TORONTO — Ontario’s Greens say they’d strengthen the independence of the province’s top doctor, boost oversight of long-term care and increase home-care funding if elected to form government in June.
The party is also laying out plans for a “new climate economy” with a goal to halve carbon pollution by 2030 and reach net zero by 2045 — a plan projected to cost $16.8 billion in the first year.
The plan to reduce emissions includes a proposal to phase out the sale of new gas and diesel passenger vehicles, medium-duty trucks and buses by 2030.
The promises are included in a costed platform launched Thursday by the party that’s seeking to grow its footprint in the legislature.
Green Leader Mike Schreiner says the party proposal to turn the position of the Chief Medical Officer Health into an independent watchdog role, similar to an auditor with annual public reporting, came from concerns over possible politicization of the role during the pandemic.
Schreiner is the party’s only incumbent member of the legislature but the Greens are campaigning to grow their caucus this year.
“I think government is responsible in the case of the pandemic of ultimately making policy decisions, but I think we need to make sure we have public confidence in the independence of the advice and public recommendations that the chief medical officer of health is providing,” he said in an interview.
Other pandemic-related promises from the party include a public inquiry into COVID-19 – which the NDP has also called for – and improving diagnosis and OHIP coverage for treatment of rare diseases, including long COVID.
The party is promising to create an oversight system for medical directors of long-term care homes that would work with the Ontario Medical Association and Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.
It would also define the roles of the health and long-term care ministries in addressing health emergencies and bring retirement homes under the oversight of the Long-Term Care ministry.
Like the Liberals and NDP, the Greens are also promising to phase out for-profit long-term care. Schreiner says the party hasn’t set a date for that yet, but all new beds in the sector would be municipal or non-profit.
The Greens are promising to build 55,000 new long-term care beds by next year, boost home care spending by 20 per cent, set a base wage of $25 per hour for personal support workers and pilot a basic income program for unpaid family and community caregivers.
There is also a pledge to establish a 24-hour mental health crisis line to divert calls from 911, create more mental health clinics across the province and fund mental health care through OHIP, as the NDP is also promising.
Mental health promises for children and youth include a pledge to reduce service wait times to 30 days or less, fund services for youth aging out of care, require mental health training across the education system and fund youth wellness hubs for every community in Ontario.
The Greens are further proposing establishing a nurse-led task force to make recommendations on nurse recruitment and retention and to fast-track credential approvals for 15,000 internationally trained health workers.
The Green plan to reduce emissions includes a promise to make 40 per cent of homes and workplaces net zero by 2030 and 100 per cent of them by 2040, using a combination of solar and heat pumps.
The Greens are also promising a $10,000 rebate for electric vehicle purchases and to build more charging infrastructure, including a requirement that existing parking lots and garages install charging at 50 per cent of spots by 2030 and 75 per cent of spots by 2035.
The party also wants to double the province’s electricity supply by 2040 and proposes negotiating to buy or exchange power with Quebec if prices are reasonable.
On education, a Green government would offer funding for schools to buy electric buses, eliminate standardized EQAO testing, increase funding for outdoor education, update the curriculum on climate and the environment and eliminate interest on student debt.
There is also a plan to establish a “co-management stewardship model” with First Nations over development and revenue-sharing of natural resources, work with the federal government to end boil water advisories, provide funding and training for a First Nations Water Authority to operate water utilities and boost funding for residential school survivor supports.
When it comes to the overdose epidemic, the party wants to collect data on the issue and increase the number of consumption and treatment sites in the province.
Additionally, the Greens say they would recognize gig workers as employees, ensure they are paid the provincial minimum wage for all hours and make gig work count towards permanent residency applications.
There is also a promise to phase in a basic income program that would start with doubling ODSP rates.
By Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press