Michael Mantha’s News from the Park for 211119

I have said many times that one of the greatest joys in my job as an MPP is the many opportunities I have each year to visit students in their elementary and secondary classrooms. Kids’ questions are far more challenging than most news reporters are because you never know what is coming at you.  Moreover, kids have no agenda to follow. 

One of my favourite questions is what does it take to be a politician.  Well, the answer is that while there is a substantial list of qualifications necessary.  However, the most critical requirement is that you had better genuinely like people, no matter who they are. This is because people are just that – people.  And all people have a right to feel they belong to our society. So no matter who I speak with, not only must they believe that, but even more importantly, I have to believe and act accordingly.

Hubert Humphrey was a former U.S. Vice President and the 1968 Democratic Party presidential candidate.  At the 1977 dedication of the Hubert Humphrey Building in Washington D.C., he spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection of its government. On that day, he said, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”  I could not agree more.

When I meet with fellow caucus members and sit in the House, the above statement often hits me.  I am honestly sorry to say that the quote above has bounced around in my head more in the last three and a half years than all the others combined.  The reason for this is obvious.  The Ford government has a record of passing legislation and making decisions that prove they do not care for the little guy or the average family. 

We all know the incredible struggle that young families face just trying to make it from month to month.  On top of all the day-to-day fears and concerns they have to navigate due to COVID-19, they also have incredible financial and employment issues to tackle.  So many families have to have one or two wage earners holding down two or even three jobs just almost to make ends meet.  When the parents are at work, someone needs to provide reliable care for the children.  To do this, thousands of families need to count on daycare. Ontario parents are drowning in the highest child care fees in the country, and they can’t wait any longer for relief from these mortgage-sized monthly costs. Child care is just one of the many rising costs squeezing family budgets as the price of everything from milk to rent and hydro goes up and up. Often one income is not even enough to cover the childcare costs. 

Despite urgings from the NDP, Doug Ford refuses to help Ontario families right now when they need it.  Premier Ford is knowingly holding up a $10-a-day child care deal with Ottawa.  Now that Alberta has just signed, all but Ontario and New Brunswick have been able to reach strong agreements

Ontario parents with little ones deserve so much better than the sky-high child care fees being charged under the previous Liberal government and now the Ford government. They deserve universal, public and non-profit high-quality $10-a-day child care. If Doug Ford won’t get a deal on $10-a-day child care done, an NDP government will as part of its commitment to making life more affordable for families in our province.

Another example to which Northerners in particular relate is the delays in finishing off the final 68 kilometre stretch of Hwy. 69.  The project to four-lane Hwy 400 all the way from Toronto to Sudbury started back in the early 90s. In 2018, Doug Ford promised Northern Ontario that he’d finish the project all the way. Yet, here we are in 2021, and it remains unfinished. 

But the news gets worse. 

Earlier this month, the Ford government presented its budget update. The Conservatives committed to begin two controversial new highway projects — the 413 and Bradford Bypass.  But the NDP noticed that the government did not add a single dollar to the existing highway construction budget. In fact, the 200-page budget document doesn’t mention Hwy. 69 at all. 

 So, if they are going to start these two new projects in Southern Ontario, where is the money coming from to finish off Hwy 69?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the completion of Hwy 400 is now a very low priority to the Conservative government.

The Bradford Bypass and Hwy. 413 Southern Ontario are primarily built to make Ford’s deep-pocketed supporters richer. The new roads won’t actually reduce commute times or even improve safety.  On the other hand, finishing Hwy. 69 would ensure Northern families get back home safely. It’s about making sure our parents or our children can come to visit without having to white-knuckle it on bad roads. Our families need and deserve to have Hwy 69 finished.  We have been far beyond patient already.  What is more important; getting our Northern family members back home safely or building two highways that really won’t save anyone time or money but will send Ford’s friends gleefully trotting off to the bank? 

The examples above are only two examples of a long list. Other examples include:

  • Ford government failure to stop gas price gouging in the North.
  • Ford government refusal to address a dangerous shortage of firefighters due to DriveTest backlog in the North
  • Ford government’s failure to declare an opioid epidemic public health emergency after paramedics responses exploded  from 5  to 48 overdose  responses per year

Consider again the words of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey above.  Are they showing genuine care for our children who need affordable child care?  Is Doug Ford concerned for the safety of Northern families who have to travel south for school, employment, or medical treatment as many of us must do?  Do the Conservatives care whether or not we have enough trained firefighters on hand to protect our homes and our lives?  Is the government interested in preventing more deaths due to opioid overdose, or is it even aware of an 860 percent rise in overdose cases on Manitoulin? 

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 mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député 

Algoma-Manitoulin

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