Last winter and spring had its ups and downs

By MPP Toby Barrett

New Year festivities trace their origins back 4,000 years to Mesopotamia. The tradition of a baby representing the coming year and an old man representing the past originated with the ancient Greeks.

January 1 became New Year ’s Day by decree of Caesar to honour Janus, the god of all beginning. Representations of Janus portrayed two faces, one looked to the new year and one looking to the past 12 months.

Looking back on the year past, we realize good old Haldimand and Norfolk had their ups and downs, as did our Province of Ontario.

Close to a year ago, my phone started to ring, on Jan. 5, after a bald eagle’s nest was cut down to make way for a Next Era wind turbine. I rushed to the site to raise awareness again that wind turbines kill eagles.

The bad news continued in January when Mr. McGuinty announced the closure of Nanticoke Generating Station by year’s end.

Over the winter months, ongoing work-to-rule meant no extracurricular activities for many students.

More than a year of work in my role as Opposition Critic for Social Services came to fruition in January with my White Paper: Welfare to Work. In it, I propose integrating welfare and disability at the municipal level, while cutting red tape. Other recommendations would help those receiving assistance to keep more of their earnings and create bridges between assistance and work. Employers who hire people with disabilities would also be rewarded.

At the end of January, Kathleen Wynne was appointed premier. As the year
unfolded, we found it was a situation of “new boss, same as the old boss” – 47 of 52 Liberals ended up with a pay raise as cabinet ministers or parliamentary assistants. Wynne herself became Ontario’s first part-time Minister of Agriculture.

In the wake of new, more stringent guidelines for Drive Clean, I continued the call to scrap it.

Haldimand and Norfolk suffered and sympathized when the current government ended the Slots at Racetracks program and promised to build 29 new casinos.

More details from the cost overruns at Ornge continued to be revealed at our Public Accounts Committee – money wasted on Harleys, speed boats and bonuses.

Last spring, the The Fraser Institute confirmed wind turbines are 10 times more costly than installing pollution-control equipment on Ontario’s existing coal plants.

In April, Ontario’s Auditor General revealed costs for the cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant at $275 million – $85 million more than claimed. In June, my caucus and I called for a police probe into deleted e-mails.

When the budget was released in early May, it contained few of the
recommendations for social services reform suggested by Frances Lankin. Despite legislation calling for a Select Committee on Developmental Disabilities, it was yet to be formed.

Just before spring planting, government announced a new round of farm tire eco-fees.

Dunnville received good news in early June when it was announced Original Foods would be opening in the former Bick’s plant.

The ups and downs of 2013 to be continued in next week’s column.

PS – Join me at my New Year’s levee on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2-4 p.m., at my home, 311 Cockshutt Road.