A friend of mine is a retired school teacher. He once told me about a former principal that he worked under that would wish the staff and students a Happy New Year on the first day of school. This week, Andrea Horwath convened our summer caucus retreat in Thunder Bay where we meet to discuss issues and make plans as we will soon be returning to Queen’s Park. I have often thought of this story and considered how very apropos the greeting was. When you think of it, there really are so many “new beginnings” come the first of September. In fact, the argument could be made that there are far more new beginnings in September than in January.
It was no accident that Thunder Bay was chosen as the venue for the caucus retreat. We chose to meet in the North because it seems that Doug Ford has really turned his back on Northerners, despite all of his promises during the last election to recognize the special challenges that we face in this region. New Democrats recognize the need to keep reminding Ford of the importance of keeping the North in focus, not on distant horizon like we have seen in his first year.
Northern Ontario has seen powerful economic growth in what many of us see as a truly majestic and precious setting. Northern Ontario is a place where families look out for each other, and protect the promise of an even better future for the next generation. But over the last year, a lot of challenges that Northwest Ontario faces have taken us from bad to worse.
For far too long and far too often, hardworking Northerners have seen their jobs put on the chopping block, including hundreds of workers at Bombardier, located in Northern Ontario’s largest community of Thunder Bay. Doug Ford was part of the problem, failing to get procurement for transit vehicles moving, but when the layoff notices came down, Ford turned his attention to Thunder Bay just long enough to play politics and blame the federal government, then quickly turned his back on Northwestern Ontario again.
One of the many issues we discussed at the retreat was the news that Doug Ford has ripped up the regional framework agreement between the Province and the chiefs of the Matawa First Nations, which was designed to advance development in the Ring of Fire. For many years now, families and communities in the North have been counting on the Ring of Fire project getting off the ground. Once it is in full swing, it will be able to provide stable jobs and economic opportunities for young people.
The Wynne Liberals already wasted a decade of potential economic opportunities for northerners by getting virtually nothing done on the Ring of Fire. Now, the Ford government is making things worse, destroying what little partnership work has already been accomplished with First Nations communities, delaying the Ring of Fire development even further.
The framework agreement the Wynne Liberals signed had problems that needed to be fixed. Scrapping the agreement instead of fixing it will take the Ring of Fire delays from bad to worse. By ripping up the framework agreement between Ontario and the nine Matawa-member First Nations, it sets the ignition of the Ring of Fire backwards by at least a decade. The NDP will keep fighting for investment into the Ring of Fire development — development that can only happen in true partnership with First Nations.
Ontario deserves better than what the Ford Conservative have done for them to date. Northern Ontarians also deserve so much better than we have gotten.
After spring’s NDP caucus retreat, New Democrats emerged and committed to help make lives better for all Ontarians. We are proud to say that we kept our promise not to just ‘oppose’ what the Conservatives were doing but also ‘propose’ new ideas and better means to help improve the lives of Ontario families. Clearly the Conservatives rebuffed all such ideas, suggestions and proposed legislation. However, looking back it is easy to list a plethora of statements, policies and decisions that Doug Ford and his ministers had to walk back. New Democrats were proud to stand beside the people of Ontario as they found their voice to speak out and demand change for the better.
The caucus retreat in Thunder Bay provided NDP members with the confidence and resolve to continue to work for all Ontarians with a particular eye focussing on the North. The people of Ontario deserve so much better. Just one example of this is the cuts to education. Our children and youth need to be prepared to tackle the challenges and changes that the new world is bringing to them. Ontarians deserve to know that they can access necessary healthcare, childcare and mental health support when they need it. The People of Ontario deserve to know they can count on earning a decent living so that they can spend more quality time connecting with and raising their children to be healthy, responsible citizens. Far too many moms and dads are seldom home as they have to work two or even three jobs just to make ends meet.
As our students and teachers head back to the classroom, parents wind up vacations, business operators prepare to expand and MPPs return to Queen’s Park to fulfill obligations to make life better for all Ontarians I wish everyone a “Happy New Year.”
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