Chances are that if you were to ask anyone who knows me if I actually like my job, they’d say, “No…. Mantha loves his job.” Every year I have the privilege of travelling the riding from stem to stern countless times for meetings, clinics and events of every description. And to be sure, privilege is the right word. I am truly honoured to think that the people of Algoma-Manitoulin have placed their trust in me and my staff to bring their voices to Queen’s Park since 2011. Believe it or not, knowing this is quite humbling.
As I said, I truly do love my job, but like every other job on the face of the Earth, there are some down sides to it. As of late it seems that one of the greatest down sides for me is hearing from so many constituents who have stories to tell about how their world is on an ever growing downward spiral. One cannot help but be drawn into their anguish and sorrow. As I connect with people on the street, in coffee shops, on the phone, email, and social media, I am finding that more people than ever before in my career are worried about the future for their families, themselves, and even the province as a whole.
Just last week when I met a constituent at a constituency clinic, she told me that if she could she’d replace Doug Ford’s campy “Ontario: Open for Business,” signs that greet visitors to the province with one from the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” that warns Dorothy and her 3 new friends as they enter the Haunted Forest, “I’d turn back if I were you.”
After recovering from a good belly laugh, I took the opportunity to point out to her that in the end, it turned out for the best that the 4 characters took courage and continued on to face the troubles ahead. In the end, their decision to work together and support one another paid off. And that’s just what the people of Ontario are doing. In reality we want people and businesses to come live and invest here.
Despite how gloomy, or perhaps for some even devastating, the future may look, my NDP colleagues and I are seeing signs of hope that things may be changing. In recent days, every time you pick up a newspaper you see new evidence that the tide may be turning for the better. New Democrats are heartened by the strong unified messages of discontent and lack of confidence that Ontarians are expressing loud and clear to Doug Ford. In the first week of May alone we had literally thousands of men, women and children, braving less than desirable weather conditions to assemble on the lawns of Queen’s Park to make it clear to Doug Ford that they have no confidence in his budget or plans for this province.
Over several days, huge numbers of people came to the Legislature to tell Doug Ford that his cuts to health care are punishingly deep. They assembled to tell Doug Ford that cuts to public health units will put people’s very lives at risk. Ontarians joined together to say that reducing the number of public health units from 35 to just 10 will prove to be catastrophic. Experts including physicians, school board officials and health officers lined up to up to denounce the cuts to public health as outright dangerous.
Parents, students and even university and college professors rallied in Queen’s Park to tell Ford they have no confidence in his education plans. Increasing class sizes, laying off teachers, canceling music, specialized math and tech courses and making online e-learning classes mandatory, are all steps that will be totally to the detriment of our students and children. Ford is even reducing per-student funding that each board receives.
Despite how things look at the moment, I am heartened by the fact the Ontarians are coming together to make their voices heard. Across the province people are protesting in their home towns and travelling to Queen’s Park, united in telling Doug Ford that they are dissatisfied with his cuts and that they do not have confidence in his budget or plans. Ontarians can take encouragement that citizens from so many walks of life are uniting for the common good of all people.
And the good news is that the unified voices may be starting to resonate.
If the rhetoric and recent frustrated tone of responses from Ford, Education Minister Lisa Thompson, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Finance Minister Vic Fedeli are any indication, it seems that the people of Ontario may be getting their messages across. Ford and Fedeli have already resorted to trying to drive a wedge between teachers and parents; vehemently blaming ‘union bosses’ and teachers for inciting students and fear mongering. In addition, the other day after facing another crowd of protesters outside his constituency office in North Bay, Fedeli couldn’t mask his frustration, calling the union leaders “bullies” and blustering, “They are spreading false information…. Nobody should believe a word teachers' unions ever tell them again.” Teachers are caring professionals whose foremost concern is the success of their students.
New Democrats see no value in fueling divisiveness between the various stakeholders such as teachers and parents. All of us are in this together. We are dedicated to ensuring Ontario is a strong, prosperous, thriving province that strives for progress. We share a vision in which Ontarians will be served by a government that is accountable, transparent and predictable. We envision a province in which decisions about the things that matter most to people don’t seem arbitrary. We envision a province where government is serious about the key role it plays in providing a stable, progressive environment in which businesses of all sizes and people can thrive.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député