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Schreiner talks hydro and agriculture

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Special to the Packet & Times

Mike Schreiner, leader Green Party of Ontario, visited Orillia this Saturday. He is pictured here downtown with Alec Adams, an Orillia resident and CEO of Simcoe North Federal Green Party Association. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Mike Schreiner, leader Green Party of Ontario, visited Orillia this Saturday. He is pictured here downtown with Alec Adams, an Orillia resident and CEO of Simcoe North Federal Green Party Association. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Rising hydro costs, water protection and loss of farmland across Simcoe County were matters of concern brought forth to an Ontario party leader.

"The issue around Ontario is rising electricity cost," said Mike Schreiner, leader Green Party of Ontario, who was in the area on what he dubbed as his "listening tour."

His party, he said, has presented the best solution to rising hydro costs -- saying no to putting more money into nuclear power plants at a projected 180% rise in costs over the next decade.

"That's the Ontario Power Generation's request for nuclear power. We're saying no to that, because people can't afford that kind of increase to their bills," Schreiner said. "If a 70% increase over the last decade has hurt people, imagine what an 180% increase over the next 10 years will do to them.

"People need someone at Queen's Park to say no to the 180% increase."

Schreiner said he has mixed feelings on nuclear power generation, adding the province cannot afford to shut down the current plants as they produce over 50% of its electricity, but he also said he wasn't in favour of putting more money into new nuclear projects right now.

"Especially when there are low-cost alternatives, like water power from Quebec and Ontario," said Schreiner. "The cheapest alternative is to retrofit homes so people can save money by saving energy."

Reflecting on the recent sale of the Orillia Power Corporation's distribution sector's sale to Hydro One, the political leader said he was opposed to such actions and to privatization of Hydro One, in general.

"Once you lose control of your distribution and transmission systems, there's less of an incentive to invest in energy-efficient systems," he said. "They want to maximize profits, so there's no interest in conservation. Let's put people first."

No stranger to Orillia and area, Schreiner, who camps often at Bass Lake Provincial Park, said he also heard concerns around Lake Simcoe water protection.

"We've been big supporters of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, (but) we think it needs to be stronger," he said. "We need to be looking at just how much development has taken place around the lake. Those kinds of development create concerns around storm-water runoff and septic tanks, and the cumulative effects of all of that puts pressure on the health of the lake."

The party proposes putting more controls and stronger restrictions on developments around the lake, added Schreiner.

"I understand people want to live by the lake, but if we're not careful, we will destroy the reason for why people want to build there," he said.

Walking around the downtown farmers' market, Schreiner said he heard a third concern that is also close to his heart: the loss of farmlands in the area.

"I have a deep passion for food and farming. I grew up on a farm, and started my local organic-food business in Guelph 22 years ago," he said. "I think one of the great things about Simcoe County is the great variety of local food businesses and agriculture land."

Schreiner added he is proud, and rather sad, that so far he is the only political leader (in Ontario) to sign the Food and Water First pledge, which is dedicated to protecting Ontario's prime farmland and source-water regions.

"It's saying no development on prime farmland or on source-water protection regions," he said. "We have to protect the water because it's essential to our life and economy."

mshahid@postmedia.com

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