Green Party focused on environment and economy, says David Coon
Election platform includes pilot of basic income guarantee and buy local plan, says party leader
The Green Party is known for its environmentally friendly policies, but leader David Coon says its election platform also includes several measures to address one of the top concerns of many New Brunswickers — the economy.
One he's particularly passionate about is a plan to pilot a basic income guarantee program.
As it stands, many people on income assistance or working minimum wage jobs are living in poverty, he said.
The basic income guarantee would ensure they have enough money to actually meet their basic needs.
The amount would vary and would be based on Statistics Canada's so-called market basket measure, which looks at the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living in each city or rural area of the province for individuals as well as families.
The party would also eliminate "all of the terrible rules that exist for those living on income assistance," said Coon.
He cited as an example an older person who receives a small disability pension from the federal government.
"The government takes it away from you. You can never get ahead," he said. "This would allow people to get ahead. This would allow people to get out of poverty."
The Greens have committed to launch three basic income guarantee pilot projects in three different regions and then roll the program out across the province.
Coon hopes it would become a model for the rest of the country and be adopted nationally.
"That would be so exciting. It would make the lives so much better for so many people," he said.
10% shift in consumer spending
Another plank of his party's economic development strategy is to foster a 10 per cent shift in consumer spending from imported goods and services to local, which Coon contends would create 14,000 jobs and add $1.8 billion to the provincial economy annually.
A Green government would "prime the pump" by ensuring hospitals, schools and other agencies increase their procurement of local goods and services to 10 per cent, he said.
"That would create the demand, that would increase the production and provision of services … to make them more available."
The Greens would encourage municipalities and First Nation communities to follow suit, which would help create a critical mass, "building on the interest that people already have in Buy Local, which has become quite a movement in New Brunswick," said Coon.
He believes the government should also promote the benefits of buying local, such as keeping profits local and building wealth for communities; creating jobs and opportunities at home instead of outside New Brunswick; and quality of the local products, "because of the scale we operate on and the proximity we have to the companies that produce these things," he said.
Financial help to 'do the right thing'
The party's plans to create a green economy has New Brunswickers paying attention, according to Coon.
"They want to see economic development that's going to increase our well-being, that's going to help reduce our impact on the environment, address climate change and really build hope for the future."
In his experience, people generally "want to do the right thing" when it comes to the environment, but the up-front capital costs of switching to greener options often stands in the way.
If elected on Sept. 24, the Greens will develop financing options to assist citizens with those expenditures, which they can then pay back over time through the savings they will see, he said.
Efficiency New Brunswick used to offer such a program before the Tories cancelled it and before the Liberals dismantled the Crown corporation, said Coon.
"That was very affordable, very doable …So there's a financing example that can actually help people do the right thing, save them money and not be particularly costly to the public purse."
His approach, he said, is "to do things that are going to solve real problems."
With files from Rachel Cave