Two-way communication is Important!

I have never been one to boast of any scholarly degrees or traits of any description. Instead, I profess to be nothing more or less than the people I live next door to or meet on the street every day. But, of course, my job requires that I read a heck of a lot of reports, legal documents, letters, newspapers and books, so I can say I am at least well informed. While I may not be a learned scholar, I truly understand the importance of communication – and by that, I mean two-way communication.

One of the things I have learned is the value of using stories, quotations, idioms, and even humour at times to help convey meaning and improve understanding. This is because they are usually short, meaningful and effective.

This week my office team and I discussed recent current events, reports and political plans for the coming months.  We spent considerable time reviewing the decisions and pathways taken, as well as those not taken, by the Ford Conservatives in recent weeks and months.  As it was just an informal meeting of my small team, we had not gone to great efforts to organize subject matter in any particular order. Nonetheless, a reality suddenly emerged before our eyes.  We took stock of where Ontarians find themselves at this point in time. Then it hit us like a ton of bricks how much better off we’d be today if the government had acted in a timely manner with clarity, determination and confidence.  Instead, Premier Ford has chosen to dither and delay time and again, often denying realities evident to all.  There is little doubt that his procrastination has come back to bite Ontarians in the butt hard.

Author and humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw wrote, “The greatest thief this world has ever produced is procrastination, and he is still at large.” Unfortunately, I fear such a thief is here among us in Ontario – in Queen’s Park.

Let me explain my thoughts on this matter.

If you live in Algoma-Manitoulin, you know someone who owns or works for a business connected to tourism.  Undoubtedly, tourism is one of the most significant contributors to Northern Ontario’s economy.  We all know one or more people who find employment in a restaurant, hospitality, recreation, entertainment, retail, or operate an outfitter business.  Tourism is one of the hardest hit business sectors by the pandemic.  Month after month, my office hears from so many business operators associated with tourism who are on the brink of financial ruin due to loss of income from the pandemic.  These businesses need a helping hand in the short term to stay afloat.

It is true that the Province finally did agree to provide some relief in the form of the Ontario Tourism Recovery Program (OTRP), putting aside $100 million for aid.  Tourism businesses have been suffering incredible losses of revenue for almost two years now.  Operators have been calling on Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Minister Lisa MacLeod to make good on promised funding through the OTRP, which was announced way back in March. Unfortunately, after almost two years of uncertainty and stress for business owners, the government announced that the process for accessing the relief fund still will not begin for a few more weeks.  This is incredibly disheartening for both tourism operators and those whom they employ.  For some, this will be their final demise.

The limited eligibility of the Ontario Tourism and Travel Small Business Grant left behind businesses struggling to reopen as the province relaxed public health restrictions. A survey conducted by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario showed that going into the third stage of reopening, over half of businesses cited lack of revenue and uncertainty about their future as reasons for not hiring employees. Given these catastrophic results, what justification can Premier Ford and Minister MacLeod offer for their procrastination?

Doug Ford’s dithering has created a risk to our children and youth in school, that was clearly avoidable.  The latest modelling from the Ontario Science table shows the COVID situation is fragile and the danger to children is real. With cold weather around the corner, now is not the time to let our guard down.

Ontario should be doing everything in its power to stop the spread of COVID-19 among school-aged children, particularly those too young to be vaccinated. We know what will help: smaller class sizes, mandatory vaccination for education workers, rapid testing and adding the COVID vaccine to the list of required immunizations for eligible students. The government should have been developing a plan to vaccinate five to 11 year-olds so that it is ready to unfold the minute that Health Canada approval comes.  Unfortunately, Doug Ford is putting-off creating such a plan and refuses to spend money that he already has to protect our kids. Instead of pinching pennies, the Ford government must invest immediately in our children’s health. There is no justification for this procrastination.

Ford’s procrastination has also been detrimental to other issues that are not connected to the pandemic.  Consider the example of funding vision care for Ontarians.  Optometrists have been asking successive Liberal and Conservative governments for an increase in OHIP-covered testing fees for thirty years to no avail.

For some time now, OHIP has paid for eye exams for people who are 19 years of age and under and those 65 and older. Of course, everyone deserves to have clear vision. However, seniors especially need to watch out for special conditions, such as diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration.  Currently, the province covers about 55 percent of the cost of eye exams insured by OHIP. The remaining 45 percent is absorbed by optometrist clinics, which dips into overhead expenses such as rent and salaries. Dr. Sheldon Salaba, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO), says, “Government neglect has jeopardized access to eye care for those who need it most, undervaluing the eye health of Ontarians.”

The thing about it is, the government has known about this all along.  The OAO has been trying to get the government to the bargaining table for literally years, but the government – including the Ford government – has procrastinated. Finally, the OAO was left no choice but to draw a line in the sand.  It took the partial withdrawal of services to get the government to finally give the issue the attention that it deserves.

In the meantime, our children and youth struggle in school because they cannot see the board or are coping with eye pain and headaches. Some of our older adults face a loss of independence because they cannot get a new prescription they need to do the things that keep them healthy and happy.  Doug Ford is forcing all children, teens and seniors to go without vision care in order to save a buck. He doesn’t want to spend the money, and it’s everyday people who are paying the price.

Take a moment and consider the list of things that Doug Ford’s procrastination has caused stress, confusion and hardship for Ontarians.  Funding for senior dental care, families with dependents on the autistic spectrum, providing safe drinking water for First Nations, setting up a Northern Health Travel Grant advisory committee, and creation of vaccine passports. Ontarians deserve so much better than this.

There is an ancient proverb that says, “Time and tide wait for no man.”  Sometimes it seems that time is moving faster and faster.  If we wait or merely hesitate, we can be left behind or even lost.  We need leadership that can focus on what is on the horizon so that we are prepared to handle matters when they arrive at our doorstep seemingly moments later.  Ontarians need leadership that is looking forward and takes meaningful, decisive action to stave off avoidable pain and suffering for people.  Ontario cannot afford any further procrastination.

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 phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha