First and foremost I want to say how honoured I am to again have the privilege of bringing the voices of the people of Algoma-Manitoulin to Queen’s Park as your MPP. Just like the people who I represent, I am exceedingly proud of this precious land we call home. I am committed to making life better for all Ontarians, both now and for generations to come.
As you know, Premier Ford decided to hastily call the Legislative Assembly to sit this week for its first session under the new Conservative government. Having just days ago sworn in the ministers; they don’t even have all of the necessary ministry staff in place. Some of them are not only fledgling ministers but rookie MPPs as well. Needless to say for them it won’t be a steep learning curve but rather something better represented by a twister. For Ontarians, it’s kind of like getting into the passenger seat with a novice driver at the wheel. Fasten your seatbelts. We better hang on for a wild ride.
Many of you will recall from your childhood the first line of the song, “The wheels on the bus go round and round…” I said to myself, “Well, come October 31st, not so much for Greyhound buses.” We all heard the devastating news that the Greyhound Bus Company is pulling all of its routes west and north of Sudbury. This just months after years of pressure that we were finally successful in expanding Ontario Northland bus service to bolster the services of Greyhound so that Northerners had access to safe and reliable public transportation. It must be remembered that not everyone has access to a vehicle of their own. Not everyone can afford such luxury. Thousands of seniors, students and people with medical issues must have some way of getting to school, medical appointments, various services, and a means to maintain family connections.
Greyhound blames a 41% drop in ridership. Well, such a drop is not surprising in this region where routes were cut to one per day. For that matter, the resulting schedule required many passengers to stand on the TransCanada in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning to flag down a bus heading their way. Who wants to see their son, daughter or elderly parent in ill health standing on a dark highway in snow or rain at 4:00 a.m.?
Northerners have a right to expect access to safe and reliable intercity public transportation. The Conservatives promised to understand and see to the unique needs of Northerners. It is important that we hold them to this commitment.
One of the first items on Fords agenda is to rip up Ontario’s cap-and-trade agreements as well as terminate recently signed contracts for wind farms. This move clearly demonstrates that Doug Ford’s anti-environment crusade is truly a priority for his government. Such decisions will put Ontario’s air, water and land at risk – and cost people and the province billions of dollars. Since our fledgling premier wasn’t an MPP when the Liberal’s gas plant scandal cost Ontario taxpayers over $ 1 billion for just a hole in the ground when they cancelled those deals, Ford doesn’t know about any of that. As well, Ford has set aside at least $30 million for court costs to fight a hopeless battle with the Federal Government over the cap-and-trade issue. And how much will it cost Ford to cancel the signed contracts for windfarms? “Gas Scandal Part Deux?”
Scrapping all clean-air and climate change initiatives will hurt Ontario – and doing that without any sort of a replacement carbon reduction initiative is completely irresponsible. Maybe Ford should have given his Ministers the time needed to settle into their jobs and get a handle on the entire portfolio before recalling the Legislature and making off the cuff/bumper sticker decisions. Ontario families deserve clean lakes, and healthy smog-free air. They deserve a plan that will at least leave our children and grandchildren with a province clean and beautiful as the province we inherited from our parents.
Ontario businesses have spent billions on carbon allowances, including hundreds of millions on carbon allowances that apply to the period starting in 2021. If cap-and-trade is scrapped and these allowances are then worthless in Ontario, will the province be on the hook to compensate those businesses? And how will Mr. Ford replace the $1.9 billion per year that the cap-and-trade auction brings in for the province? Will he be making another $2 billion in cuts to essential programs Ontarians count on?
Like I said, we all better buckle-up. It’s going to be interesting to witness this wild ride with Ontario’s “first ever government for the people,” at the wheel.