In contemplating the end of this spring session, it occurs to me that today marks one year since our last provincial election and the Legislature recesses for the summer; assuming Doug Ford doesn’t repeat his sudden call for MPPs to sit well into the middle of summer. A year ago in this column readers were advised to, “Fasten your seatbelts. We better hang on for a wild ride.” I think most would agree that this year-long rollercoaster ride that Ontarians are experiencing has been a white knuckler. And the ride isn’t even over.
The other day over lunch, my colleagues and I were recalling all of the events and issues that Ford included in his first 365 days as the conductor of his rollercoaster. We each took turns suggesting one word that comes to mind that might best summarize this session. I suggested “priorities” is the best word. Surprisingly most agreed that “priorities” might be the most appropriate choice because, after Ford’s first year, we can certainly tell where his priorities lie.
With the Conservatives in office, Ontarians watched how Doug Ford put his friends and insiders ahead of the best interest of average Ontarians. One of his first orders of business was to settle old political and personal scores, cutting Toronto’s city council and cancelling regional chair elections that were already underway. He spent months awarding his friends and insiders with million dollar appointments, while cancelling a pay raise and protections for our province’s most vulnerable workers.
There is no question that Doug Ford’s callous cuts and backroom schemes have cost the people of Ontario dearly. The Conservatives made their priorities clear when they increased class sizes and ripped away services from classrooms and from families of children with autism. They made deep cuts to municipal services like child care, public health and land ambulances. As recently as just yesterday, Mr. Ford was at it again, plowing ahead with a wage cap that will set the stage for disruptions to critical public services that families, seniors and even business operators count on every day.
Ontarians quickly understood what Doug Ford’s priorities were when the saw him cutting the GreenON program, funding for forest fire protection and cuts to universities and colleges and to student funding. Now we see his callous priorities when he goes after people like childcare workers, school bus drivers, nurses and children’s mental health workers using ham fisted legislation without any attempt to negotiate whatsoever.
How many times did we see the Conservatives desperately rush to develop policy and enact laws, denying adequate public hearings, necessary consultation with stakeholders and limiting debate in the Legislature?
A perfect example of this is the Ford Government’s Bill 115, the “Beer Store” legislation. It was rammed through without any hearings or opportunity for public comment, despite being described as a “public policy gaffe of epic proportions,” by legal and trade experts who say Ontario could be on the hook for hundreds of millions in legal costs. Even business stalwarts like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce warned us that Ford’s ripping up a legitimate contract is an incredibly short sighted approach which will have detrimental investment ramifications down the road. This will hurt all Ontarians.
The good news is that the people of Ontario are not taking this lying down. They are beginning to fight back – effectively too. When strong enough, public action has forced Doug Ford to walk back some of the government’s decisions or explain to us that interpretation of the entire public has been all wrong all along. Hmph, that’s a good one.
New Democrats vow to continue standing with everyday families and put the people’s interests first. Throughout the last year the NDP partnered with families to push back against Ford and together we have achieved important victories since June 2018. We have taken on the issues that matter most to Ontarians such as:
Declaring a climate change emergency in Ontario
Formally adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Protecting municipalities from meddling and bullying by Doug Ford, or any other Premier
Fighting for truly universal health care, starting with pharmacare
Protecting auto insurance customers and preventing postal code discrimination
Pushing for a French-language university and a French Language Services Commissioner
Rather than just oppose, New Democrats have been proposing positive changes and legislation that will make life better for Ontarians. In the last week of the spring session NDP MPP Guy Bourgouin introduced a Private Member’s Bill that will improve maintenance standards and make winter driving safer on Northern Ontario’s main Highways 11 and 17. Northerners have seen too many family, friends and colleagues lose their lives or suffer life altering injuries because they have to drive on poorly maintained roads in winter.
MPP Bourgouin’s bill, Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer, 2019, will ensure that Highways 11 and 17 are maintained with the province’s strictest requirements for snow removal. By classifying the Northern highways the same as all 400 series highways and the QEW, snow on 11 and 17 would have to be cleared within eight hours of the end of a snowfall, just like it is on Ontario’s other major highways.
I’m proud to say that Ontarians are finding their feet and they are not backing down. Throughout the summer and continuing in the fall when the Legislature resumes, the NDP will continue to partner with the people of this province to push back against Doug Ford’s backward priorities. So keep your seatbelts done up tight. This wild ride on Ford’s rollercoaster is not stopping. We’re just gearing up for a second loop.
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