Throne speech bereft of ideas for our area

By MPP Toby Barrett

Instead of a throne speech to set a change of course, and a plan for job creation, we seem to be left with more of the “same old same old”. What I witnessed was a bit of a rambling report to the Ontario Legislature with little mention of issues of concern to people locally. I felt the presentation was out of touch.

Last Sunday, steelworkers held a plant gate rally at US Steel. As we all know well over 1,000 steelworkers have been laid off and locked out since last March – out in the cold for almost a year now. Families have been split apart; homes have been lost. Despite all this, the throne speech had nothing for them, no mention at all of a strategy for primary industry, the steel industry or any other related industries.

Similarly, local farmers were given short shrift in the address – neither risk management; nor supply management were mentioned.

ometimes, one wonders if this government could find rural Ontario on a map.

Could this provincial government find Caledonia on the map? We do know that the Attorney General did make it down to meet with Haldimand’s councillors – in Brantford! This government has been quick however to repeat the falsehood that Justice Sidney Linden included a recommendation in his Ipperwash Inquiry for the handover of the provincial park. There is no such recommendation. Government can throw their unquestioning support behind a complete falsehood for Ipperwash, but it can’t come up with any plan for Caledonia. It goes beyond being out of touch.

So what was in the speech from the throne??
There was an uncosted water strategy – a ‘green’ water bill from Mr. McGuinty. As we have seen in the past, when it comes to Ontario government ‘feel green’ announcements, the devil is in the details. And while the strategy may sound good on the 6 o’clock news, I fear we’re only hearing part of the story. Former minister David Caplan very recently admitted his private member’s bill to revamp the province’s water system – something of a precursor to the throne speech announcement – would itself cost consumers something like $600 a year.

The throne speech did mention a new approach to hospital funding. With little in the way of detail, there is concern the addition of a funding model that picks winners and losers would further threaten the health of our rural health care facilities. I think of the emergency departments in Niagara that have been shut down for good.

The Ontario Health Coalition is indicating that expanding pay for performance funding, as government is suggesting, would lead to further disparities between the level of care available in rural and urban Ontario. We’ll wait for details but, based on early returns, there is reason for concern that this will place our hospitals further down the funding food chain.

And what of education? The self proclaimed ‘education premier’ did ensure that all-day kindergarten was mentioned in the throne speech. That’s the same program that is causing the Grand Erie District School Board concern for a potential $500,000 funding shortfall.

Regrettably, this provincial throne speech rehashes the same old, same old story and appears to be out of touch.