effort — which the Greens estimate would cost the province $16.4 billion over the next four years — would generate more than 50,000 new jobs annually.

The plan includes rebates of between $15,000 and $20,000 for homeowners, depending on household income, to cover the costs of the retrofits like installing heat pumps and better insulation.

Money for those rebates would come in part from redirecting some of the nearly $7 billion in energy subsidies Ontario is currently paying out to residents each year, subsidies that Schreiner says mostly benefit wealthier households that use more electricity.

“We believe that money would be much better spent helping homeowners retrofit their homes so they can save money by saving energy and reducing climate pollution at the same time,” Schreiner said in an interview this week. He added that some of the subsidies are the expensive legacy of an “election gimmick” by the last Ontario Liberal government. 

The party says energy subsidies that support people who are low income or live in rural and remote areas, as well as those for First Nations families, would remain in place.

The centrepiece proposal for sweeping retrofits would help Ontarians with an intensifying affordability crisis by ultimately lowering their energy bills, Schreiner added.

“We have a plan that doesn’t throw a Band-Aid on the problem, but actually systemically addresses rising energy costs. And not just electricity cost, but home heating costs as well.”

The platform also features a promise to cover one year of college tuition for 60,000 people over four years who want to work in green jobs. The Greens say the commitment would cost $455 million annually. 

Another major item in the platform is a pledge to start an electric vehicle innovation and production fund. The party says it would cost $1.25 billion per year, or $5 billion over the next four years.

Similarly, the Greens say they would establish a new climate bank with the goal of helping to “commercialize green technologies” at a cost of $1 billion annually.

‘Climate bonuses’ for low-income families

The Greens are proposing two changes that could lead to new taxes and fees for some Ontarians.

The first is $6 billion in so-called “climate bonuses” for lower-income families that would be paid for by levying a one per cent “climate surcharge” on the top 10 per cent of earners in the province.

“We know that the energy transition will disproportionately affect lower-income individuals and households,” Schreiner told CBC News.

“And we want to make sure that as we move forward and address the climate crisis, we do it in a way that we don’t leave anybody behind and we help folks be able to afford the transition.”

The party says families or individuals earning up to $69,000 annually would receive between $300 and $600 per year under the program. The payments would go to them through rebate cheques.

Second, the Greens say they would establish a Climate Adaptation Fund for municipalities that would be financed by a “dedicated adaptation levy” drawn from parking revenues and taxes on gas. 

The Greens price the promise at $8 billion over four years.

Schreiner speaks to candidates at a campaign event in Kitchener last month. (Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press)

Rolling back changes under Ford

Schreiner is pledging to roll back a number of changes to the province’s environmental policy made under Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford.

The party says it would bring back the Office of the Environmental Commissioner, which Ford scrapped in 2019. At the time, his government said the duties of the commissioner would be rolled into the office of the province’s auditor general.

Dianne Saxe, the last commissioner to hold the position before its dissolution, is running for the Greens in the Toronto riding of University–Rosedale.

The Green platform also promises to reverse changes the Ford government made through Bill 245 in 2021. 

The law was ostensibly intended to improve access to justice across the legal system, though it included reforms that folded all land use planning tribunals — including the Environmental Review Tribunal — into a single entity called the Ontario Land Tribunal.

Critics of the bill said it handed too much power to developers and restricted the influence of local municipalities in major land use decisions.

The Ford government defended the changes as cutting unnecessary red tape in the planning process. Schreiner rejected that framing.

“It is not red tape to protect the nature that protects us,” he said. “But we have to reverse Doug Ford’s systematic dismantling of environmental protections.”

The Greens say they would also scrap the Species at Risk Conservation Fund, which they derisively call “pay to slay.” The program allows companies in select circumstances to pay into a fund if their projects are impacting prescribed species at risk.

In the interview, Schreiner also stressed his party’s commitment to protect at least 25 per cent of the province’s lands and water by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030, and create five new provincial parks, mostly in northern Ontario.

The other parts of the Green platform are expected to focus on the housing crisis and fixing the province’s health-care system.

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