Basic income, road tolls for transit part of Ontario Green Party's election platform

Ontario’s Green Party unveiled a nine-plank platform Monday that it hopes will lead to a breakthrough in this election that includes its first seats in the legislature, including for Leader Mike Schreiner.

Leader Mike Schreiner, who is running in Guelph, projects his party can win its first seat

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner unveiled his party's platform in Toronto on Monday. (CBC)

Ontario's Green Party unveiled a nine-plank platform Monday that it hopes will lead to a breakthrough in this election that includes its first seats in the legislature, including for Leader Mike Schreiner.

Schreiner unveiled the platform, called "People Powered Change," at Queen's Park Monday morning.

The platform has a particular focus on the environment, of course, but also jobs, transit, affordable housing and expanding health care and anti-poverty initiatives, including implementing a province-wide basic income.

Schreiner, who is running in Guelph, said he has heard voters on the doorstep say they are looking for change after 15 years of Liberal government.

"Greens are showing people that we can do politics differently," he said. "Greens in Ontario are ready. We are ready to lead, we are ready to elect our first MPP."

The nine platform planks are:

  • Developing a clean economy.
  • Making homes and businesses more energy efficient.
  • Lowering payroll taxes on small businesses and non-profits.
  • Requiring that all new developments include a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing.
  • Putting mental health services under OHIP.
  • Implementing a basic income guarantee province-wide.
  • Protecting the environment.
  • Moving Ontario toward 100 per cent renewable energy.
  • Expanding transit across the GTA.

Among the specifics Schreiner offered Monday were expanding OHIP to include mental health services, as well as bringing in a guaranteed basic income for all Ontarians. The Liberal government completed enrolment in its three-year basic income pilot project last month.

Schreiner pegged the cost of his plan to boost mental health coverage at $4.1 billion over four years. For the basic income proposal, Schreiner pledged to raise social assistance rates to the same amount of the Liberals' pilot (75 per cent of the low-income measure), which will cost about $3.5 billion. Schreiner said this will be paid for by cancelling the Liberals' Fair Hydro Plan, which has reduced the average household electricity bill in the province by 25 per cent from the peak in the summer of 2016.

"We believe it is time to end red tape for the most vulnerable in Ontario and ensure that everyone has a basic income guarantee," he said.

The Green platform also calls for the implementation of a $4.18 billion, four-year "green building and business fund" that would help homeowners, renters and businesses invest in energy-saving initiatives. Schreiner said he plans to find the money for the find by closing the Pickering Nuclear Station this year and replace the hydro with water power from Quebec, which he said would lead to $1.1 billion per year in savings.

Road tolls on 400-series highways

He also pledged $35 billion over four years for transit, which he acknowledged to reporters he would fund in part by tolling roads, including 400-series highways coming into the GTA.

According to Schreiner, "road pricing," as he called it, would raise about $1.4 billion, while a commercial parking levy of $2 per day would raise about $2 billion. He also expects to raise about $100 million in land value taxes.

Asked how he thought that would go over with voters, given previous proposals to implement tolls have been walked back following public outcry, Schreiner said he plans to be honest with Ontarians about what projects such as transit cost.

"I feel a fundamental responsibility to be honest with people about how we're going to pay for transit," Schreiner said.

"Instead of making it a political issue, I'm going to follow what the economists, the business leaders and the experts say we have to do in order to raise the money to fund transit. And I believe if we want to have honest government, and honest politicians, then we have to be honest with people about how we pay for things."

He also acknowledged that his plan calls for deficits in the first few years. But he still feels his party's approach to running deficits is more responsible than the Liberals or the NDP.

"We've offered a balanced and responsible approach that shows how we can expand public services while being fiscally responsible," Schreiner said. "And I feel very confident in that approach."

Despite his confidence in a breakthrough this election, Schreiner has been excluded from all three leaders' debates.

"We are going to make history and we are going to elect Ontario's first Green MPPs," he told the crowd last week at the party's campaign launch. 

Last month, Schreiner unveiled portions of his party's election platform alongside federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and environmentalist David Suzuki.