Ontario Green Party Leader Responds to OBCM Election Survey

Posted on May 30, 2022

Ontario's Big City Mayors (OBCM) would like to thank the leader of the Green Party of Ontario, Michael Schreiner, for providing the below respones to our survey.  

OBCM met with the leaders of the Ontario PC Party, the Ontario NDP, the Ontario Liberal Party and the Green Party of Ontario earlier this month, and as a follow up to those discussions, requested responses a survey of questions on key municipal priorities.  The Green Party responded to our questions with the following: 

Housing

Ontario is in the midst of a Housing Crisis. The need for a collaborative “all-government approach” has become apparent, no one level of government can solve the problem on its own. Municipalities play a large role in the development of new housing supply and believe that unilateral actions, absent municipal input, may have unintended consequences that slow down development and reduce the community support needed to continue to sustainably add housing in our communities. OBCM members are supportive of a number of initiatives that are grounded in the following principals:

  • Ensure that every level of government is part of addressing the solution;
  • Improve the way we collect and analyze data so we have the tools to define problems, setgoals, and track  progress on implementing solutions;
  • Reduce the time for approvals by applying digital tools and streamlining the process;
  • Invest in training to ensure we have the skilled trades needed to build new homes;
  • Develop a suite of tools to address housing costs and supply shortages;
  • Ensure local flexibility in building the right mix of housing; and
  • Share in communicating to residents the need for growth to help overcome NIMBY opposition.
     
  1. Can you please outline how your Party plans to address the Housing Crisis?

    Our comprehensive housing plan, “Building Livable & Affordable communities,” lays out a strategy for making sure everyone has a safe, affordable and accessible place to call home. We urgently need to build more well-designed, affordable, purpose-built rental housing and to repair and maintain the supply we have. We need to adopt a Housing First strategy and work to end homelessness. We need to clamp down on speculation and provide funds that can be reinvested back into affordable housing, and we need to create more pathways to home ownership. Some highlights of our plan include:

    ● Build 182,000 new permanently affordable community housing rental homes over the next decade, including 60,000 permanent supportive homes.
    ● Mandate inclusionary zoning and require a minimum of 20% affordable units in all housing projects above a certain size.
    ● Allow single family dwellings to be divided into multiple condominium units to create more attainable home ownership opportunities within existing neighbourhoods.
    ● Reinstate rent controls on all units to regulate rental increases year-to-year and implement vacancy control to limit rent increases between tenancies.
    ●Implement a multiple property speculation tax on people and corporations who own more than two houses or condominium units in Ontario. The tax will begin at 20% on the third home and increase with each additional property owned. admin@gpo.ca 888-647-3366 www.gpo.ca PO Box 1132 Station F Toronto, ON M4Y 2T8
    ● Require minimum housing densities at transit stations and along transit corridors as part of the Growth Plan and transit funding agreements between the province and municipalities.
    ● Reinstate the provincial brownfield remediation fund to support municipalities to safely build affordable housing on previously industrial sites.
    ● Develop a framework that encourages the construction of housing on commercial properties, such as abandoned plazas and warehouses, where safe and appropriate.
    ● We will also address the financialisation of the housing market through taxes on multi-residential unit purchases and speculation taxes so that housing is for homes not profit 
     
  2. How does your Party’s plan align with the abovementioned principles?

    What we need instead of sprawl, is smart development that encourages us to use land wisely in order to build vibrant neighbourhoods with a mix of housing types – such as laneway houses, single family homes, triplexes, quadruplexes, walk-ups, condos, and co-ops. We will build 1.5M homes in a variety of innovative forms within urban boundaries over the next 10 years and work with all levels of government to transform appropriate publicly owned land for affordable housing, such as above transit facilities and in transit station surface parking lots.

    Over the 4 years, we will give 60,000 people the skills and experience to work in the green economy through a year of free college tuition plus a year of guaranteed work when they graduate with targeted recruitment of women, Indigenous people, and racialized communities.

    In order to reduce red tape and streamline the process, we will update the Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statement and other applicable laws and regulations to expand zoning permissions as well as update planning laws to prezone for missing middle and mid-rise housing on transit corridors and main streets.

    We will also work collaboratively with municipalities on a province-wide “Yes, in My Backyard” initiative to raise awareness of the benefits of infill housing within existing neighbourhoods. 
     
  3. What role do you see municipalities playing in the creation and delivery of this plan and its policies?

    We see municipalities playing an important role in engaging with residents and consulting on solutions that make the most sense in their communities. Ontario Greens will increase collaboration and consultation between municipalities and the province.

    We are also looking forward to working together with municipalities on rezoning to allow for innovative housing solutions that fill in the ‘missing middle’.

    We will also improve the community benefits system for major infrastructure projects to increase the social and economic benefits received by the local community. Ontario Greens will help support thriving communities by helping small neighbourhood businesses recover and thrive and strengthening community hubs such as libraries and community centres. We will also increase support for planting urban trees, and active and public transit systems to take pressure off of municipal budgets.
     
  4. The number of individuals and families who are at-risk of and experiencing homelessness in our communities continue to increase at a rapid rate.  How does your Housing plan address the needs of our must vulnerable residents?

    Ontario Greens plan to take a ‘housing first’ approach and end homelessness. We will:
    ● Restore the goal of ending homelessness in Ontario within ten years.
    ● Resume the homelessness census cancelled by the Ford government.
    ● Utilise a Housing First model to ensure that stable, permanent housing solutions are the first priority when helping those in need.
    ● Engage communities who have lived experience with homelessness in program development, as well as communities that face disproportionate levels of homelessness, including newcomers and racialized people.
    ● Provincially fund 50% of shelter and community housing costs while allowing municipalities to maintain management control.
    ● Phase in a Basic Income, with the first step being to double ODSP and OW rates and reduce aggressive clawbacks. We will also expand housing options for people in crisis and transition by: ● Building 60,000 permanent supportive housing units over the next decade through innovative partnerships with public, private, and non-profit housing organisations.
    ● Deploying temporary and permanent supportive modular housing projects on provincially owned land as quickly as possible.
    ● Increasing annual funding for women’s shelters as well as safe and accessible transitional and supportive housing options for women and their families. Increase funding for culturally appropriate transitional housin

     

Mental Health and Addictions

Ontario’s Big City Mayors recently released a Mental Health and Addictions Policy Paper that addresses the clear need for action now (https://www.ontariobigcitymayors.ca/news/details.php?id=747).  While the provincial government is responsible for funding and coordinating mental health and addictions supports, all levels of government have a role to play in improving services for our residents.  Without a comprehensive mental health regime, Ontario municipalities will continue to face increased emergency service costs that put pressure on first responders and other front line community services.

  1. Has your party committed to fully funding the province’s Roadmap to Wellness plan?  Or will you be releasing a fully costed plan that addresses Mental Health and Addictions?

    We are the first party in Ontario’s history to release a comprehensive, fully costed mental health platform that provides funding above what is already committed. Some highlights include:

    ● Including mental health and addiction care under OHIP by offering services provided by psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and other regulated professionals.
    ● Making investments to ensure core mental health and addiction services are available in all regions of Ontario so people can access care where they live.
    ● Fully integrating mental health and addictions services into expanded Family Health Teams and walk-in clinics to improve early intervention. Including mental health and substance use as part of regular check-ups.
    ● Reducing wait times to 30 days or less for children and youth by investing in frontline mental health care workers.
    ● Taking a Housing First approach and building 60,000 permanent supportive housing spaces with wrap-around services, and dedicate 10% of those homes to poeple with complex care needs
     
  2. Does your Party support mandating Mental Health Crisis Response Teams across the province, which have been shown to have significant outcome improvements for residents, with the necessary funding to ensure their success?

    Yes. We will establish mental health-focused crisis response teams in communities across Ontario to be deployed when people are experiencing a mental health or substance related crisis. We will invest in a 3 digit, 24/7 province-wide mental health crisis response line so callers can be diverted from 911 and connected to a more appropriate service as well as invest in the creation and expansion of 24/7 mental health focused mobile crisis response teams, crisis centres, rapid access addiction medicine clinics, and short-term residential beds across the province.
     
  3. OBCM has been encouraging the federal government to decriminalize the possession of certain controlled substances. The criminalization of mental health and addictions exacerbates the challenges our communities face, and we believe that often a public health response rather than enforcement response is what is needed in our communities to succeed.  Does your Party support our call for decriminalization?

    Yes. Ontario Greens work with the Federal government to decriminalise drug use, and will expand safe consumption sites, and shift funding from the justice system to healthcare. We will:

    ● Work with the federal government to fast-track the decriminalisation of drugs and reallocate funding from the justice system to mental health care services.
    ● Increase the number of consumption and treatment sites throughout the province and expand the availability of harm reduction programs, including safe supply.
    ● Declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency to free up funds and provide focused, coordinated government leadership to combat the crisis.
    ● Expand the distribution of naloxone kits.
    ● Reboot the Ontario Emergency Opioid Task Force to address the urgency and complexity of the drug poisoning crisis. 
     

Climate Change

Ontario is a leader in emission reductions. The province and municipalities are well placed to transition to net-zero and many cities have developed plans to get there but need the support of both the federal and provincial governments to deliver on this critical priority.  As we move deeper into decarbonization, a shared approach to reducing emissions in sectors such as building, energy, and transportation, will be essential. OBCM is in the process of creating a Climate Change Policy Paper that will be released later this summer.

  1. How does your Party’s plan to address Climate Change address key municipal priority areas, including buildings, energy, transportation, waste, and adaptation?

    Ontario Greens will create a dedicated $2B per year Climate Adaptation Fund for municipalities to help them strengthen their infrastructure against the effects of climate change. Our Roadmap to net-zero plan addresses key municipal priority areas in the following ways.

    We will make buildings energy efficient by:
    ● Creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs by retrofitting 40% of existing homes and workplaces to net-zero (conservation plus heat pump and solar, for example) by 2030 and 100% by 2040 to help people save money by saving energy.
    ● Amending the Building Code, so all new commercial and residential buildings are built with the lowest carbon footprint possible and net zero by 2028.
    ● Providing net-zero retrofit grants for non-profit housing providers, co-ops and low-income households to lower their energy costs and consumption. 
    ● Releasing the pent-up demand for green retrofits by ensuring owners and tenants have access to low-cost financing and incentives to insulate and electrify their home. This will reduce energy bills and protect Ontarians from international energy price jumps.
    ● Encouraging the use of sustainable and non-toxic building materials, and removing regulatory obstacles to mass timber construction using FSC-certified wood.
    ● Making building-level fossil fuel use transparent through labelling and disclosure.
    ● Establishing strong, integrated conservation programs for electricity, gas and water, including ensuring that multi-unit buildings improve energy efficiency and install individual meters for every unit.

    We will move to renewable, clean energy sources by:
    ● Doubling Ontario’s electricity supply by 2040 and making Ontario's electricity emission-free as quickly as possible in order to electrify transportation and buildings with clean energy.
    ● Allowing homes and businesses with renewables to earn credits toward energy use for excess energy production.
    ● Electrifying everything practicable, including buildings, transport and industrial energy.,
    ● Negotiating to buy and/or exchange power with Quebec if both power and transmission are available at a reasonable price.
    ● Adding at least 7500 MW of short- and medium-term storage to help our electrical grid run smoothly.
    ● Not building any new uranium mines or nuclear plants that add to our huge pile of dangerous nuclear waste that has already been in “temporary” storage for 50 years. Shutting down the aged Pickering Nuclear Plant as scheduled or earlier if continued operation is unsafe.

    We will connect communities with clean, efficient transit options by:
    ● Stop building new highways. Cancel planned unnecessary highways such as Highway 413, Holland Marsh Highway, and the widening of Highway 417.
    ● Creating dedicated truck lanes on Highway 407 to reduce congestion and the need for more highways.
    ● Prioritising public transit in all transportation planning decisions.
    ● Immediately cutting transit fares in half for at least three months across all Ontario transit systems, including municipal, GO and Northland services to help people avoid the soaring costs of gas.
    ● Restoring the 50% provincial cost-share for transit operations in order to reduce fare increases for users
    ● Electrifying Ontario’s transit system as quickly as possible, including by adding 4,000 electric and fuel-cell buses by 2030.
    ● Tripling the number of dedicated bus lanes by 2025.
    ● Ensuring all transportation decisions are evidence-based, without political interference, and include consultation with planning experts throughout the planning process.

    We will reduce waste by:
    ● Setting high recycling and management standards for printed paper and packaging (Blue Box) materials, and a minimum standard of 85% for plastic packaging by 2030.
    ● Adopting clear, stringent, and enforceable extended producer responsibility standards for waste and packaging generated at workplaces, schools, and in public places - the sectors responsible for the majority of Ontario’s waste.
    ● Expanding the federal government’s list of banned single-use plastics to include water bottles, coffee cups and other unnecessary packaging.
    ● Ensuring a broad range of right to repair legislation to extend the life of goods and protect purchasers.
    ● Banning food waste from landfills or incinerators and expand food waste collection to all municipalities across the province.
    ● Setting targets to significantly reduce Ontario’s material and consumption footprints and track and report on progress.
    ● Setting required minimum use of recycled aggregates in infrastructure projects as well as providing research and education funding to ensure that all reclaimed concrete material can be re-engineered and re-used as effectively as possible.

    We will ensure a just and equitable transition by:
    ● Focusing at least 25% of the overall benefits of public investments to reduce climate pollution on disadvantaged communities.
    ● Funding a $6B climate bonus for low-income households by adding a 1% climate surcharge levy on the province’s top 10% income earners.
    ● Focusing conservation subsidies on retrofits that reduce energy use for those unduly affected by the cost of energy, especially rural, remote, low-income, and Indigenous communities.
    ● Redirecting the annual $7B taxpayer subsidy for electricity prices to support energy efficiency and climate action, maintaining energy subsidies only to those in need while also providing free access to upgrades that lower energy costs and consumption.
    ● Conducting a transition census of vulnerable jobs and economic sectors to develop strategies that help workers and businesses adapt to a new climate economy.
     
  2. Municipalities often feel the effects of Climate Change before anyone else does, and as the on-the-ground delivery agent for the change required to support the road to net-zero, what involvement will municipalities have in the development and implementation of your Climate Change plans?

    Ontario Greens will support municipalities to be climate leaders by:
    ● Providing municipalities and practitioners with knowledge, technical expertise, resources, and training via a Green Infrastructure Support Hub.
    ● Attracting private investment into municipal and commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy programs (PACE, also called Local Improvement Charges) with seed capital and a provincial loan-loss guarantee.
    ● Allowing municipalities to borrow money to make municipally owned buildings more efficient and pay the loans back out of the savings.
    ● Requiring all municipalities to adopt plans for reducing corporate and community emissions as far as possible to net-zero by 2045, and give them the authority and tools to implement them, including long-term, predictable funding.
    ● Restoring the 50% provincial cost-share for transit operations and supporting electrification plans for all municipal transit systems.
    ● Creating a dedicated $2B per year Climate Adaptation Fund for municipalities. 
     

Collaboration with Municipalities

As delivery agents for many provincial initiatives, we believe actively involving municipalities in program design would help deliver these programs more efficiently and effectively. Often, by the time a municipality has details of a program, it is in the final stages of creation.  

  1. What does your Party see as the role of municipalities in this process?

    Ontario Greens would seek to increase collaboration and consultation between municipalities and the province as programs are being developed. In this way we will be able to ensure that all levels of governments are included in the decision making process.
     

Municipal Operating Budgets

Building on Question #4 – often funding is announced to support new infrastructure projects and other critical services, however not factored in are the operating and maintenance (O&M) costs that the municipality is left to cover. While grateful for these funding opportunities, it is often a struggle to budget for current O&M costs, let alone new costs that will be incurred – and when in the midst of recovery from COVID-19, it is nearly impossible.

  1. How will your party support municipalities and their operating budgets both as we continue to recover from the pandemic, and as more infrastructure is being built in our cities (community buildings, transit, etc.) leaving municipalities with rapidly increasing operating and maintenance costs?

    We will support and strengthen municipal governments by doing the following:
    ● Grant municipalities autonomy to implement revenue tools to fund critical infrastructure needs and services.
    ● Provide financial support for municipalities to bolster local infrastructure:
    ● Provincially fund 50% of shelter and community housing costs while allowing municipalities to maintain management control.
    ● Restore the 50% provincial cost-share for transit operations and support electrification plans for all municipal transit systems.
    ● Create a dedicated $2B per year Climate Adaptation Fund for municipalities.
    ● Assess the use of City Charters as a mechanism to empower major Ontario cities, such as Toronto, and prevent inappropriate interference in local democracy by the provincial government. 

 

 

Media Contacts:

Mayor Cam Guthrie, Chair
mayor@guelph.ca
519-837-5643

Michelle Baker, Executive Director
Michelle@ontariobigcitymayors.ca
647-308-6602