News from the Park
People in Algoma-Manitoulin know that when they experience difficulty navigating the tangles of various provincial ministries and agencies, that my office is here to help. Just call or email my constituency office and my team is happy to assist.
One of the most frequent topics of concern and request for assistance is in regard to the Northern Ontario Health Travel Grant (NHTG). Judging from the number of request for assistance that my Northern colleagues and I receive, Northerners are telling us that the NHTG is just not working for them as it should. As time goes on and the medical practices evolve, it is essential that the travel grant policies keep up to changing trends.
Each week our offices hear that the grant is not satisfactorily assisting with costs associated with travel for medical treatment. We are told that the reimbursement rates are too low, that the policies for calculating distances and for qualification for minimum distance travelled do not reflect the realities that Northerners are experiencing. And of course, so often we hear that the wait times for reimbursement are far too long. It seems that a time frame in excess of eight weeks is most common for claims to be processed and paid out. And then there are those situations in which a person has multiple trips close together – and they don’t receive the money soon enough to cover the expense.
The current travel grant program forces low-income families and seniors on a fixed income to pay for travel costs upfront and out-of-pocket is unacceptable. For many, this is not just difficult but impossible, especially given the long delays to get the money back.
Decades of Conservative and Liberal governments let Northern Ontarians down by failing to make health care accessible in their region. By ignoring the existing travel grant’s obvious issues, the Ford Conservatives are making things worse. No one should have to rack up credit card debt - if they have the luxury of a credit card - because of a health care appointment, or not see a doctor because they cannot afford it.
New Democrats know that we can do better to ensure more people get the care they need, when they need it. Being sick is stressful enough for both the patient and family members. It’s time to fix the Travel Grant so Northerners can focus on getting better, rather than worrying about how they’ll afford to get medical care.
For this reason, NDP MPP Judith Monteith-Farrell recently introduced a bill in the Ontario Legislature that would ensure the NHTG is reviewed and improved, and that northern Ontario residents get the support they need to access health care.
The NDP’s NHTG Advisory Committee Act would see the establishment of an advisory committee to consult with northern families and health care workers. The committee would submit recommendations to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care on how to fix the problematic program so that it actually provides the assistance Northerners need - when they need it. This is an update that is long overdue.
On another note, having time to look back at the recent federal election, it’s pretty clear that the greatest concern on Canadian’s minds is the need for effective action to protect and restore our environment. There is no more time to delay. Action is needed now. Across Ontario and across the country, we are not only seeing the effects but we are now also feeling the impact of climate change. It is more than clear that for the next generation, literally everything is on the line.
Despite the fact that the evidence is more than obvious, the Ford Government is determined to continue to wage war on the environment. Doug Ford’s plans are going to cost Ontarians both financially and environmentally. In the last election Ford committed his government to ripping up the hundreds of renewable energy projects that are spread across the province. He also told Ontarians that it would not be at their expense.
However, new information revealed by the NDP shows that Doug Ford blew almost a quarter of a billion dollars ripping up green energy contracts. This revelation came about after New Democrats spotted a strange number in the Public Accounts for the Ministry of Energy — a $231 million expense listed simply as “other transactions.” The NDP requested a follow-up by the Legislative Library. The Government responded to the library’s request saying that the “other transactions” were for expenses incurred as a result of the cancelation of 750 green energy contracts. Well… so much for Ford’s promise that there would be no costs associated with ripping up the renewable energy projects.
This $231-million price tag for Ford’s continuing war on green energy projects exposes Ford’s claim to be pure balderdash. It is no different than the way the Liberals wasted millions cancelling two gas-fired power plants back in 2011. This just adds insult to injury as Ford takes things from bad to worse for Ontario families by letting hydro bills go up, not down, instead of fixing the hydro mess left behind by the Liberals. The Liberals also tried to hide the cancellation bill with a complex cover-up.
As they say, once bitten, twice shy. Having just gone through the Liberal scandal, Andrea Horwath has written a letter to the Auditor General asking her to investigate the Conservative’s $231 million expenditure. It would be no surprise if the actual costs were to be many times that reported – similar to the actions of the Liberal Government. If it were a legitimate and transparent expenditure, why did the government try to slip it through without identifying what it was for?
Ontario families deserve so much better than a government that blows millions ripping up green energy contracts while turning its back on so many people who are struggling just to put food on the table and put a roof over their heads. $231 million would have made a big difference in the lives of a lot of seniors, low income families or disabled Ontarians who are struggling. It would have helped to provide better service and treatment for families of children with autism, reduced the number of patients suffering through the indignity of hallway medicine or kept a lot of teachers in classrooms.
This government should be taking immediate steps to bring families real relief on high hydro bills, not making things worse and wasting money ripping up green energy contracts.
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