1. Kingston has made some modest strides over the past few years to become Canada’s most sustainable city. What are the key environmental areas that you feel the city needs to improve upon? If elected, how would you and your party support continued green development in the Limestone City?
In May 2010, Statistics Canada revealed that Kingston has the highest greenhouse gas emissions for private vehicular use, per capita, in Canada! We must get people in and around the city in a less environmentally-harmful way. While a recent $25M commitment for buses is a start, the Green Party suggests a more thorough program of public transportation in the form of modern street cars. This suggestion includes provision to have the appropriate infrastructure for light rail on the third crossing of the Cataraqui River, should it be built.
Modern street cars are low-lying vehicles with limited wiring. They have been shown to have greater ridership than buses and indeed, streetcars drive economic development along their linear corridors.
This plan is beneficial as it fosters a more vibrant social fabric (as people share space and interact in new venues – leaving behind individualized transportation); this plan is beneficial as it lessens emissions, thereby lessening our collective impact on climate change. This plan is beneficial as it prevents sprawl and help our environment by releasing fewer emissions. And this plan is beneficial as we can use streetcars to revitalize business in areas like Princess between Division and Bath and we can harness the potential of area expertise; Bombardier and Queen’s Engineering, in particular.
Stronger public transportation, in addition to the Green Party’s proposal to foster a true Green economy by investing $1.6B in green energy (particularly community developed renewable energy projects) and retrofits for businesses and homeowners (spurring job creation and working towards serious energy conservation) will help us become Canada’s most sustainable city.
2. Middle and lower-income families have been under increasing financial pressures over the past few years thanks to high gasoline and utilities costs as well as the new harmonized sales tax. What relief, if any, can you promise to provide those who are experiencing difficulty making ends meet?
The Green Party is committed to lowering personal income tax and small business tax, while raising the level of tax exemption by $2000. These policy initiatives, coupled with a commitment to raise housing allowances for those on social assistance (ODSP and OW), are three ways we will help make life more affordable. We will also review the recommendations of the social assistance review to ensure those who need support are receiving it.
Our plan will be financed, in part, by a revenue neutral carbon tax. The philosophy of this tax is simple: we should tax what we do not want, not what we do want. Simply, the Green Party would increase tax on excessive aggregate extraction, hyper-water consumption by industry and excessive emissions (usually at a whole sale level).
To ensure those who depend most on emission-based transportation, like rural residents, or those who are most vulnerable to cost increases in fuel, like those with very low income, the Green Party will provide $100M per year in subsidies in assistance. To be sure, the carbon tax is revenue neutral – extra costs incurred by environmentally damaging practices will be matched by a decrease in income tax. The $100M annually is additional support.
This policy will use the market to drive us to more sustainable consumption and in turn to a more holistically-healthy existence which will cost less for us all in the long run.
3. Post-secondary tuition fees have been on the rise for years, while they recently hit an all time high, averaging over $5,000 per year. Should changes to OSAP be considered? Otherwise, what do you propose to lessen the burden of tuition fees and daunting student debt loads?
Education is key in poverty reduction, personal fulfillment, and as a means of creating economically competitive individuals; as such it must be prioritized.
The Green Party will freeze tuition fees for the next academic year. We will augment grant and scholarship programs and expand mentorship, apprenticeship programs and the trades. We will work to ensure financial barriers are lessened for all students wishing to study in Ontario, including a commitment to keeping international student scholarships.
The Green Party will also work with student unions to lessen other barriers to post-secondary studies. For example, we acknowledge and will work to fund the childcare program proposed by the Canadian Federation of Students.
4. In Kingston we have the Limestone District School Board, and the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, both of which receive public funds via the Ontario Ministry of Education. Do you believe that funding or legislative changes are necessary to address concerns regarding secularism and discriminatory actions in our education system?
There are increasingly apparent concerns with respect to religious expression in publicly funded schools. While the Green Party appreciates the historical and contemporary issues that make the conversation of amalgamation contentious, we believe that a move towards a single public system is beneficial.
However, we will not make this move without the support of the people of Ontario. For this reason, we advocate for a People’s Assembly where, together, we can discuss our different perspectives and work to shape future education policy in a participatory manner. This proposal – the People’s Assembly – is an example of the Green Party’s commitment to community based decision making and democratic revitalization.
5. Our health care system has various shortcomings, including: lack of bed space, home care services, and rising prescription drug costs. How would you and your party address these issues to improve health care in Ontario?
To address these concerns, we ought to keep individuals out of hospital. To this end, the Green Party supports home care for our aging population. Nationally, Canada has a very effective program for home care for veterans (V.I.P) and we can use this model as an example of how to honour individuals’ sense of place, personal dignity and need for care by keeping them in their homes. We will recognize care from family members – usually women – and ensure that proper remuneration is issued to them in this deinstitutionalized context. We will also expand multi-disciplinary health teams (of physicians, psychologist, physiotherapists, etc) to meet homecare needs in a comprehensive manner.
The Green Party also will work with midwives to promote and fund birthing centres. According to the Ontario Association of Midwives, women are primarily hospitalized for birth. Providing a safe space beyond hospital walls is one way of freeing needed space.
Most fundamentally however, the Green Party champions preventative healthcare. We know that what we eat, how we transport ourselves and where we live contribute to our health and well being. Many diseases of our day can be stopped. By eating well and increasing levels of physical activity, the prevalence of diabetes and obesity will decrease. By providing a robust public transit system and spurring green energy, we can breathe clean air and lessen respiratory illness. By providing reliable accommodation for all we can decrease stress and increase health.
The Green Party will increase support for local farmers and local, organic food. We will integrate home economics and physical education in provincial curriculum in a meaningful way. And will support affordable housing. These initiatives, coupled with many others that work to foster holistically-healthy communities, will help solve many of the problems facing our healthcare system.
6. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing residents of Kingston and the Islands over the next five years? Further, if you are elected as our next Member of Provincial Parliament, how do you propose to solve it?
How we handle economic uncertainty to ensure more residents don’t fall into poverty and how we work to break generational poverty will be the biggest challenges in Kingston & The Islands over the next five years.
With an already alarming rate of those on social assistance (approximately 11,000) and those qualified as working poor (approximately 8,000) and an impending economic downtown, we must spur the economy and craft policy to make life more affordable; and do so in a sustainable way (see question two and for additional policy to this end).
The Green Party in Kingston & The Islands is committed to a job creation strategy that would see more student spaces at Queen’s, St. Lawrence and RMC (5,000 over 5 years) – with corresponding investments in service staff and faculty. We would facilitate a venture capital fund to harness the many bright minds in our electoral district and support entrepreneurs. These measures in addition to making a more suitable market for local farms and farmers and green energy would also be factors in generating economic revitalization. For more information on these endeavours visits kingstongreens.ca (News & Events).
Another beneficial investment in the economy is our proposal to buy low-cost housing on the Kingston real estate market as an immediate solution to the crisis in affordable housing. While we would continue to pursue multi-unit dwellings, individual homes purchased throughout the community helps churn real estate advantageously and would decrease stigmatization and ghettoization as subsidized housing would be integrated in the community.
Provincially, the biggest issue will be energy policy. Through serious conservation strategies (taking into consider how we build and how we renovate, for example), increased inter-provincial hydro and deeper investments in alternatives and renewables, Ontario will have more than enough power. As such, any one who argues for new nuclear is misguided. New nuclear is not only financially irresponsible (costing at least $35B), it has environmental ramifications which will hurt us in the long run by increasing CO2 emissions (generated in the lifecycle of a plant and its processes) and by the burying of toxic waste in the ground and in oceans. These factors and the potential for a cataclysmic disaster – caused by an unforeseen natural disaster or terrorist attack – expose the fallacy of nuclear as a safe, clean, reliable energy source. We must and can do better, for ourselves and for future generations.