When asked what the Ford government could be doing better on environmental policy, Mike Schreiner starts laughing.
“Well first of all, stop wasting our tax dollars sabotaging climate solutions,” the Ontario Green party leader said, referring to the provincial government’s $30-million fund to fight Canada’s carbon tax with advertisements and a court challenge.
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“Instead of wasting our money trying to sabotage solutions, let’s start investing in solutions.”
Schreiner, Ontario’s first-ever Green MPP, is launching a 15-stop provincial tour to showcase climate change solutions that he says are good for the economy and human health, too.
He made his first official stop at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa, Ont. Wednesday afternoon.
UOIT’s campus is “well on its way” to emitting zero carbon emissions, Schreiner told HuffPost Canada. Faculty are developing hydrogen-powered and ammonia-powered vehicles and are working on a solar-powered vehicle charging station that can give a car a 50 to 80-per-cent charge in just minutes.
“All of those are certainly going to be important solutions. And [it’s] a great opportunity for Ontario to lead the [electric vehicle] and low emission vehicle revolution that’s happening around the world.”
Schreiner noted that, historically, Oshawa has been a hub for manufacturing.
“Obviously, Oshawa has the skilled workforce and the facilities to be a leader,” he said.
The city’s residents have been making cars for as long as they’ve existed. General Motors first bought a facility there in 1918. But times are changing. Thirty years ago, GM employed more than 30,000 workers at its Oshawa plant. Today, that number is 2,600 and by next year, it will dwindle to just 300.
Instead of fighting the federal government’s carbon tax, Ontario should be developing a strategy to create jobs in electric vehicle manufacturing, Schreiner said.
“If we have a policy shift to actually embrace the global clean economy rather than fight against it, that creates opportunities to create jobs and generate prosperity which we can then invest in our communities.”
Schreiner hopes championing that shift will translate into votes. He said he “absolutely” sees an opportunity for his party and its federal counterpart to pick up more seats in future elections.
Ahead of Canada’s October election, Elizabeth May’s federal Green party has higher levels of support than ever before. One poll found that 12 per cent of Canadians plan to vote Green and 45 per cent are open to it.
One poll of Ontario voters found a similar level of support for Schreiner’s party, with 11 per cent saying they’ll vote Green provincially.
“The same forces that are leading to a surge in Greens federally, I think we’re feeling provincially as well,” he said.
Canadians are interested in Green candidates because voters see climate change as an urgent threat and they want politicians who are “less hyper-partisan” and more willing to work across party lines, Schreiner said.
“We’re living through the forest fires, the flooding, the tornadoes and other extreme weather events. People are recognizing we have to take action.
“What I want to highlight with this tour is that these solutions are not only about addressing the climate emergency we face …. But they’re also good economic policy.
Schreiner is on tour until July 10, with stops in Kingston, Peterborough, Brampton, Kitchener, Sarnia, London and other cities.
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