QUEEN’S PARK – Nickel Belt MPP NDP Health Critic France Gélinas wants an explanation for the McGuinty Liberal government’s refusal to hold hearings on Bill 101, the Narcotics Safety and Awareness Act, in Northern Ontario.
“Almost every community in Northern Ontario is struggling with the abuse of narcotics. In some remote communities, close to half the citizens are addicted. In Thunder Bay, 22 per cent of women giving birth are on oxycontin. Yet, apparently it was not important enough for the Liberals to agree to come to Northern Ontario,” said Gélinas.
“Far too often, Northerners are separated from the decision-making process at Queen’s Park. The McGuinty Liberals expect people in Northern Ontario to drop everything and come to Toronto at a week’s notice to present for 10 minutes. This is not reasonable,” she added.
Yesterday’s decision by the Liberal government to vote against Gélinas’ motion to have Northern hearings means public feedback on the bill is now complete. However, presenters at the Toronto hearings themselves agreed the committee should travel to the North.
Dr. Allan S. Gordon of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital pleaded for the committee to travel to the North.
“I urge the government to make chronic pain a priority, to increase the number of hearings and to travel outside of Toronto to accommodate regional issues,” he said.
Maureen Cava of the Registered Nurses Association (RNAO) echoed Dr. Gordon’s position.
“RNAO also urges further consultation with rural, remote and Aboriginal communities and their front-line clinicians in order to address challenges that could hinder the bill’s effective implementation,” said Cava.
“Three hours of public hearings in downtown Toronto, is not consultation,” Gélinas said.
“While I support the bill in principal, the bill could be improved and the best way to do that is to hear from people right across this province. Instead, it seems the McGuinty government will once again ignore people from rural and Northern Ontario.”