Michael Mantha’s News from the park column, 210108

Over the Christmas Holidays, like most people, my mind was full of memories of days gone by, yester year and the “good ol’ days.”  I admit that I was relieved to have a chance to sit back and actually clear my mind to some degree of all of the trials and tribulations we all are experiencing in these times.  I thought back to years gone by when my sons were little, when I was young man and even back to my own childhood.  I know I even said aloud to myself several times, “ah the good old days.”

Then I watched some kids playing with their dad and it occurred to me that, of course, these will be “the good ol’ days” for those children – and rightly so.  The world that my parents raised me in decades ago was far from perfect.  It’s all a matter of time and perspective.

It suddenly occurred to me to get my head out of the clouds and wishful thinking, and take a look at the reality of the good things in our life right now.  The first thing that comes to mind is how fortunate we are to live in these times and consider how lucky we are to have witnessed incredible leaps in technology, science and medicine.  We have just witnessed the development of a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 virus in under a year.  That is absolutely incredible.  This really hits home if you consider that the development of the Salk vaccine to fight polio began in the 1930s and wasn’t discovered until 1953 by Jonas Salk.

So while there is a lot to be said about the “good ol’ days,” in the words of pop singer Carly Simon’s song Anticipation, “These are the good old days.”  So when things are looking so bleak in these modern days, let’s just be sure to recall from time to time how lucky we are to live in these times as well.

Readers may recall in a recent pre-Christmas column that I raised real concern that Doug Ford decided to call a recess for MPPs earlier than scheduled.  It is more than obvious that this was a means for the Conservative government to make a hasty retreat and avoid facing tough questions and demands for decision making accountability daily in the Ontario Legislature.

Ontario is in the midst of a pandemic that is debilitating for all citizens as well as small business, so there is no possible justification to say that things are all caught up and we can just relax.  As the second wave rages on, Ontarians are witnessing spikes in daily case counts, hospitalizations and fatalities.  The province’s lagging vaccination plan means our most vulnerable community members are waiting too long for the life-saving shots.  Doug Ford must stop his pattern of doing too little too late and looking out for the bottom line instead of peoples’ lives.

Shamefully, the Ford government is still refusing to ban residential evictions, forcing families into overcrowded shelters or shared accommodation, putting them at even greater risk of being infected with the virus.  We need a faster vaccine rollout, a plan for asymptomatic testing in schools, paid sick days for all workers and a moratorium on evictions for families without regular income.  Our small businesses are being decimated and need direct support to survive.

The people of Ontario have every right to expect their elected representatives to work for them, particularly during the pandemic.  But right when Ontarians are desperate for strong leadership, Doug Ford decided to take a vacation so he can avoid the hot-seat in the Legislature where the Official Opposition will call on his government to account for and justify their plans and decisions.

The Legislature must return to work to effectively utilize billions in unspent COVID-19 funds to shore up hospitals and long-term care homes.  The NDP wants the Canadian Armed Forces recalled to long-term care homes in crisis and federal funding for Red Cross deployments to be spent, instead of being sat on by Doug Ford.

New Democrats support decisions  that are based upon advice from medical and public health professions that utilize  medical and scientific evidence.  Instead what Ontario is seeing is a government that has been shown to ignore or even contradict professional advice in favour of making decisions based upon politics and the support of special interest groups.

Here is an example of an entirely politically motivated decision by Ford.  Months ago it became apparent that the Province failed to implement proper and necessary policies and regulations to protect vulnerable residents of long-term-care homes – for no better reason than to save the government money on inspections and to reduce costs for LTC business owners.  In light of this, the NDP called for an Independent Judicial Public Inquiry into long-term care be conducted.  Instead Ford settled for a much weaker commission that does not have nearly the power and scope of an inquiry.

Why, you ask?  It was because Ford has much greater control over the investigation and can limit their scope and deadline.  In fact, he can choose to terminate the entire investigation midway through.

Doug Ford made a politically based decision choosing to prioritize saving a buck over saving the lives of thousands of seniors.  He chose to protect for-profit interests who make millions from this broken system at the expense of protecting seniors.  The commission has already provided interim reports, and they should be required to provide another interim report by the April deadline — but without question they should be given all the time required to complete their work.  They need to be given the time and access to every piece of evidence they need, so we can learn from this disaster, change the system, and never put our loved ones at risk like this again.

While Ontario certainly could never have avoided the effects of this terrible pandemic, clearly the situation this province is in could have been mitigated to a large degree by strong leadership focussed solely upon protecting the people of this province.  New Democrats want to get back to Queen’s Park to ensure that seniors, workers, businesses and schools have the resources they need to stay safe and the support they need to get through this crisis.

So yes, our parents and grandparents were fortunate to have lived back in the “good ol’ days,” but in the same way, so do we now.  They did their very best day in and day out to make decisions based upon the best information and advice available at the time.  Remember, for our children, “These are the good old days.”  Our leaders need to do better for our children’s sake.

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 by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin

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