What we can learn from the ups and downs of 2015

By MPP Toby Barrett

“Any new beginning is forged from the shards of the past, not from the abandonment of the past”
Craig D. Lousbrough

During the first half of 2015, the Sudbury by-election scandal continued to dominate Question Period. We continue to expect the premier and those in cabinet responsible to step aside until these and other investigations, like the gas plant scandal, are resolved.

As Critic for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, I seized opportunities in the House to promote farm safety, ag and food literacy, and the expansion of farm production insurance to livestock, including honey bees. Asking, “Why won’t you speak up for farmers,” I charged an obviously-fazed Agriculture Minister with bringing in an 80 per cent ban on neonics – a decision allowing emotion to trump science.

Springtime and budget time elicited questions on government’s out-of-control deficits and accumulated debt – now at $300 billion. As I accused the Finance Minister: “Year after year, you present to this House phony deficit numbers, fake numbers, purposely designed to confuse the people of Ontario into thinking that your increasing deficits aren’t that significant. Your inflated deficit projections are a deliberate scam to obfuscate the real deficit number.”

Although, we as Opposition, supported the Invasive Species Act, we question allowing entry without a warrant and holding landowners liable for invasive species on their property, even if the species spread without human assistance.

Last spring I also introduced legislation for action on Lyme Disease. The treatment of Lyme is fraught with conflicting, and unresolved medical, scientific and political dimensions. “We have government for a reason: for province-wide surveillance and education. We need guidelines for prevention, identification and management of this disease.” All members of the Legislature agreed, voting for the bill, which subsequently received Royal Assent.

Area doctor shortages dominated much of 2015 – particularly in Norfolk – resulting in back and forth discussions with Ontario’s Minister of Health. Norfolk received an underserviced area designation this year.

On May 1, the on-peak price of electricity climbed from 14 cents/kwh to 16 cents/kwh. The increase in on-peak is unfairly targeting those who use electric heat, those in lower income brackets, and those living in rural areas away from natural gas supplies. My Question Period involvement also took government to task for energy policies resulting in local companies being lured by North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, New York state. . .

June 2015 marked the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, enshrining our rights to property and the rule of law. As Opposition, we entered the year pushing amendments to beef up the Trespass to Property Act. This took me back 20 years to when I introduced my first Private Member’s Bill to restore property rights to the Province of Ontario.

Question Period in 2015 also gave me a platform to repeatedly raise the need for urgent action on the Cayuga Bridge. After years of delay, constant repair, load limits and lengthy detours, the bridge is not safe to manouver heavy trucks or oversized farm machinery.

. . . to be continued

I wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season. May your New Year be filled with health, wealth, happiness and prosperity!