Rapid Policy Update
Green Party Platform 2018May 14, 2018
On May 14, 2018, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner announced his Party’s 2018 Election Platform, People Powered Change. The platform focuses on nine key commitments across three pillars: jobs, people, and planet. Below is a high-level synopsis of the major policy initiatives within the platform.
Key Commitments at a Glance
- Create jobs in the clean, innovation economy.
- Make homes and businesses more energy efficient.
- Lower payroll taxes on small, local businesses and nonprofits.
- Require new housing developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable homes.
- Include mental health services in OHIP+.
- Implement a basic income guarantee for all Ontarians.
- Protect air, water, and farmland.
- Develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy.
- Invest in transit infrastructure and services.
1. Create jobs in the clean, innovation economy
The Green Party will redirect the $3.1 billion per year in existing business support programs to target cleantech innovation, advanced manufacturing, and bio-products.
A key pillar of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Vote Prosperity platform is job creation. From the perspective of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), these programs must support the whole of the Ontario economy and not just one sector. Therefore, the OCC supports an approach that allocates resources with a focus on high-growth firms and those with high-growth potential, by delaying taxation on corporate income growth to overcome Ontario’s scale-up challenge. Solutions should be oriented towards supporting innovative businesses to scale-up and succeed in Ontario, regardless of sector.
2. Make homes and businesses more energy efficient
The Green Party will push for a $4.18 billion, four-year Green Building and Business Program which will provide grants and interest-free loans to help homeowners, renters, and businesses invest in energy efficiency and conservation.
The Green Party will fund this in part by closing the Pickering Nuclear Station in 2018 as well as purchasing power from Quebec. The Green Party also plans to invest $1.1 billion into a Green Building and Business Program.
In a recent report, Pickering Continued Operations: An Impact Analysis on Ontario’s Economy, the OCC detailed the economic impact of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station continued operations to 2024. This analysis expects the life extension of the Pickering Station to contribute over $12.3 billion to Ontario’s GDP as well as support 7,590 full-time equivalent jobs per year. This will arise from direct employment at Pickering Station, indirect employment at suppliers, and induced spending from wages earned by individuals across all industries. This will generate $290 million in annual government revenues; coming from $155 million in federal taxes and $135 million in provincial taxes.
Based on the results of this study, continued operations to 2024 would be a benefit to Ontario’s economy, its climate change goals, and the stability of its energy system. Therefore, the OCC does not support closing the Pickering Station in 2018.
3. Lower payroll taxes on small, local businesses and nonprofits
The Green Party platform promises to lower payroll taxes on small businesses and nonprofits by increasing the exemption level for the Employer Health Tax (EHT) from $450,000 to $1 million in payroll for businesses and organizations with payrolls under $5 million.
In order to pay for this change, the Green Party promises to increase the Corporate Income Tax (CIT) by 1 percent.
In Vote Prosperity, the OCC called on all parties to reinstate scheduled reductions in the CIT, standardize the Business Education Tax, and reduce the EHT. An increase to the CIT weakens Ontario’s competitiveness to neighbouring jurisdictions, particularly amid changes to the US tax system.
While we are pleased to see the Green Party address the EHT, this increase in the exemption level may lead to an increase in costs for certain businesses, dependant on size. It also fails to address the concerns highlighted in the OCC’s 2018 Pre-Budget Submission which highlighted that increases in the minimum wage as a result of Ontario’s recent labour reforms will lead to more businesses in Ontario contributing higher premiums through EHT.
4. Require new housing developments to have a minimum of 20 percent affordable homes
The Green Party also plans to invest an additional $200 million over projected increases in the 2018 Budget in funding for shelters, social, co-op, and supportive housing. The Green Party will also push for innovative solutions such as “tiny homes”, laneway housing, co-housing, and secondary suites.
In Vote Prosperity, the OCC encourages the government to focus on “strategic growth policies by ensuring that land use planning and development regulations are aligned, to increase density and create more housing stock.” While the OCC acknowledges the additional $200 million dollars in funding as a necessary step, we would encourage the Green Party to work with developers on the most appropriate response to Ontario’s affordable housing challenges which includes innovative solutions such as laneway housing but does not prescribe to solutions that may deter investment.
5. Include mental health services in OHIP+
The Green Party will invest $4.1 billion over four years into mental health services as the first step to making mental health services part of OHIP+. This is an additional $2 billion above the projected increases in the 2018 Budget. The Green Party will also create a new umbrella organization called Mental Health and Addictions Ontario, to prioritize mental health and addictions programs and services consistently across the province.
The OCC recognizes that healthcare is moving away from a hospital-centric model, and that mental health is a key concern for both businesses and residents alike. Greater investment in mental health services is therefore welcome. However, it is unclear how mental health would be effectively incorporated into the OHIP+ pharmaceutical coverage plan.
6. Implement a basic income guarantee for all Ontarians
The Green Party will invest an additional $3.4 billion in 2018-2019 to increase social assistance rates to the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) pilot. By 2021-2022, the Green Party will invest an additional $6.4 billion per year to phase in a basic income guarantee at the low-income cut-off measure.
The full program phase-in will be paid for by raising taxes on the largest corporations by 0.5 percent, increasing the income tax rate of the top one percent of income earners by one percent, and implementing a housing speculation tax.
While Ontario’s current basic income pilot is one that requires additional examination, increasing taxes to fully phase in the project without properly seeking to learn from the current pilot does not reflect the OCC’s call for evidence-based policy.
Furthermore, increasing taxes to pay for these initiatives is concerning. This is given that the OCC has continuously called on government to design tax policies in line with keeping Ontario competitive, including reinstating scheduled reductions in the CIT.
7. Protect air, water, and farmland
The Green Party will expand the Greenbelt through the investment of $200 million over four years to pay farmers to protect water and store carbon. The Green Party will also introduce legislation to permanently protect prime farmland and source water regions. The Green Party also plans to raise water-taking fees on a revenue-neutral basis to a level that recovers costs for sustainable water management programs, services, and science.
In the OCC’s report, Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector, the OCC recommended that the Government of Ontario publicly release economic impact assessments of policy initiatives that could affect the agri-food sector to ensure decision-making is evidence-based, participatory, unbiased, and transparent. With the expansion of the Greenbelt, the OCC would ask the Green Party to conduct an economic impact assessment to ensure that any change to the plan is able to absorb the Greater Toronto Area’s population growth, manage intensification, and keep housing affordable.
8. Develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy
The Green Party will develop a long-term energy plan for Ontario which includes plans to power Ontario with 100 percent renewable energy. This will be completed through an independent public review of the costs and availability of all energy sources to best meet Ontario’s needs, while also meeting Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution targets.
The Green Party will cancel the Fair Hydro Plan, which they estimate will save the province $21 to $69 billion. The Green Party also promises to replace nuclear rebuilds with water power, which they estimate will save another billion dollars per year.
The OCC has long advocated for Ontario to maintain a diverse supply mix in its energy system to support a reliable and affordable system. The OCC also supports the many economic benefits that will arise from the nuclear refurbishment at Darlington and the life-extension project of Bruce Power. It is important that any reductions in electricity costs not adversely affect the reliability or sustainability of the energy system. The OCC is also concerned that the Green Party has promised to cancel Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan, without additional information as to how they will further reduce electricity prices for businesses.
Furthermore, in Vote Prosperity, the OCC recommends that regardless of the public policy approach chosen, the government must pursue efforts to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that effectively mitigates the risk to business competitiveness.
9. Invest in transit infrastructure and services
The Green Party will increase funding for public transit infrastructure by $1 to $1.5 billion per year by implementing expert recommendations for dedicated revenue tools such as congestion charges, parking levies, and land value taxes to raise over $3.9 billion per year. The party will dedicate five percent of the transportation budget for walking and cycling infrastructure.
The OCC’s report, Building Better: Setting up the Next Ontario Long-Term Infrastructure Plan for Success, states that any infrastructure funding should be based on an outcomes-based approach with project prioritization based on clear, transparent criteria such as resulting economic growth, sustainability, resiliency, and community benefits.
In October, the OCC released Vote Prosperity, our platform for the 2018 provincial election on June 7. The release of a platform nine months prior to the election was intended to ensure all parties have an opportunity to address the most important issues to business within their own platforms.