The other day we had one of our weekly office staff team meetings to discuss casework, issues and trends in calls and letters to my offices. One team member pointed out that monitoring the email account is like a medical professional monitoring someone’s blood pressure over an extended period of time. Looking over the patient’s readings and taking note of the ebbs and flows can tell a lot about what is going on in the patient’s life. In turn, this leads the doctor to look for the root to diagnose the problem and find ways to improve the patient’s health and overall situation.
I’m not exactly new to this job, having celebrated ten years of service as MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin in October. Over these years, I’ve learned the value of monitoring the pulse of my constituents. My team and I review the calls, letters, emails that come in, and trends in my team’s casework.
Over the years, we have learned to expect a pretty big blip on the riding’s pulse reading when fuel prices rise or fluctuate and when significant price differences are noted in different parts of the riding and other regions of the province. Right now, Northerners are watching gasoline prices soar in our area.
My Northern NDP colleagues and I are once again calling out Doug Ford for failing to act by putting an end to gasoline price gouging. To date, the Conservative government has done absolutely nothing to bring about relief for Northerners. What is worse is knowing that Doug Ford has had the answer at his fingertips from day one in 2018.
During the last election, Doug Ford promised to lower gas prices by 10 cents a litre. Doug Ford has had three years to help Northerners who are paying the highest prices for gasoline in the province with no end in sight. He should have used the tools he has had in his hands to help make life more affordable for northern families since stepping into office. Instead, he has simply chosen to refuse to do anything.
To be clear, the Conservatives are not the only ones to be asleep at the wheel on this issue. The NDP raised this same issue many times during the reign of both Liberal leaders as well. But, unfortunately, they too turned their backs on Northern Ontarians.
As winter approaches, northern families are facing higher prices for everything from gasoline to home heating to groceries. In addition, many Northerners need to travel for work, to school and medical appointments. Having to pay the highest prices in the province is unacceptable and unaffordable. We cannot afford more of Doug Ford’s talk and no action. We can’t afford to continue paying higher prices than anyone else in the province, especially during this COVID crisis.
Doug Ford has an NDP bill right at his fingertips to regulate gas prices in the province which would stop gas price spikes in Northern Ontario. The NDP’s bill, Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2018, would allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. That means that gas prices in Ontario will not fluctuate and could only change once a week. The NDP bill will stop the spikes in gas prices at the pump and provide relief and stability to drivers in Northern Ontario and right across the province.
Ford knows what side his bread is buttered on, and so do his friends with deep pockets. And I am pretty sure Ford knows he doesn’t have many friends north of the TransCanada and Sudbury. The story might be different if he and his friends had to pay the same prices day in and day out that we do.
In late October, Premier Ford gave Ontarians a front-row seat to see for themselves how he gallingly favours his supporters and buddies. As a municipal politician, Doug Ford made it his mission to seek out and destroy gravy trains in Toronto City Hall. Well, it seems that just recently, some gravy trains have made stops in Queen’s Park.
Days ago, Doug Ford gave minimum wage earners an insulting 10-cent raise. I call this an insult because, with such a raise, after working an 8-hour shift, the additional earnings would not even pay for a cup of coffee. And we know that Ford is forcing our frontline health care heroes to accept a meagre 1 percent wage cap. Unfortunately, this means that they will fall further behind the cost of inflation.
It is interesting to note, however, that at the same time that he gave his MPP pals big pats on the back, One of whom received $27,000 and $16,500 raises each for two others.
How can Ford possibly justify these decisions? With one hand, he is doing what he has done repeatedly since rising to power. Ford is giving his buddies what they want — and we all pay for it. But, at the same time, he is handing working Ontarians the shaft with his other hand. Talk about mixed priorities….
Ontarians deserve better leadership than this. And Northerners, being neglected and unfairly treated in so many ways year after year, are fed up and are sending this message to my colleagues and me loud and clear.
At this time, I have to say that my Northern NDP colleagues and I are all getting the same pulse readings from our constituents. We are getting the same calls, letters and appeals for help. We are all seeing an unhealthy upward trend in the pulse of Northern Ontarians. The symptoms are quite evident. The diagnosis of the origin of the problems is clear. And the necessary treatments are apparent. The only thing standing in the way of a cure is a lack of care and respect for Northern Ontarians and a lack of political will within the Ford government to make life better for all of us.
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 phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député