Lunch Bag Let Down

If you were a kid who had to take your lunch to school with you, did you ever experience “lunch bag let down?” Most of us did from time to time. As a kid you would sit in class all morning and your mind would wander to thoughts of a favourite PB&J sandwich or some of Mom’s homemade cookies. Then, when the lunch bell rings, it happens – and your heart sinks. Lunch bag let down happens when you open up your lunchbox and find …nothing really there.

A friend of mine told me of a variation of ‘lunch bag let down’ that he experienced on several occasions. He was fortunate enough to have his busy wife prepare his lunch at the same time as their children’s. But from time to time, when mornings were hectic in their home, he would have a good laugh at lunchtime because when he’d go to eat his sandwich, it would turn out to be a “Harris sandwich.”  When I asked him what a Harris sandwich was, he said it was a sandwich recipe that his wife got from former Conservative Premier Mike Harris. Harris’ recipe cut all of the meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and leave…not much.

Ontarians as a whole are experiencing ‘lunch bag let down’ after hearing the details of Doug Ford’s first budget.

All across the province people are expressing outrage that Healthcare spending is not even keeping pace with inflation. Hospitals have repeatedly warned that this can only result in layoffs of frontline staff and cuts to needed services. In general, the PC government estimates a 1.6 percent annual increase over the period of 2018-2022. General inflation for 2019 is 1.9%. Therefore in effect this is a cut to healthcare spending

Education is another cause for great concern as the Conservatives have announced increases to class size, meaning fewer teachers and staff to work with more and more students in each class. This also means fewer options and courses will be available. Education funding is also not even keeping up with inflation.

The list for all Ontarians goes on and on in areas such as cutting $1 billion to Children, Community and Social Services, slashing close to three-quarters of a billion dollars in funding for Post Secondary Education, and cuts to Transit and Transportation, Energy and Environment to list but a few.

In my travels across the riding and in many of my meetings and conversations with Northern Ontarians, I am hearing even more worry and frustration. Recent surveys have shown that even in ridings with Conservative MPPs, 72 percent of people polled do not support Ford’s new budget.

Just like the Wynne Liberals before him, Doug Ford is failing to create jobs in Northern Ontario. He’s short changing us on much-needed infrastructure, and he’s offering no relief on sky high hydro.

In this budget, Doug Ford squandered the opportunity to create thousands of family-supporting jobs right across the North. He failed to take concrete action on the Ring of Fire with no funding, and no commitment to meaningful consultations with impacted First Nations.

Ford’s budget doesn’t do anything to improve the safe travel for Northern Ontarians. The Conservatives failed to commit to when the four-laning of Highway 69 or Highway 11/17 will be completed. As well, the Northlander passenger rail service was missing from the budget, with no funding or timelines for restoring northern passenger rail.

These painful insults come as ministries that are supposed to support Northern and rural Ontario are slashed. Ford cut the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs by a whopping $225 million, roughly a quarter of its funding. He cut Energy, Northern Development and Mines by $566 million.  He cut Natural Resources and Forestry by another $162 million.  And, here is a really scary one. Ford cut $142 million from Emergency Forest Firefighting which represents nearly 70 per cent of its funding. Remember last year’s devastating forest fires?

The cuts to education and increasing secondary school classes to 28 students will almost certainly hit rural and Northern Ontario schools the hardest. This will lead to class stacking, where students from different streams and grades are forced into one classroom, which will naturally lead to the closure of even more rural and Northern schools. As small schools close across the North, the students are going to be bused further and further away. Students will be picked up and brought home – but do you know what will not follow students home in rural Ontario? Usable, affordable broadband internet.

This government wants to make four e-learning secondary school classes at home mandatory, but it is not providing rural Ontario with the same broadband access as the rest of the province. How can you talk about e-learning when students in rural Ontario don’t have access to usable, accessible broadband?

Northern Ontarians deserve access to broadband internet, better access to health care and more support to build good, stable jobs here in the North. But Doug Ford doesn’t believe it’s his job to help make those things happen anywhere north of Barrie. He doesn’t believe it’s his job to help us.

The Liberals failed Northern Ontario for 15 years. They starved us of critical services and families saw our schools close, our hospitals become overcrowded, and our industries shut down. This budget makes it clear that Doug Ford’s Conservatives are only going to make things so much worse for Northern communities.

Doug Ford just doesn’t believe it’s his job to invest in the North and in Northern families. Northern Ontarians went without for 15 long years and are hungry now too – maybe even hungrier than the rest of the province. Ford’s ‘lunch bag let down’ is really hurting us here in the North. Northern Ontarians deserve a better, more caring government.

Investing in schools and hospitals is an investment in Northern children and families. Investing in the broadband expansion is an investment in local businesses and jobs. And investments in developing Northern infrastructure — from highways to the Ring of Fire — is an investment in our economy and our future. That’s what the NDP wanted to see in this budget, and we won’t give up.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha