Provincial election questionnaire – Green Party responses

1. Will your party keep the Green Energy Act and feed-in tariff system in place?

The Green Party of Ontario would keep and strengthen the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program with revisions to the Green Energy Act to ensure local participation, local decision making and community benefits from renewable energy projects.

The world is on the cusp of a new energy era; renewables, including solar, wind, biomass, hydro and biogas, are an essential part of Ontario’s energy future.  The Green Party believes all Ontarians should have the opportunity to become renewable energy producers, earning income by generating green power for the grid. We support a FIT program that provides a transparent and stable investment climate for Ontario residents, communities and businesses.

The Green Party will promote a community FIT program that requires local ownership, local decision making and local benefits.  We will prioritize grid access for locally owned and community-based renewable energy projects. We will also establish a loan guarantee program for public benefit, community-based renewable energy projects. The Green Party supports a democratic process for meaningful community participation and local decision making about the approval and siting of energy projects.  The Green plan will bring communities together, not pit neighbours against each other, to ensure the successful implementation of renewable energy projects.

Best practices for implementing green energy in places such as Germany and Denmark started with local participation, ownership and benefits. In Germany, for example, over 200,000 people own shares in wind projects. Studies show that local ownership and decision-making increases economic benefits for communities and support for energy projects.

We will strengthen the FIT program by engaging industry, consumers, and other stakeholders in an open and transparent process for establishing financially sustainable FIT pricing; research best practices for FIT pricing; and establish a transparent timeline for FIT pricing reviews.

2. Will your party allow the Pickering nuclear station to be replaced by a portfolio of clean energy options when it closes in 2020 instead of new reactors (as currently planned) if cost effective?

The Green Party opposes the government’s current plans for new nuclear reactors in Ontario.

Given the large time and cost overruns associated with every nuclear power project to-date in Ontario, it is irresponsible to waste money on new nuclear when we are still paying for the massive cost overruns from our last round of nuclear projects.

Building new nuclear generation capacity would lock Ontario into an unaffordable energy future. Nuclear power is an inflexible supplier of base load power requiring both billions in capital investment and a long time to deploy. And we still have no solution or cost estimate for the storage and disposal of nuclear waste.

Instead of committing to expensive new nuclear, the Green Party has a responsible and realistic long term energy plan that prioritizes energy efficiency and conservation, invests in affordable technology such as combined heat and power, and expands generation targets for safe, clean renewable energy, especially hydroelectricity.

The Green Party’s Energy Plan prioritizes energy efficiency and conservation as the most affordable approach to meeting our energy needs. For less than half the cost of replacing just one nuclear power plant, we could retrofit 1.6 million homes for energy efficiency and reduce the need for the same amount of energy the plant would produce. Doing so would also create 90 times more jobs than replacing the power plant.

The Green Party will create a comprehensive Green Building Program that includes $1.6 billion over four years in refundable tax credits for home owners, tenants and businesses to invest in energy efficiency and building retrofits. This program will help individuals and businesses save money on energy bills and save the province money by reducing the need for new supply, while also stimulating local job creation.

As part of a safe, affordable supply mix, the Green Party supports increasing generation targets for Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Combined Heat and Power provides an affordable and flexible source of base load power; CHP plants can have an overall energy efficiency of 80-90% – better than the 33% of a nuclear reactor.

The Green Party’s energy plan will expand generation targets for renewable energy, especially hydroelectricity, as a clean, reliable and less expensive alternative to new nuclear power. We will immediately negotiate agreements to increase hydro imports from Quebec and explore completing grid connections to Manitoba.

We will also increase hydroelectricity capacity in Ontario, especially micro-hydro projects, in partnership with communities.  This, combined with the government’s existing generation targets for other renewable energy sources–solar, wind, biomass, biogas–while using existing nuclear capacity to end of life, could meet Ontario’s electricity needs without investing in expensive new nuclear facilities.

The Green Party believes Ontario needs a long-term sustainable energy plan that will provide a reliable source of affordable energy with the flexibility to incorporate new technologies.   By deploying new generation only when needed, Ontario will be in a position to utilize new technologies.  The Green Party has an energy plan with twenty-first century solutions to ensure that our power supply is safe, reliable and affordable.

3. Will your party commit to reforming the way new or expanded air pollution emissions are allowed in Ontario in order to ensure that where there are existing high levels of air pollution, these existing sources are reduced before those new or expanded sources are considered?

The Green Party is committed to reducing air pollution, with a special focus on assisting communities already struggling with poor air quality.

The Green Party supports changing the way the Ministry of Environment currently approves and manages regulatory compliance for point-source emissions.  In order to effectively reduce air pollution, the Green Party will measure, monitor and reduce the aggregate impact of all pollutants regardless of source.  Cumulative and aggregate emissions must be reduced before approval of new sources of air emissions.

The Green Party is also committed to immediately putting coal-fired electricity generation on emergency stand-by and completely phasing it out by 2014. Coal is the most polluting form of power generation and we believe it has no place in Ontario’s energy supply mix. We support converting existing coal plants into cleaner generation facilities so that Ontario utilizes these capital assets in ways that reduce health and environmental costs.

4. Will your party make reducing climate-damaging emissions a priority by implementing a cap-and-dividend carbon trading system that will help all Ontarians by making pollution reduction profitable?

The Green Party supports partnering with other jurisdictions in the development of a cap-and-dividend carbon trading system.

The Green Party will prioritize a simple, straight forward price on carbon, modelled after the popular British Columbia system, as the most immediate, efficient and cost-effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Putting a small price on carbon provides market incentives that spur innovation and entrepreneurialism and will help prepare our businesses to compete in a global economy with carbon pricing.

The Green Party will implement a $10 per tonne carbon tax to all burning fossil fuel emissions, three of which in 2008 – coal, natural gas, and refined petroleum products – accounted for an estimated 75% of Ontario’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The tax will rise to $15/tonne over time to maintain revenue as greenhouse gas emissions decline.

In our economic plan, every dollar raised by pricing carbon will be returned to individuals and businesses through tax reductions including raising the personal income tax exemption level by $2000 and reducing business payroll taxes to stimulate local job creation. $100 million per year will also be invested in refundable tax credits for seniors, low income residents, and individuals living in rural areas.

5. Will your party implement measures to reduce smog-spewing traffic congestion by reducing single occupant vehicle trips, improving infrastructure for electric vehicles and fully supporting Metrolinx’s Big Move transit plan?

The Green Party is committed to a comprehensive transportation strategy that reduces gridlock, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, provides incentives for fuel efficient and electric vehicles, and supports active transportation and public transit across Ontario.

We know that sensible transportation solutions improve our economy, personal finances, and our health and well-being. Our transportation plan delivers smart solutions that reduces smog province-wide, fosters healthy lifestyles and enables all Ontarians to participate in reducing greenhouse gases.

The Green Party in general supports Metrolinx’s Big Move.  This plan will help revitalize communities, promote healthy living, and reduce gridlock and smog. 

The Green Party will implement an active transportation plan with a $200 million fund for all municipalities across the province to invest in roads and streets that are safe and convenient for all users – drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

The Green Party will invest $400 million in tax credits over four years for affordable commuter benefits to support ride sharing and carpooling, flexible ways of getting to work, and a refundable provincial tax credit for transit users. In addition, we will maintain funding for public transit and work with municipalities to ensure that transit money is spent effectively on projects that maximize ridership.

The Green Party’s plan will also establish more high-occupancy vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling and faster commute times to work.

In addition to providing affordable transportation alternatives, the Green plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and smog is designed to make fuel efficient and electric vehicles more affordable. We will offer $238 million over four years in tax credits for electric and fuel efficient vehicle.

We will raise tailpipe emission standards steadily over 25 years (measured in grams of CO2 per kilometre) to encourage the market for lower more fuel efficient vehicles. Also, we will coordinate the electric vehicle industry to work with the Smart Grid program to ensure cars are charged at off-peak hours to minimize the load on the grid and to utilize electric vehicles for energy storage.

6. Will your party expand the boundaries of the Greenbelt in cooperation with willing neighbouring municipalities?

The Green Party of Ontario is committed to preserving farmland, farmers and natural heritage. We will coordinate and consult with farmers, municipalities, and other stakeholders on ways to expand the Greenbelt.  The Green Party believes that expansion of the Greenbelt must be done in ways that ensure the financial viability of family farms.

We recognize that efforts to support the protection and expansion of Ontario’s Greenbelt are an important part of creating a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. We will protect municipally-identified agricultural, rural, and natural heritage sites from urban sprawl, highway construction and industrial activities.

The Green Party is greatly concerned about the expansion of quarries, especially their effect on our water quality, farmland and natural heritage. We are committed to revising the Aggregate Resources Act to encourage the reuse and recycling of aggregates. We support increasing royalty fees for aggregate extraction to fund stewardship programs, and are committed to working with industry and organizations on developing and supporting Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregate (SERA) standards in Ontario.

The Green Party of Ontario’s vision is to build a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable province now and for the future. Preservation, protection, and expansion of our farmland, water resources and natural heritage is essential to realizing this vision.

7. Will your party support increased institutional and government sustainable local food procurement and local food processing?

The Green Party is committed to an Ontario Food and Farming Strategy that supports our farmers and local food processors while providing all citizens with access to healthy local food.

We recognize that supporting local sustainable food is a vital tool for health promotion and strong local economies. Green MPPs will ensure that public institutions buy increasing amounts of the food from Ontario’s farmers. We will set a procurement standard for purchasing 40% Ontario food, including sustainable and organically grown food, for all public institutions, with increases over time.

The Green Party will also invest $200 million over four years for a healthy school food program. We will ensure there is a comprehensive school food policy that focuses on buying local and makes healthy eating the easy choice for all students.

Local food processors are vital to farmers for getting their products to market. The Green Party will end one-size-fits-all regulations that have shut down local food processors across Ontario. We will create a level playing field for all food producers by introducing smart regulations that take the size and scale of businesses into account.

We will eliminate tax penalties and reducing zoning restrictions to facilitate local, on-farm food enterprises and innovative sources of farm income.   The Green Party will provide $435 million in tax credits over 4 years to support investments in local food enterprises, marketing hubs, and rural infrastructure.

The Green Party will also improve income stabilization programs so that they are more accessible to family farms, cover a wide range of products and don’t penalize farmers who experience bad years.

8. Will your party pass a Great Lakes Protection Act to provide the resources and coordination needed to ensure safe drinking water, clean beaches, protection against invasive species and toxic area clean up in Ontario’s four Great Lakes?

The Green Party understands that we need to ensure our water is managed properly to ensure it remains clean and freely available for future generations.

We will strengthen programs to clean up and protect the Great Lakes by supporting a Great Lakes Act, implementing the Great Lakes Charter Annex, working to strengthen the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and developing agreements with neighbouring jurisdictions to prevent invasive species.  The Green Party is opposed to shipping nuclear waste through the Great Lakes.

We will also implement Ontario-wide standards for sewage treatment. Currently, the quality of sewage treatment varies significantly by region and we plan to provide municipalities with support to help with necessary upgrades to meet the new standards.

The Green Party will create a $285 million fund for municipalities to invest in water and sewage infrastructure improvements.  We support the development of a Green Infrastructure strategy to ensure that our communities have natural spaces that reduce the cost of water treatment and flood water control and to keep our lakes and watersheds healthy.

9. Will your party retain the Far North Act and ensure that there is comprehensive land-use planning led by First Nations before development in the northern boreal region, including in the Ring of Fire?

The Green Party of Ontario commits to working with local northern communities to ensure that future development is done in a sustainable manner that respects local communities, First Nations and the environment. The Green Party supports having land use plans in place before the development of the Ring of Fire to ensure efficient economic development in a financial and environmentally sustainable manner.

The Green Party has called for revisions to the Far North Act to maximize economic value for Northern communities and to ensure there is a sustainable resource industry today and tomorrow. 

The Green Party supports more consultation and decision making for Northern communities, particularly First Nations.  We support requirements that northern resources be processed in the North to strengthen local supply chains, create more local jobs and maximize economic value for Northern communities. 

The Green Party has also called for a suspension of the Metrolinx decision to award an out-of-province firm a contract for transit refurbishment, over Ontario Northland in North Bay. It’s important for the province to take into consideration the net benefit to Ontario when making purchasing decisions.

10. Does your party support the Endangered Species Act, including mandatory habitat protection, adequate funding for species recovery, and the integration of innovative approaches to help landowners help species, such as a “Safe Harbour” program?

The Green Party supports efforts to preserve habitat and our natural heritage.

Farmers are in a unique position to create environmental solutions by providing clean air and water, biodiversity and habitat preservation, endangered species protection and carbon sequestration.  The Green Party believes society should share the cost burden of habitat and species protection so that we don’t regulate farmers out of business.  The Green Party strongly supports innovative approaches to species protection, such as “Safe Harbour” programs.

The Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program is an example of a grassroots, farmer-driven, solutions-oriented approach to environmental issues. The Green Party will invest $100 million over four years in expanding the ALUS program to reward farmers for good stewardship practices. These are public benefits that improve our health through stewardship of clean air and water, biodiversity and habitat preservation and carbon sequestration. We would also explore offering landowners tax credits for conservation efforts on their land.

The Green Party will coordinate and consult with farmers, municipalities, and other stakeholders such as Ontario Nature, Ontario Farmland Trust, Bruce Trail Association and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, on ways to expand conservation ownership in southern Ontario.

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