A few weeks ago, right after the Legislature was called to sit for a summer session following the June election, in my weekly column I wrote, “Fasten your seatbelts. We better hang on for a wild ride.” Admittedly it didn’t take a fortune teller to help me reach that conclusion. For conservatives who enjoy sharp turns and falling drop-offs, clearly the ride so far hasn’t disappointed them. I wish I could say the same for all Ontarians, especially those individuals and families who are the most vulnerable. It is interesting to note that just after Doug Ford was sworn in, Canada’s Wonderland announced that the world’s largest rollercoaster would be coming to town. Hmmmm…. Coincidence?
Let’s face it, this ride was designed to appease radical social conservatives and PC insiders. In only their first few weeks in office, the Ford government has moved quickly to drag Ontario backwards, wasting no time to eagerly meddle with ongoing municipal elections, hurting our most vulnerable families, and rolling sex education back by decades and closing safe injection sites. By pledging $330 million in cuts to mental health services, canceling the basic income pilot, rolling back any action on climate change, and cutting millions from our kids’ schools, Ford is signalling that he will continue to divide Ontarians and target families already struggling to make ends meet.
Constituents have told me time and time again that hydro costs are one of the most worrisome issues they have to face for their families and businesses. They have been begging for years for relief from impossible electrical bills. Ford promised Ontarians to have no fear because, “Help is on the way.” The conservatives campaigned on the promise of fixing the hydro crisis. Giving Wynne’s “6-million-dollar-man” a $9 million payout moves Ontario backwards and leaves families behind. Replacing one Board of Directors with another at a privatized Hydro One won’t bring our rates down.
Ontarians need a government to develop policies and take meaningful action that will actually improve their lives, not make life harder. Ontarians need a government to focus on what will make things better for them, not on settling old political scores or honouring back room deals with conservative friends.
Recently the Conservatives announced that they were halting the opening of planned overdose prevention sites. This flies in the face of all of the advice from experts, community members, and volunteers, and places the lives of Ontarians struggling with addiction at tremendous risk. The Premier is willfully interfering with local health care experts and front line workers, who have been crystal clear: these sites save lives!
Doctor David Juurlink, the head of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto, has said: “These places save lives, connect people to addiction care, reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and save the health system money. We need more of these sites, not fewer.” Ford’s Conservatives have slashed millions of dollars in funding earmarked for addiction and mental health services, leaving Ontarians struggling to access the services they urgently need. Like Andrea Horwath pointed out to Ford, “People can’t get treatment if they are dead.”
NDP MPP Jennie Stevens said that there were over 1,200 people who overdosed last year. Those were 1,200 lives that could have been saved. Yet the Ford government has already confirmed that no new sites will be opened anywhere in Ontario despite calls for new life-saving sites.
So, if saving lives or helping our most vulnerable is not a priority for this government, what is?
Rather than saving lives, Doug Ford put his full effort into ramming through legislation that flies in the face of democratic values and slashes the size of Toronto City Council in half. In so doing he cancelled local elections in multiple municipalities, notably where his political rival Patrick Brown was planning to run.
Instead of finding ways to effectively reduce hydro rates, Ford was more focused on honouring back room deals he’s made. He was more intent on satisfying old friends and lobbyists like Tanya Granic Allen and Charles McVety as proven by his decision to force Ontario teachers to revert back to teaching the 1998 sex education curriculum; a curriculum they don’t even have in print any more.
Rather than providing the woefully small 3% planned increase to already meagre social assistance, he is cutting that in half to a contemptuous 1.5%. As well, rather than seeing the first basic income pilot project in North America through to its 3 year completion date, Ford axed the project without collecting and analysing data or consulting with stakeholders and experts to determine it’s effectiveness.
Like I said, Ontario better hang on for this wild ride. But be assured that New Democrats are up for the challenge and are committed to pushing back against Doug Ford’s divisive and dangerous agenda. We will fight to ensure everyone can build a great life here in 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député