Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario (GPO), had breakfast and a consultation with local constituents at Twigg’s in Sturgeon Falls on Thursday, March 17. He was also there to bolster local candidates Kris Rivard of Sturgeon Falls (Timiskaming-Cochrane) and Shawn McClocklin of North Bay (Nipissing). Schreiner has been conducting a tour of northern ridings and talking Green policy in advance of the upcoming provincial election set for June 2 – travelling the entire area using his electric vehicle. He expressed that one of the difficulties in the north is the perception that the GPO is anti-resource extraction, whereas the opposite is the case. “We literally cannot have a green economy in the north without a mineral strategy in northern Ontario,” he opined. Kris Rivard added, “Some of my mining friends think Green is against mining, but we just have to do it right.” Critical minerals — including nickel, cobalt, lithium and platinum — are a $3.5 billion-a-year industry in Ontario, playing an essential role in the production of specialized technologies.
Schreiner also spoke to issues surrounding Laurentian University, saying he wasn’t in favour of separating the Northern School of Medicine (NOSM) from Laurentian. “Having a medical school connected to a university improves the medical school… How the government allowed this to happen – how can you not support a university? And speaking to people in the mining industry they said they would have stepped up and provided some funding if anyone had approached them – the research at Laurentian is important to the mining sector in particular.” The issues surrounding the finances at Laurentian also prove to be a sore point with Rivard, a Laurentian graduate.
Discussion addressed issues such as the carbon tax: “Instead of doing a rebate through your income tax they should send a check twice a year – it costs a little more but then people are aware of it; government has a role in helping you maximize your rebate”; home energy improvements: “We’re proposing $20K to better insulate your home”; and making electric vehicles more affordable and boosting the number of charging stations in northern Ontario.
But, “The biggest issue is to let people know we are not opposed to resource extraction – it’s a critical message.” Schreiner advocated that the manufacturing of forest products take place in the north, noting that while forestry happens in the north, it’s other jurisdictions that capture the value, whereas his party wants to maximize the economic value for the north. “We’re very pro-resource industry, with a vision to do it differently, in a way that would capture more value in the north. People see us as opposed to resource industry – we’re just saying let’s do it differently, so that it helps northerners more and protects the environment at the same time.” He also acknowledged that transportation issues need to be addressed, “That’s why we want to bring back Ontario Northland train and bus service.”