News from the Park
Northerners tend to be very fond of the early days of spring. You know, the days just before the leaves come out. I say this because Northerners also know what comes along immediately after the opening of the leaves – Blackflies! So I decided to make the most of these fleeting blackfly-free-days and get some work done around my camp. While doing a small job, I must have scratched my arm and had to put a Band-Aid on it. It healed up quickly enough and then…I knew what was coming. Readers with a fine pelt on parts of their anatomy know what I’m talking about. There’s a Yiddish Proverb that goes, “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.” That’s how I feel about removing a Band-Aid. Probably it stems from when I was younger and my brothers used to gleefully help me to remove my bandages – being oh-so careful and slowwww…. Needless to say, in my case at least, the pain from the bandage was far worse than the original injury. Siblings are real sadists sometimes…but I digress.
As I was pulling the bandage off my arm, it made me wonder if Doug Ford enjoys pulling bandages off slowwwly too. I say this after learning that Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) Peter Weltman announced that the Ford Government has only found about half of the savings that are necessary to meet their budget plans. Weltman stated, “There are probably policy changes that they’re kicking around right now that they haven’t decided to announce yet, for a whole variety of reasons.”
Ford, through his Finance Minister Vic Fedeli, has already announced a plethora of changes solely for the purpose of saving money. The Conservatives’ cuts have included items such as cutting $1 billion from social services, merging 35 local health units down to just 10, establishing one “super health agency,” increasing class sizes for both elementary and secondary students, devastating cuts to inter-library sharing services and eliminating free tuition for low-income college and university students.
The Conservatives own estimates indicate that they will be cutting $900 million in supports for people with disabilities, vulnerable women and children as well as those Ontarians living in poverty. This includes a $222-million cut to the Ontario Disability Support Program, $300 million from Ontario Works, and $3.3 million from the Family Responsibility Office. This means people with disabilities — like those off work while they’re battling cancer, Multiple Sclerosis or other conditions — will suffer the most.
Ford’s cuts are the kind of cuts that are going to hurt countless Ontarians. And what’s worse is knowing that Ford isn’t done. He’s just peeling back the bandage a bit at a time, making the people wait, wondering and wincing, knowing there are more cuts ahead. The Conservatives just want to see what happens and what the public reaction is before they tell us the rest.
The Ford Conservatives clearly don’t believe it’s their job to help people. In March they revealed their scheme to rip services away from children with high needs and give all children with autism less. After families fought tooth and nail against the cuts, the government promised additional funding — but that funding was absent from recently released budget estimates. It was only after months of anguish for families of children with autism that the Ford Conservatives slowly peeled back the bandage claiming that they would backtrack on their callous cuts to the autism program. But families were right to be worried that the Conservatives may not follow through, considering their track record to date, and the lack of additional funding in the budget estimates. Keeping people waiting, wondering and wincing is just cruel.
The Conservatives are cutting $4.7 million from the Ministry’s Seniors Affairs Programs which promote age-friendly communities and foster seniors’ safety while maximizing their dignity and independence. That money was used to keep seniors engaged and connected. It prevented and addressed elder abuse and sought to ensure quality care in Ontario retirement homes.
According to the FAO, the Conservatives will be reducing spending on public services by $1,100 for each and every person in the province. Ford and Fedeli know that they will have to increase spending each and every year just to maintain the existing level of service. Their plan is to limit such increases to any program spending to just one percent per year. The FAO says this would represent the slowest pace of spending growth since the mid-1990s. In general, the FAO reports that Ontarians can expect economic growth to be throttled way back by Ford's spending decisions and cuts to services. There is no question Ford’s policies will kill job creation and hamper Ontario’s economy.
However, the news is not quite so daunting for all Ontarians. While Ford’s funding cuts target the things ordinary people care about, he is spending big on favours for friends. Ford gave a $308 million tax break to the super wealthy. He’s spending $30 million more on partisan ads to defend his Conservative buddies in Ottawa. And his meddling in Hydro One has cost $191 million. The truth of the matter is that Doug Ford is still spending – and making everyday families pay for it.
If the Conservative budget plans are so well planned and they are so proud of it, why are they peeling the bandage back so slowly, making Ontarians wonder and suffer? The Conservative policies and budget plans are hurting the most vulnerable people of this province. They are hurting our children right now and will continue to hurt our children for many years to come. New Democrats are focussed on doing what is right for all people of Ontario. New Democrats are presenting motions that show responsibility and compassion. For example, NDP MPP Paul Miller put forth Bill 60 which is designed to remove the politics from social assistance and only use an evidence-based process to set rates. Political partisanship has no place in decision making when it comes to caring for our children and our most vulnerable. We need to do what is right and we need to protect them, both now and in the future.
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