Frequent readers of this column well know how much I value holding regular constituency clinics in communities across the riding. Having the opportunity to talk face-to-face with individuals to listen to their concerns is one of the most effective ways for an MPP to stay in touch with what is going on in the lives of their constituents. Not only does it provide a genuine opportunity to hear what they are saying, but it allows me to see and feel what they are experiencing. It also permits both the constituent and I to see the other as a real person, not just a voice on the phone or author of an email. Most months of the year the Legislature sets aside a week for MPPs to spend time back in the riding to get things done. That’s when I host my constituency clinics.
Recently I had the pleasure at a clinic to meet up with someone who just came by to tell me how pleased she was with the service she received from my staff. Of course, I thanked her for her kind words and said I would take her compliments back to the office. However, I took the opportunity to explain that I do not actually have a ‘staff’, but rather I have a team who works with me and one with one another, not for me. I can tell you there really is a huge difference. As a team, we strive to make life better for everyone in Algoma-Manitoulin.
Canadians, especially here in Ontario, are still reeling in shock from the announcement of the closing of the GM plant in Oshawa. Ontarians know that GM has been a very high profile company for over a century, employing many thousands of workers and families for generations. Northern Ontarians, unfortunately, are no strangers to the fear and anxiety that followed announced closures of our northern mines, paper and lumber mills and steel mills. This is something the people of Algoma-Manitoulin can definitely relate to.
As it stands today, what the people of Ontario need right now is a leadership with a team approach, focussing on what we can do to help. Now is the time Ontarians need our leaders to step up to the plate, roll up their sleeves and get the job done. Unfortunately, however, ‘Coach Ford’ has already thrown in the proverbial towel saying of GM in the Legislature, “They’re gone. They’re done.” The best Ford could offer is that he tried, but “They [GM] told me straight up there’s nothing we can do.”
You know, if Doug Ford is willing to give up so easily on something as important and integral as the GM closure, what does this tell us is in store for the rest of us when our turn comes along in the North? Pfftt, so much for Ford’s commitment to looking out for the little guy.
When Andrea Horwath went to speak in person to frontline workers at GM, they told her that they need a government that understands that it’s not just job numbers that are on the line. It’s real people with real families. Later Andrea said that, “New Democrats know that these are not just jobs — these are careers that generations of Oshawa people have raised their families on, and losing them would be devastating.”
Now, why not ask the workers at Algoma Steel what happened when they were given the news about the steel plant’s problems back in 2004? Did everyone just throw up their hands, say, “Oh darn, nothing we can do,” and walk away? I don’t think so. Here we are at the end of 2018, the steel plant is still going, and they recently got a new lease on life. That’s what happens when people come together, support one another and as a team to get the job done.
In a statement, Andrea said, “We are going to continue to fight for these workers, their jobs, and for Oshawa. These families and this community can have a very bright future if we pull together.” As far as I’m concerned, experience has shown me that this is only over if the province gives up.
Many of you will remember several years ago when the Liberals decided to shutter a boatload of Ontario’s Provincial Parks. People didn’t take it sitting down. They came together as teams that were committed to saving the parks. No one suggested just throwing money at the problem. Instead, they thought outside the box and came up with creative partnerships and plans to keep the parks open as viable public venues. As a result of such thinking and exploration, thousands of people continued to enjoy visiting those parks even now.
I truly believe that teamwork is the answer, not just for the GM situation, but for Ontario as a whole. By working together we can overcome many of our problems such as eliminating the need for hallway medicine, seniors living in poverty, improving home care, staggering over-representation of Indigenous children in foster care, protecting our environment and effective ways of reducing our carbon footprint.
As I said, in my office we pride ourselves on the effectiveness of teamwork. Maybe Coach Ford and his buddies would benefit from taking some pages out of a more effectual playbook.