Well, I must say that it was nice to hear that Ontarians recently received some wonderful news that all can agree is good news, no matter their political outlook. The world famous Wiarton Willie proclaimed that Ontario can look forward to an early spring. This is one of those traditions that I hope will never be set aside. It’s good to have something to smile about in the middle of winter, knowing that the promise of green is just around the corner once again.
As I contemplated our rodent prognosticator’s declaration over my coffee, my thoughts of returning to spring veered off in the direction that it is also time for MPPs to get back to Queen’s Park. There already was a list of issues that was too long even before Ford called an early recess before Christmas. There is work to be done and the People of Ontario have been patient long enough.
In recent weeks the NDP caucus has been considering Ontario’s current situation in this ongoing pandemic. As a result, Andrea Horwath reorganized the caucus critic portfolios to take advantage of the growing strengths of our team. I am also pleased to note that special emphasis was made on assigning important new critic roles specifically to help Northern families get through this pandemic — including a new portfolio created to focus on northern roads and transportation challenges.
Sudbury MPP Jamie West is now the critic for Northern Infrastructure, Transportation and Roads and Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson is the new critic for Community Safety and Correctional Services. Timiskaming-Cochrane NDP MPP John Vanthof remains the Deputy Leader and critic for Agriculture and Food, Rural Development. And Nickel Belt’s France Gélinas continues to shine as the NDP Health critic. I am honoured as well to continue with the Northern Development portfolio and now have assumed duties as the critic for Tourism. Northerners understand that tourism is very much the lifeblood of our communities. The tourism industry has been devastated during this pandemic and the Ford government has done little to help. One of my goals is to ensure that our tourism sector is front and centre at Queen’s Park and that it gets the attention it needs right now.
As a caucus, we are excited to get back to the Legislature and well are prepared to tackle the challenges ahead.
New Democrats have always maintained that the best way to ensure the health and safety of Ontarians is to listen to and follow the advice or our medical and public health professionals. There is no room for political games in such matters. That’s why the recent revelation by the Globe and Mail that Doug Ford is crossing this line and is endeavouring to cover his tracks. They reported that premier Ford personally phoned the CEO of the William Osler Health System in an attempt to muzzle a physician who had spoken to media about COVID-19. Clearly his efforts to stop doctors from speaking out are incredibly dangerous and not in the best interest of protecting Ontarians. That’s why Andrea Horwath has called for an independent investigation to look into Ford’s actions.
Recently Andrea stated, “People need and deserve honest, truthful health information so they can make informed decisions, and physicians have a right to share their professional medical opinion — even if it doesn’t match the Ford government’s spin.” In truth we should be thanking the doctors and scientists helping us all stay safe during the pandemic. Doug Ford’s choice to let politics come into play. He muzzles and bullies our dedicated professionals which are not only wrong but also downright dangerous.
Dr. Brooks Fallis was the interim medical director of critical care from the William Osler Health System. According to the Globe and Mail report, Fallis said: “Dr. Mohammad, our CEO, had received an angry phone call from Doug Ford about my comments. And I was instructed on our phone call to stop all media activity.” According to Fallis, he was repeatedly told that the hospital was worried Ford would slash its funding. The hospital terminated Fallis’ role as medical director of critical care as a result.
It is not difficult to identify that there seems to be a pattern of health experts, doctors and scientists who being critical of the Ford government’s choices are undermined, targeted or harassed. Actions such as denying facts and attacking Dr. Fallis, Dr. David Fisman and other officials indicates that Doug Ford is treating this pandemic like a public relations battle, and doctors and scientists like the enemy.
Unfortunately there is a parallel situation with Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission being forced by the Doug Ford government to shut down its work prematurely -- right in the middle of the second wave. The deadline for making a submission to the commission closed January 31 and the commission is working towards an April 30 deadline for its final report. Despite the fact that the very issues the commission is investigating are still unfolding, the Ford government refuses to grant an extension to December 31, 2021 so that it can actually complete the job they were assigned to do.
Hundreds of seniors are sick. Hundreds of homes are in outbreak, causing anguish and terror among seniors and their families. Now even more contagious variants of COVID-19 are knocking at the door of long-term care homes. And Doug Ford’s slow and sloppy vaccine roll-out means some seniors in long-term care are still waiting for their first shot.
It is clear that Ford is playing politics once again as evidenced by his dodging and stonewalling the commission as well as his refusal to extend the committee’s time to, “do the job right – the first time.”
The job of all MPPs is to bring the voice of the people to the Ontario Legislature. My colleagues and I are looking forward to getting back in the trenches and challenging the Ford government to act in the best interest for the health and safety of all Ontarians.
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.
Michael Mantha MPP/député