Well, the news is that after a 144 day recess from the Ontario Legislature, the circus is back in town. That’s the longest recess in a quarter century.
In all honesty, it’s great to be back so that we can get on with the work we were elected to do; make Ontario a stronger and better place to live for all Ontarians. The unfortunate truth is that so much time was wasted because the purpose of the extended recess was not to provide opportunity for MPPs to tend to matters back in their ridings, but rather it was a simple attempt to keep Doug Ford’s dark clouds of popularity from raining on Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s parade. Fortunately, or unfortunately - depending on your perspective - the grand plan did not work. The damage caused by Ford’s callous and ill considered cuts to hospitals, schools, mental health, and families was in plain site and still vivid in Ontario voters minds.
An awful lot happened in the last session and over those 144 recess days:
Schools narrowly avoided a province-wide shutdown caused by Ford’s cuts, and attack on schools.
Ford continues the process of cutting 10,000 teaching jobs.
Hallway medicine is a growing crisis.
Many frontline hospital staff members are facing job losses due to bed cuts.
In Sudbury, new reports show as many as 62 patients being treated in hallways at Sudbury’s Health Sciences North hospital.
Ford has ripped millions out of long-term care funding.
Autism families are still anxiously waiting for needs-based funding so their children can receive proper treatment and not regress developmentally.
However, there is a good news rumour going around that “Circus Ringmaster” Ford is promoting his new ‘show’ as ‘all new and improved.’ When the Legislature broke five months ago on June 6th, the atmosphere was venomous. The heckling and catcalling was equalled by the callous and bullheaded attitude demonstrated by many day after day, including the Premier. It was anything but a model of democracy in action. It is my honest hope that the adults will be in the room going forward.
To be certain, a change in tone and professional decorum would be a great way to begin anew. Ford says the Conservatives have learned from their mistakes. The thing is, what they learned depends upon what they perceive as their mistakes. Put simply, are they sorry for acting inappropriately or are they simply sorry they got caught? The change must go deeper than just the surface. What is needed is a radical change in the government’s priorities.
It’s no secret that up until June, the Conservative modus operandi was to simply bulldoze a straight line to establish a path to make way for the multitude of campaign promises not only to voters but to influential supporters in the background. Ford’s long-time friend and former Conservative Chief of Staff Dean French’s blatant acts of cronyism were in plain sight for all to see. Everyone, that is, except Doug Ford until he finally saw one of his own MPPs verbally ripped to shreds publically by French just for raising concerns to Ford instead of him. And just for good measure, French had his wife’s cousin as well as a 26 year old lacrosse teammate of his son appointed to cushy six-figure foreign government job assignments.
In all honesty, I am truly hopeful that the Premier and his caucus are genuinely committed to following up on the promise to work collegially with all parties to better the lives of all Ontarians.
On a positive note, I will say that just days ago I was heartened by a comment in the Toronto Star by Government House Leader Paul Calandra. When questioned on what the government would do to prevent any further possible patronage abuses. His response was, “These are people that do very good work on behalf of the people of Ontario … but we want to make sure that they are in it for the right reasons and that the work that they do is in the best interest of the people of Ontario.” The article indicated that Calandra went on to say that the Conservatives would welcome any suggestions from the opposition on how to better vet appointment candidates in the future to prevent any further scandal ridden appointments. Clearly time will tell.
For a democracy to work, it does not require that everyone think the same way or agree on ideas and philosophies. For a democracy to be effective what is required is for people to listen to each other and to discuss ideas and viewpoints so that informed and reasonable decisions can be made. The whole concept of having an opposition in the Legislature is to bring about debate and consideration of different ideas and improvements to bills before they are enacted. The opposition is also there to ensure that the government is held accountable for its decisions and actions. After all, an honest hard working person has nothing to hide if he has done his job well. To hold someone accountable does not necessitate raising blame or accusations, but rather it provides a means for a government to explain or demonstrate how or why it has taken a particular action or path.
New Democrats are ready and eager to return to the Legislature to work for families. Our plans are to have a constructive session, where we go not only to oppose Ford’s cuts – but to also propose plans to do so much better for the people of Ontario.
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@example.com or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député