Sarah Campbell MPP – They want an election, pure and simple
Here is the Hansard from the debate in the legislature:
Sarah Campbell MPP _ Kenora Rainy River – I’d like to start off by saying that I find it very unfortunate that the members of the Conservative caucus are trying to turn this routine motion into a political issue and an opportunity to defeat the government. You know what? I think it really speaks to their priorities. They want an election, pure and simple. There’s nothing else. I think it’s unfortunate, not only for all of us here but for the people of this province, that the official opposition is continually trying to disrupt the House. They have intentionally tried to create dysfunction, not because it serves the interests of the people of this province but because it serves their own narrow, partisan interest.
It’s a double standard. I sat here and I listened to the member from Dufferin–Caledon talk about the precious respect that the PCs had for the tax money that the people of this province pay. All the while, they’re racing towards an expensive election without even trying to make this government work. It’s upsetting not just because they’re not here to represent the interests of those who brought them to this House; it’s upsetting because they can’t even practise what they preach. They aren’t even willing to try to work together to get results.
They’re continually up in arms screaming, shouting, accusing the government of wasting taxpayer money for politically motivated reasons – Gas plants —such as the cancellation of the gas plants—proves my point—in Mississauga and Oakville. Yet what are they asking us to do? They’re asking us to force an election—not in a while, over the budget, over some principled issues that we’re discussing, but they want us to force an election right now that will cost hundreds of millions. Why? That is in hopes of enhancing their own political fortunes.
You know what? It doesn’t work for the people of this province. It won’t work when we shut down schools, when we shut down hospitals and when we would vote to not pay our obligations. To me that’s pretty financially irresponsible.
Getting back to the main motion, this motion will allow us to stay the course. It will allow us to keep paying the bills until a new budget is brought forward. But the simple fact is that staying the course is completely unacceptable. For years, we have been flooded with the rhetoric about righting this wayward fiscal ship, about making tough choices. But time and time again, people in the north are left with a very distinct feeling that we are being left to bear the brunt of these cuts while seeing this government and the government before it push our basic needs to the side. When we talk about cost-cutting and scrimping, there’s an assumption that our basic needs will continue to be met in the north, that we can continue to count on the essentials being there: access to health care and education, affordable hydro, jobs, that our roads will be safe for travelling in the winter and that we will have access to the basic essential government services provided by ServiceOntario.
In my riding alone, for people living in dozens of communities, in order for them to access their driver’s licence, they actually have to take a plane to fly to another community so that they can get their driver’s licence. To me, that doesn’t sound like fair and equal access. The truth of the matter is that we can’t count on it. We can’t count on this government to provide the basic supports for First Nation communities, for municipalities, for business and for other industry, and we can’t count on access to provincial parks or protection from dangerous wildlife such as bears—even when they’re seen wandering on school grounds—because this government claims it needs to act in a fiscally responsible manner.
We’re told this, but we watch tens of millions of dollars being wasted by Ornge air ambulance, a billion dollars being wasted through the mismanagement of eHealth, and hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown out the window to cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville to appease voters during an election. That is what is truly sickening: The government has limitless dollars to spend when it comes to its own political fortunes, but who has to pay? Northerners have to pay, northerners who are struggling and have been struggling for years
I want to put a really novel idea out there right now. If it was people in Mississauga and Oakville who didn’t want these plants, maybe it should be the people in Mississauga and Oakville, or even the ministers or the party representatives from the Liberal Party, who should have to pay for the cost of this cancellation. They should maybe put it on the municipal bills or take it out of their salaries, because it is entirely, 100%, unacceptable to ask anybody who is living in the north to pay so much as one cent for the costs associated with cancelling this plant.
If you want to see a really telling picture about the situation that has been created, let’s look at the gas plants. In Mississauga and Oakville, people are screaming, “We don’t want it! We don’t want it!”, while in a place like Thunder Bay, they would love to have their gas plant back. They want the jobs. We in the north want the jobs. We want the opportunity and, frankly, we need it, because one glimmer of hope that we have is that the mining sector will take off in the north. But in order to capitalize, we need an investment in energy infrastructure, and we don’t have the supply right now to meet the anticipated demand.
Maybe it’s time that the government started spending money to build something, not take it away, but in order to accomplish that, we need this government to listen, and that’s something that clearly isn’t happening. We can’t even get the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to come anywhere near our region. In deliberating in preparation for a budget that is supposed to, in theory, benefit the whole province, we can’t even get on the tour. The closest stop is 10 or 12 hours’ drive away, and they’re wondering why we in northwestern Ontario are just a little bit upset? Part of the reason for this is because the Liberal and the Conservative members on the committee don’t want to hear what we have to say, because—why? Because it would add an extra day. It would just add an extra day to the hearings, and that is unacceptable.
This past fall, the member from Nickel Belt, who is my party’s health critic, toured the region with me, and we held a series of town hall meetings on the status of health care. When it comes to services, aside from maybe education, I think health care ranks pretty high up on that list. In Atikokan, one of the biggest concerns we heard is that families are being forced to travel to Thunder Bay to access maternity services. No friends or family are around to share the joy or offer any kind of support, and sometimes even spouses can’t make it. It’s because this province says that it’s cheaper to deliver those services three hours east.
In Fort Frances, we heard complaints that people are being charged by their doctor to do paperwork, and in Kenora—in all the communities—we heard about how people have waited years to find a family doctor, and they still have no success. They’re being referred to emergency rooms for front-line services or, even worse, some are travelling to other provinces as far away as not Manitoba but Saskatchewan to get prescriptions renewed, because the system, based on the southern Ontario model, does not work. Health centres in Rainy River and Ear Falls face closures or the threat of closures because of doctor shortages, and some, like those in Pickle Lake, aren’t even operating because the community has been without a doctor for years. In Ignace, where the health centre is doing a phenomenal job—such a phenomenal job that people are driving hours from communities across the region to access their primary health care services there—they’re facing a potential crisis because two years ago one branch of government, the Ontario Realty Corp., made the choice to double the rent without any kind of consultation or warning.
I’ll be honest—I see the Minister of Infrastructure sitting across the way. I did sit down with the Minister of Infrastructure and the Minister of Health, and it sounds like they are earnestly and very sincerely willing to work with me to rectify the situation, and for that I am truly grateful. But it does go to show you some of the situations that we’re facing, and all of this
That’s going a little bit too far.
All of this because we’re focusing on the bottom line. It’s well time that we focused on results, because our basic needs are not being met.
Another issue that we heard when I did my health care town halls across the region with MPP France Gélinas is home care. Home care is an issue all across the north. Some people across the north are waiting up to six months to access home care. If we were to have better access to home care, that would be good for the individual, it would be good for the provincial system and it would be good for the treasury. And it’s something that we can do. We can implement a five-day home care guarantee; we just need the government will to do it.
Another basic need is auto insurance, which in the north is an essential service. It’s essential for everybody who has a car, but in the northwest and in the north it’s especially essential because we don’t have public transit. You have no idea how frustrating it is for people across the north who absolutely must have auto insurance—they must have a vehicle, they must have snow tires and they must have summer tires, and they must have all of these expenses—to see the rate go up in 2010 as a result of this Liberal government, and then to see their coverage go down. It’s no surprise that we later found out that the changes that were made to the insurance industry saved auto insurance companies $2 billion in the year 2011 alone, while at the same time charging northerners a 5% increase. That is simply unacceptable.
It’s also unacceptable for people in the northwest to look at the auto insurance rates that are being charged to people living in Manitoba, a one-hour drive in one direction. To see the rate be substantially less expensive is really, really frustrating. We can do something about it. We can and we should reduce auto insurance rates by 15%.
Just last week, I spoke to a young male who was paying $4,000 a year for auto insurance. You hear that rate and you think, “Oh, my goodness. He must have a whole bunch of accidents or infractions,” but he’s got a perfectly clean driving record. He has done nothing wrong. This year he’ll be turning 25. He’s looking forward to the modest drop. I think he said he might save about $100 a month or something to that effect, which really isn’t all that much. He could definitely benefit from an extra 15% decrease. It’s something that we simply have to do.
Which brings me to my final point: employment for young people. We have an aging population in northwestern Ontario, and it’s aging at a rate that’s faster than ever. I think the reason why is because we have the loss of so many young people. Young people go away; they leave our communities to attend post-secondary school. In Kenora–Rainy River, we don’t have a university institution. We do have some access to Confederation College, but by and large, there are a lot of people who leave their communities and go to places like Thunder Bay or the University of Manitoba or Winnipeg to pursue their education, and they don’t come back in the summers. It has to do with the fact that there just aren’t the summer jobs there waiting for them anymore, and so when they graduate, they often stay away. Sometimes it’s because they continue on with the jobs and the experiences that they have gained while they were away, but other times they stay away because they look for jobs elsewhere. They’re not confident that there will be a job for them when they come back.
There are things we can do, like our plan that would provide young people aged 16 to 26 years with an entry point to long-term education. It would create 25,000 jobs over two years. Participants would learn new skills and they would earn $9,360 in a six-month job. The experience would last a minimum of four to six months. There would be on-the-job skills training, and it would provide them with predictability. There would be 30 hours of work per week and they’d make at least $12 an hour, which is a fair wage.
We need this. Young people need this. Ontarians need this. But in order to do this, we need the Liberals to come on board. We need to see these results.
I will be supporting this interim supply motion because we need to pay the bills. It would be financially irresponsible for us to say, “You know what? Schools, hospitals, people who are currently working for the government: You don’t deserve your paycheque.” “Oh, you have a medical emergency? Well, there’s no hospital for you to go to.”
That is just foolish and it is just political games. It’s something we don’t deserve. We deserve better in this province, and we deserve real results for the people of Ontario. That’s what our caucus will be fighting for.