News from the Park – December 17

I know I’m not alone in saying how happy I am that the Holiday Season is upon us. Mind you, with all of the events, activities and Christmas parades which I love to attend each year, I feel extremely fortunate that getting into the holiday spirt usually comes pretty early and easy for me. As well, having to spend so much time down in Toronto week after week, I can’t help but smile when I think how fortunate we are to be Northerners. In my mind, the natural beauty of our shorelines, rolling hills, towering trees dusted with snow, the crashing waves on Lakes Superior and Huron is truly unparalleled. All we have to do is take time to focus each day on all we have here in Algoma-Manitoulin.

Don’t get me wrong, though, we all know that life has not been all peaches and cream for Ontarians. At the risk of repeating myself in this column, upon returning to Queen’s Park after the election I did say this was going to be one heck of a ride. Premier Ford and his Conservatives have zealously proven out this prediction. In fact, some might argue that the atmosphere in terms of respect, integrity, transparency and even human compassion and kindness in the Legislature has truly been spiraling downward.

Now that the Legislature has risen for a few weeks, this would be a good time perhaps to take stock of the way matters currently sit.

Looking at the results of the last election, the voters of Ontario made it pretty clear that, after having fifteen years under successive Liberal governments, the Liberals just couldn’t get the job done. What was the Liberal legacy? They privatized and sold off of Hydro One, created the hallway medicine crisis with cuts and made life more expensive for everyone. Under the Liberals we witnessed the gas plant scandals among others which clearly proved that they were always only looking out for themselves.

So now let’s look at where Doug Ford has taken us in the last six months. Ford and his friends love to use bumper sticker catch phrases. While they may be catchy, that doesn’t make them true. There is no doubt that Doug Ford has made things worse for most Ontarians.

The Conservatives have an agenda chock-full of cuts and privatization, many of which they either didn’t campaign on while others they even promised not to do. Take for example moving three watchdog offices for the environment, children and youth and Francophone services under the umbrella of the Ontario Ombudsman. This will water down their effectiveness and turn them from a proactive advocateto a reactive service, only there to fix issues afterthe damage is done. The Conservatives even dumped plans for establishing a true Francophone university. I can’t help but say, however, it’s the child and youth advocate changes that are especially disturbing. Who will be there to look out for this most vulnerable segment of our society?

Doug Ford is committed to privatizing our health care system. Conservatives continue to drastically underfund our community hospitals. This means that Ontarians will see more cuts to front line health care workers and experience even longer wait times. It is important to note as well that Northerners access to specialists and treatments are significantly lower than patients in similar situations living in Southern Ontario. Ford even refuses to pay for expensive cancer treatment medication that is free if a patient is in a hospital bed costing thousands of dollars each week, but if the patient stays in the comfort of their own home at no expense to the Province, the medication is not covered.

The Ford Conservatives disaffectedly ended the highly successful guaranteed income pilot project a year early and halved the already meager increases to those who rely upon social assistance such as Ontario Disability and Ontario Works. And by matching provincial and federal disability qualifications, he is making it even harder for people who are not able to work to qualify for support.

Working Ontarians finally had some hope in the future with a $14 minimum wage which was scheduled to rise to $15 January 1st, that is until the Conservatives squashed that increase. And to add insult to injury, the Conservatives repealed recently improved and much needed employment legislation such as reasonable vacation time and guaranteed paid sick days among other improvements.

Ontarians are now witnessing a new style of government. Doug Ford’s priorities favour back-room deals for his insider friends – and you pay the price for it. He believes in cuts and privatization – and you pay the price for that too. His revengeful plots against his political enemies are unabashedly apparent as are his personal attacks. He dividesOntario instead of uniting us.

Imagine what would happen if we put people at the heartof every decision our government makes. We could give people hope. It would even unitethe province. A government that reflects compassion and genuine care can help more people build a great life, right here in Ontario.

The people of Ontario deserve better.

As the holiday is quickly coming upon us, I leave you with the words of the late Jack Layton as my Christmas wish to you.

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Mike Mantha

Michael Mantha is a politician in Ontario, Canada. He is a New Democratic member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who was elected in 2011. He's the NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and critic for Northern Development and Mines. He represents the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin.
Mike Mantha

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