OTTAWA – One of my duties as a Member of Parliament is representing and defending Northerners in Ottawa. I strongly believe in the potential of the North; in the talents possessed by its people and given the wealth of natural resources. Northerners deserve to succeed and thrive, own businesses and raise families, while still living in our region. To see these things through, we need focus, not only from a federal level but on the provincial level as well.
You may ask why I am discussing provincial matters as your federal Member of Parliament. The answer is simple. Right now, the provincial Conservatives do not have the best interests of Northerners in mind, so they must be held accountable. As a parent, first and foremost, I have a duty to speak up when I believe the future of Ontario’s health-care system, our libraries, and our environment, including our water, air and forests are in jeopardy.
Premier Ford’s Ontario provincial government is making cuts that will fundamentally change the lives and future of our children. Despite overwhelming evidence of the consequences to the environment we depend on, Premier Ford decided to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. The province also cancelled the Cap and Trade Program which will cost the province $3 billion over the next four years according to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario. Because of these actions, the federal government had put a price on pollution to bring down emissions that poison the air we all breathe. Premier Ford and Greg Rickford then fail to mention the Federal Climate Action Incentive rebate, whereby all residents in Ontario are eligible to receive the rebate once they file their taxes. In fact, when Doug Ford and Greg Rickford file their tax returns, they too will get the Federal Climate Action refund.
In Ontario’s 2019 provincial budget, the Ford government announced it is merging local health units across Ontario, reducing 35 units to 10 units by 2020. This represents approximately $200 million in funding (or 27 %) over 2 years to public health. These cuts will affect vaccination programs, health education, and individual services.
Also, on the chopping block are potential cuts to Breakfast Programs for young students across the province. Many of our children rely on this funding to ensure they get a nutritional meal at school, a vitally important aspect to ensuring they get the best start in life. Quite a mark of poor leadership. Compare this to the federal government, who has committed to taking the next steps to implement a student nutrition program across the country.
The provincial Conservatives have reduced, by 50 %, funding for our local libraries, which will significantly impact rural communities. The cuts will result in the loss of services such as the Interlibrary loan service that provides large print books for seniors. There is absolutely no doubt that libraries in the remote and rural communities of the North will be severely impacted. What Doug Ford fails to understand is that libraries are not just about books, they also provide a place for those without Internet to apply for jobs, perform research, and connect with friends and family. They serve, not only as a gathering place in northern communities, but also as a hub for seniors, children, writers, and readers alike.
Clearly, Mr. Ford’s Conservative government does not have the best interests of Northerners in mind when deciding to slash funding to critical programs that were in place to improve the lives of our children. Underfunding public healthcare, putting the Breakfast Program at risk, refusing to protect the environment, and potentially forcing the closure of rural libraries is not the way to ‘fight for the people’ of the North.
Furthermore, Mr. Ford has ended Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program that would have had 50 million more trees planted by 2025 in order to improve soil quality, cut back on erosion, increase wildlife habitat and mitigate the effects of climate change. At a time when a number of Ontario communities have declared states of emergency as a result of flooding, the Ontario government announces cuts to flood management programs. This makes no sense. The bottom line is that these drastic cuts by Premier Ford and Minister Rickford will, without a doubt, negatively affect the lives of Northerners.
I believe the North deserves better, and as a father, a Northerner, and a Member of Parliament, I have every intention to continue speaking up when policies negatively impact the lives all Northerners.
Bob Nault MP