April 7, 2017: Dropping loopholes and pennies

Have you ever had one of those watches that seem to run fast sometimes? Maybe it’s just that spring is here, but truth be known, lately I think my calendar is running fast. Between the fast pace of issues we face in the Legislature each day, traveling from Queen’s Park and back to the riding each week for meetings and events and all the while working to resolve issues on behalf of constituents …. Yet not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself what an honour it is to represent the people of Algoma-Manitoulin. A recent visit to a civics class at Central Algoma Secondary School provided a special reminder of the trust and responsibility which the people of this riding have entrusted to me.

I mention the classroom visit to CASS because it really brought home what challenges that our young people are facing now – or can expect to after they finish their education programs. Recently New Democrats have been calling on the Liberal government to address the problem of outrageous rent increases to which some are susceptible. This problem was actually created by the Conservatives back in 1997 when they created a loophole which cancelled any form of rent control on buildings constructed after 1991. Buildings constructed prior to that date are subject to rent control policies to protect tenants. During 14 years of power, the Liberals have refused to close that loophole.

This week during Question Period, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath brought forward a recently released Generation Squeeze report that shows the wages, and quality of life for young people everywhere in Ontario have been on the decline. One of the major concerns that the report highlights is the high cost of rental housing as one of the causes of this growing pressure.  The report says that young people are working full time but watching their money down to the penny. It almost seems impossible for them to imagine a day when they can afford to buy a house, let alone pay their student loans or be able to afford to live in this province without working two or even three jobs.

I saw a young couple on the CBC news this week who said their landlord DOUBLED their rent from $1800 to $3600 in one fell swoop just recently. Their income isn’t going to double and their other costs will not suddenly halve. Needless to say they can’t possibly afford this rent and they’ll have to move out.

Premier Wynne has a golden opportunity to take a positive step in this direction right now. My colleague MPP Peter Tabuns introduced a private member’s bill in mid-March called the Rent Protection for All Tenants Act. This bill would prevent such punishing increases by linking them to justifiable reasons such as inflation or improvements to the building. We need to give our young citizens who are starting out in life some hope for the future.

On Thursday both the Conservatives and Premier Wynne chose to continue to sit on their hands as they’ve done for the last 14 years by blocking the NDP’s call for a vote on this in the Legislature. Clearly it would seem that Liberals plan is to let a whole generation of young people continue to watch as their quality of life declines. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t have to be this way. The people of Ontario have a choice when they next have an opportunity to have their say at the ballot box.

Similarly, in last week’s column I again raised the issue of Ontario’s minimum wage. Kathleen Wynne would have us all believe that she is playing Santa Claus by announcing the Liberals are upping the minimum wage a whole 20 cents to $11.60 next fall. Just think how many more vegetables, slices of bread or pitchers of milk that increase will help put on the table. I think most people would agree that Ontarians deserve nothing less than a $15 minimum wage. Anyone who works full time each week shouldn’t find themselves wallowing below the poverty line. Too many people are working two or more low wage, part-time jobs just to pay their hydro bills and to put food on the table.

Like I said, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for a change.

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 mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin