Green Party leader Mike Schreiner made two announcements during his visit to Sudbury this week.
On May 10, he spent the evening at the Knowhere Public House on Elm Street addressing supporters, and this morning he held a press conference to unveil a major plank in the party’s platform. Sudbury Green Party candidate David Robinson was on hand for both events.
During his address on Monday evening, Schreiner made a point of mentioning Laurentian University and its financial challenges, stressing that a Green government wouldn’t allow that to happen again to an Ontario post-secondary institution.
“Never again in Ontario, should we allow a publicly funded university to go through creditor protection,” Schreiner told the approximately 40 people who attended the Monday evening event on Knowhere’s outdoor patio.
“Ontario has the lowest per capita funding for university and colleges in any province in the country, and we have the highest tuition rates,” Schreiner said Monday. “So part of the challenge that Laurentian and other post-secondary institutions face is they receive so little provincial funding, that they're now relying increasingly on international students, which can become completely unsustainable, especially in a global pandemic.”
To mitigate the current issues Laurentian University faces, Schreiner said he supported the University of Sudbury’s efforts to transform itself into a completely Francophone university with French classes and services. The university was previously one of the three institutions that were part of the Laurentian University federation. That federation ended as part of the CCAA process Laurentian continues to work through.
“We know that Laurentian cancelled a lot of the French-language programming and so that access to education in French is vital to this region and to Northern Ontario,” Schreiner later elaborated in an interview with Sudbury.com.
Schreiner also spoke of increasing accessibility to post-secondary education by reversing Ford’s Government’s cuts to OSAP (transferring OSAP from loans to grants) and making university an affordable means of receiving education for students.
A major plank in the Green Party platform is the ‘Green Retrofit Program’. Schreiner shared details on the retrofit program during a press conference in Lively on Wednesday morning, saying it was designed to “save people money as well as create 52,000 green jobs.”
Under the announced plans, homeowners would receive grants from $15,000 to $20,000 to cover green retrofits, which refers to home installations like heat pumps and improved insulation that reduce the building’s carbon footprint.
“We're burning natural gas to heat most of the homes and most of the commercial buildings. So if you can cut the amount of heat escaping, then you can cut the amount of natural gas and you can reduce the damage to the environment,” Robinson said regarding the importance of implementing the home retrofit program.
“So if you retrofit buildings, so they don't need too much heat, you can use electricity that you're producing locally and all those jobs stay in the province. Your homes are cleaner, and we're not hurting the climate.”
The Green Party has allocated $16 billion for the effort as a part of the party’s platform.
Responding to a reporter’s question regarding the potential for job losses in the mining and fossil fuels sectors as a result of green technologies, Schreiner said with innovative and new technologies, the mining industry can be made electric and sustainable, and those innovations are things Sudbury can export to the world.
“I want to be clear, the world needs the innovation that's happening in the mining sector right now in Sudbury,” Schreiner said.
Under the Greens’ plans, not only would the mining sector be electrified, it would also integrate Indigenous communities in developing economic empowerment.
“I'm excited about the opportunities we face in Northern Ontario right now. Some of the mining companies and Indigenous communities I've been working with are looking at creating equity partnerships. So, Indigenous people would be part owners of the mines as part of developing economic empowerment in Indigenous communities, and ensuring Indigenous prosperity,” Schreiner said.
The party leader said choosing between people’s livelihoods and the climate emergency doesn’t have to be a choice.
“We can address the cost-of-living crisis people are facing in this province and address the climate emergency at the same time. And our green building retrofit program is a critical part of delivering that for the people of Ontario,” Schreiner said.
Eden Suh is a new media reporter at Sudbury.com.