News from the Park – February 28

Feb 28, 2017 @ 08:09

This week, the Ontario Legislature once again resumed sitting after the winter break.  During the recess I spent a great deal of time travelling from end to end, throughout the riding, meeting with many individuals and organizations on matters of importance to the people of Algoma-Manitoulin. As much as I enjoyed my time back home, my colleagues and I have been truly eager to get back to business in Queen’s Park as there have been so many events and issues that need to be brought to the attention of the government.

It will not come as a surprise that the hottest issue continues to be the privatization and affordability of hydro for Ontarians.  Each week my office receives desperate calls asking for some sort of assistance or relief from homeowners and business operators who are struggling to make ends meet because of out of control electrical bills. Unfortunately for some, making ends meet is just out of the question.  Between housing costs, hydro and heat, and putting food on the table for their families, some Ontarians just can’t make it.  On the news the other day I saw a senior with a sign on his home saying the gentleman was forced to sell his vehicle so he could make some sort of payment on his hydro bill and his rent. Such decisions should not have to be made by our seniors.

I am sure that in the last few weeks you have heard lots of talk from the Liberals about their urgent desire to end winter hydro disconnections. This is an especially horrific experience for many northerners living in rural areas where they not only lose heat but their water supply as well. Once again, however, rather than making genuine attempts to look to the needs of the people of Ontario, Premier Wynne chose to continue with political gamesmanship.  Their plan was to throw the hydro disconnection legislation into a huge mixed bag of unrelated legislation to force all parties to support, just to sneak them through with the urgent hydro issue.  The hydro crisis in itself is important enough that it warranted being brought forward for proper debate as a bill unto itself.  On Wednesday the NDP motion to prohibit hydro disconnection to homes in winter was defeated by the Liberals, only to be resurrected a day later by the Liberals in a similar move.

It is important for people to understand where the responsibility for our hydro woes lies.  The main cause of our hydro issues rests at the feet of the Premier herself.  She has admitted as much. We all know that our hydro rates are too high to be afforded.  They are the highest rates in Canada.  This week the premier stood in the Legislature and blamed the woes on the fact that the Liberals inherited a degraded system from the last Conservative Government.  Yet, it is the decisions and actions of this Liberal government that have led us to where we sit now.  The premier says the rates are not acceptable, yet, by signing off when the Liberals decided to close the gas plants for their own political gain, she gave those rates her approval.  When she chose to privatize hydro one she again gave her approval to rising rates.  If the Liberals truly believed the hydro rates are so unacceptable now, why have they watched the rates skyrocket over the last 14 years by 180% while they’ve been in power?  In 2016 over 60,000 homes had their electrical service disconnected.  Now all of a sudden they think the rates have gone out of control?  Haven’t any of them paid a hydro bill lately?

To be clear, New Democrats are the only party who has consistently stood against privatization and the sell-off of our public assets.  The other two parties have flipped flopped on the issue. The Liberals used to say that selling-off assets is wrong-headed. Now they are doing just that.  And let’s face it; the Conservatives are all about privatization. Whether it be privatizing a public highway, selling off our health care assets or Hydro One.

In this session my NDP colleagues and I will continue to strive to show leadership in these areas; not lead you down the garden path where the other two parties would have you follow them.

Michael Mantha is MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. He is currently the NDP Critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and NDP Critic for Northern Development and Mines. Michael Mantha is currently serving his second consecutive term as MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. Constituents can reach his constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.