While there are some recommendations that many consider to be bad, such as scrapping full-day kindergarten, limiting spending growth in health and education, and eliminating the 10% Clean Air Benefit, I want to highlight some of the suggestions that I think we can work with.
Jobs in our region: Drummond emphasized the important role the Ring of Fire will play in Ontario’s economy and reinforced some important points I have been making: in order for us to move forward with this multi-billion dollar project we need to work and partner with First Nations. Only when First Nations are brought on board, will this project move forward and I am pleased to see him underscore this point.
Healthcare: Drummond recommends placing a greater emphasis on health promotion and reorganizing the way services are delivered to promote efficiencies. I agree with Drummond that health promotion is under utilized and that efficiencies can be found to improve the coordination and delivery of healthcare in our region. That said, I have concerns with simply handling more power to Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), before making their boards transparent and publicly elected. As it stands, the region serviced by the Northwest LHIN is too large to manage effectively, to the detriment of areas outside of Thunder Bay. I believe better quality healthcare can be delivered by creating a separate Kenora-Rainy River LHIN focussed on rural healthcare delivery.
Hydro: I am encouraged that Drummond recommended changes to our electricity system that would see the creation of region utilities. This is something I have been calling for since before being elected. As a region that already has our own electricity grid and that currently produces some of the cleanest and cheapest electricity in North America, charging prices that accurately reflect the cost of generation in our region would benefit consumers and businesses greatly and allow us to attract value-added industry, such as smelters, from the Ring of Fire.
I disagree with Mr. Drummond’s suggestion that we eventually look at privatizing these regional utilities. As we know from electricity retailers, privatizing essential services simply does not work and makes our already unaffordable electricity prices completely unaffordable. Instead, what we may want to consider is creating a regional utility that that is owned by the municipalities and one which they make a very modest, and regulated, dividend. This would give our municipalities an additional revenue source that could keep property taxes down and allow them to replace aging infrastructure more easily.
Sarah Campbell MPP