News from the Park

Readers of this weekly column well know the importance that New Democrats put on providing our youth with the best education, support, safety and opportunities that the people of this province can. Quite literally, our youth truly does represent the future of not only this province but of this world. That’s why I make visiting students from primary grades through to college a high priority. It also explains why I find wide ranging issues facing our youth so troubling. Ontario youth are under attack in terms of education, health, safety, training, finance and even the physical and mental wellbeing.

For example, I’m very concerned about funding cuts for public education which ultimately leads to problems at the bargaining table between the Ministry of Education, The Ontario Schoolboard Association and the various teachers unions. Teachers genuinely care about our children in every respect. They see firsthand what effects funding cuts have on the quality of education our youth is receiving. Thank goodness they are in a good, but unenviable positon of standing up to the Ford Government to speak up for our children. Mr. Ford knows that the right thing to do is reverse his deep and hurtful cuts to education. He has taken us to the very brink of a full-blown labour strike just because he is determined to plow ahead with his reckless money saving scheme to cram more kids into classrooms, force high schoolers to take mandatory classes online, rip course options away and take thousands of caring adults out of schools. We know students, parents and education workers don’t want this. The NDP is urging the premier to stop picking a fight with teachers, stop using our kids as pawns, and start bargaining in good faith.

Regular readers of this columnIn recent weeks and months, readers will recall numerous references in previous columns to numerous in which I’ve addressed othersimilar education issues. Such references included including reducing grace periods to begin student loan repayment, confusion and chaos regarding school curriculum issues, disrepair of school buildings, calling student unions - who see to the wellbeing and safety of postsecondary student bodies - as Marxist troublemakers and meddling with autonomous college and university fee structures. I can’t imagine the stress that all these issues and actions are raising for our youth.

Another major concern I have is for the health of our youth and the government’s reluctance to demonstrate any genuine effort to protect our children from harmful substances. Of course here I am referring to the issue of the effects of vaping on people’s health. In truth, science does not know a heck of a lot about the long-term effects of vaping. Without doubt, the government has a role to play “in loco parentis” as teachers well know is Latin for “in place of a parent.” All of us need to help to look out for our youth.

It is imperative that Ontario takes a precautionary approach when allowing things such as vaping products onto the market. Ontario is far behind other jurisdictions when it comes to protecting our youth from the predatory practices of the vaping industry, and it is time to catch up.

For this reason, NDP MPP France Gélinas, NDPand h Health Ccritic France Gélinas has has put forward the Vaping is not for Kids bill. This bill sets up firm obligations on the Ministry of Health to prevent Ontario youth from picking up vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine. It would prohibit the promotion of vaping products, regulate what flavours are available, set a maximum amount of nicotine per milliliter of e-fluid, restrict sales to specialty shops, require Ontario Health to prepare an annual report on vaping usage and health effects and set tax money aside for research.

Michael Perley, the Ontario Medical Association’s chair at the Ontario Coalition Against Tobacco, supports this NDP bill. Perley stated: "Thanks to an inadequate and permissive federal vaping legalization framework and to the aggressive promotion of flavoured vaping by the tobacco industry, more and more Ontario kids are becoming addicted to nicotine every day. The provincial government needs to take strong action now to block industry nicotine promotion to our kids. Banning all flavours except those specifically permitted, and restricting vaping sales to specialty vaping stores, as Madame Gélinas proposes, will help align vaping regulation with tobacco regulation.”

As well, Dr. Atul Kapur, Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, also supports Gélinas's bill, stating, "It took decades for us to learn the health effects of smoking. We are now at the same early stages with vaping. If we are going to learn the lessons from smoking, we need to be more cautious in how we allow these products to be marketed.” .

I think I can pretty safely say that without exception, any parent would do whatever it takes to protect their children. I truly believe that responsibility also falls onto the shoulders of elected officials because, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child. New Democrats are proud to join many thousands of parents, educators, health care providers and youth organizations in challenging the Ford Government to get its priorities straight.

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 or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député