News from the Park

There are so many ways to learn and to teach some of life’s most important lessons. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the most effective of these is personal experience. This is not to say, however, that such learning is always pleasant or quick. Some lessons take a lifetime to learn.

Aside from personal experience, one of the effective ways to learn or teach life’s lessons is through stories and parables; a method practiced the world over by virtually every culture and society. Parables are a short, simple way to help people understand a moral or spiritual truth. Stories capture the attention of people of any age, stimulate thinking, help us to internalize concepts and help us to recall lessons easily because of the short story format. In the Christian religion, it is said that the Bible contains over 40 parables told by Jesus Christ.

I’m certain that many readers are well acquainted with the parable of the wise and foolish builders who built their homes on rock or sand. In a nutshell, the builder who erected the home on the sand did not have a strong firm foundation for the structure. When the winds, rains and waves came, the entire structure collapsed because it was not a solid foundation to build upon. But the builder who chose to build on the steady, reliable rock, had a harder go at erecting the structure at first, but it was able to withstand the same challenges that brought the other structure tumbling down.

I mention this parable because, in addition to religious meaning, we can also find important secular lessons; lessons that I wonder whether Doug Ford understands as they have bearing on the COVID-19 pandemic we are fighting.

Ontario’s economy has taken a terrible hit. So many families, workers, employers and business owners are really struggling to stay afloat until things get better. While we will undoubtedly recover eventually, the rate and growth of economic recovery very much depends on what we as a society do and what our government leaders do. We must count on our government leaders to build an economic recovery plan that is build upon solid rock; not sand which is not stable or reliable to withstand outside forces.

First, consider the state of the small business community at this time. Small business is a major driving force to Ontario’s economic recovery. Many small businesses – right here in Algoma-Manitoulin - are facing the peril of a slow recovery and, as a result, are not bringing in enough revenue to pay all of their expenses, including rent. Initially Doug Ford wisely protected business owners from eviction because of the pandemic. But that protection ends August 31st. Struggling businesses will be at the mercy of their landlords.

It makes no economic sense to make small businesses vulnerable to eviction right now. Instead the Ford government should be offering more direct support, including rent relief, to save Main Street and protect jobs. Suddenly small business could have their foundation washed out from under them because Doug Ford refuses to stand by them. This is why the NDP has proposed the Save Main Street Plan which provides a series of measures to support small businesses, charities and community-based non-profits, including:

  • A 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy up to $10,000 a month for three months

  • A utility payment freeze

  • A safe restart and remote-work set up fund, which could help businesses install Plexiglas barriers or buy PPE

  • An auto insurance grace period for taxis and car-sharing drivers, established in partnership with the insurance industry and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority

  • A designated emergency fund for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have faced historic barriers to accessing traditional capital, as proposed by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce.

As well, Ontario’s economic recovery is highly dependent on the safe return of our children and youth to the classroom. Doug Ford was eager to deliver the soundbite that his government will do whatever it takes and spare no expense to get our kids back into the classroom. But that’s all that promise was – a soundbite – because he is not following through.

Doug Ford’s refusal to step up and do the right things has put parents across the province in a situation in which they have no good choices. On the one hand, parents can send their children into packed classrooms, where physical distancing will often be absolutely impossible, knowing it will put their kids, and older or immuno-compromised loved ones at even more risk.

Or parents can choose to keep their children at home, and continue the superhuman juggling act they’ve been doing for months, knowing continued social isolation could have harmful effects on kids’ mental health and wellbeing. For many families, this would require a parent to quit their job. Since the reality is that women hold many of the lower paying jobs, this will be a major blow to the strides we have made for women in the workforce.

The Federal Government just provided the provinces with $2 billion for the sole purpose of helping to get kids safely back into the classroom. But Doug Ford has dug in his heels with his penny-pinching policies. Even with this huge gift from the Feds, he won’t spend the money necessary to reduce class sizes. He would rather spend money on a PR campaign to sell his bargain basement back-to-school scheme, than invest in ensuring school boards, schools and educators have supports they need for smaller safer classes in the fall.

We need a government that, like the wise builder, develops plans that are based on rock solid foundations, such as investment in our children, our schools and small business. In the last couple of weeks, the people of Algoma-Manitoulin have deluged my office with letters, calls and emails telling us that Doug Ford is basing the entire foundation of his back to school plan on an unstable foundation. Knowing this, New Democrats have proposed that the Government hire more teachers and education workers – including bus drivers, custodians, and educational assistants - and securing more spaces for physically distanced classrooms. And this is why we propose protecting small business operators a little bit longer from eviction.

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