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NDP deputy leader Singh grills the government as Thibeault refuses to step down

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh grilled the Liberal government and Minister of Energy over the Minister’s role in the Sudbury bribery scandal.

Yesterday the Federal Prosecutor in the cases against former senior aide to the Premier Pat Sorbara and Liberal operative Gerry Lougheed told media that Mr. Thibeault “sought certain benefits” to run in the Provincial byelection for the Liberal party in Sudbury.

“The government denies that the Minister of Energy is involved in a bribery scandal.  But the OPP say there was a bribe offered by the Liberal Campaign Director Pat Sorbara.  Now the federal prosecutor says that the Minister “sought certain benefits, offers or jobs or employment” as condition of running,” said Singh.  “Does the Acting Premier believe it’s appropriate for the Minister of Energy to sit in Cabinet, while a Federal Prosecutor says the condition of him running was that he received special benefits?”

The scandal is becoming more and more of stain on the Premier’s tenure and that of her Liberal Party.  During Question Period today Singh noted that when former Minister of Finance Greg Sorbara was named in an RCMP warrant, he immediately stepped aside from Cabinet and asked why Thibeault doesn’t follow the same precedent.

“The Minister of Energy is at the center of a bribery investigation, and yesterday, a Federal Prosecutor said the Minister was seeking benefits to resign as an MP and run for the provincial Liberal Party,” said Singh who then asked why the Minister won’t take a page out of Sorbara’s book and step aside.

The more Ontarians learn about what exactly happened during the Sudbury byelection, the more they lose faith in the capacity of this Liberal regime to govern in a responsible way.  New Democrats are committed to representing the people of Sudbury while their MPP is embroiled in this scandal.

NDP demands auto strategy from Wynne government to defend Ontario’s jobs and industry

During question period today, NDP MPPs Percy Hatfield (Windsor-Tecumseh), and Taras Natyshak (Essex), demanded the Wynne government provide an auto strategy to defend Ontario’s jobs and industry, as newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will not support existing North American trade deals.

“We’ve lost far too many manufacturing jobs in this province. Unifor has settled a new contract with the American-based auto industry. Ottawa isn’t doing anything to protect auto jobs. President-elect Trump is threatening to tear up existing trade contracts,” Hatfield said.  “What is the Wynne government doing to protect and grow Ontario’s automotive industry? We need an automotive strategy and we need it now.”

The Ontario NDP has been demanding that the Wynne government  develop an automotive strategy for years.  Hatfield and Natyshak reiterated that demand today.

“The premier’s appointed so-called auto czar has been absolutely silent.  There is no automotive strategy in the province of Ontario. Let’s be frank. It’s been left up to the workers in those plants to fend for themselves against market conditions, to make themselves productive, despite no action on the part of this government,” Natyshak said.

“Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not an automotive strategy. We need a plan, we deserve a plan that addresses the skyrocketing prices of hydro, makes us the most productive place to manufacture automotive parts, aerospace parts. We can do that, but we need leadership from the provincial government.”

“When is this government going to get to the table and devise an automotive policy that protects workers in the province of Ontario?” Natyshak asked.

NDP Leader calls for Premier to take action, keep small and rural schools open

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath added her voice to the parents from small towns and rural areas  who were in the Chamber’s gallery when she pushed the Premier to recognize the importance of small community schools and keep them open.

“Schools are more than just bricks and mortar,” said Horwath.  “They are parks and playgrounds; often the historical and cultural hub of a community and we need a government and Premier that will fight to protect them.

Schools in Lively, in Owen Sound, and the village of Long Sault are on the chopping block—nearly 40 schools throughout rural Ontario are slated for closure. Province-wide, that number moves into the hundreds.

“When hundreds of schools across the province are slated for closure, clearly, this government’s plan to keep schools open and transform underutilized spaces in them into community hubs is really just smoke and mirrors,” said Horwath.

The Ontario NDP is committed to educating children in their own communities.  New Democrats know that where a child lives should not determine the quality of education or supports that they receive.  ONDP Leader Andrea Horwath and the NDP Caucus have been fighting to bring investment to small community schools and will continue to push this government and Premier to do the right thing and keep rural schools open.

Open letter from Ontario NDP’s LGBTQ Issues critic Cheri DiNovo to Ontario’s Attorney General on the Project Marie sting operation

Open letter from Ontario NDP’s LGBTQ Issues critic Cheri DiNovo to Ontario’s Attorney General on the Project Marie sting operation

Dear Minister Naqvi,

I am writing to express deep concerns regarding the recent Project Marie sting operation conducted by Toronto Police Service at Marie Curtis Park.

We have learned that Toronto Police had been performing undercover sting operations in Marie Curtis Park trying to lure gay men and trans people to proposition them for sex. 72 people have been charged, many for minor by-law infractions.

Considering these were minor by-law infractions, this also raises many questions about the use of police resources. An undercover sting operation should be for serious crimes — not for intimidating and harassing gay men and trans people who are meeting each other in public spaces. 

We do not need to look far back in Ontario’s history to know that anti-LGBTQ actions like this ruined many lives. As Ontario’s Attorney General, I urge you to immediately order all 89 charges against these 72 individuals be dropped before more lives are ruined.

 

Regards,

[original signed]

Cheri DiNovo
Critic for LGBTQ Issues, Ontario NDP

NDP’s Dan’s Law to eliminate waiting periods for home and community care passes second reading

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky’s bill, Dan’s Law, to eliminate waiting periods for home and community care for people who have moved or returned to Ontario from out of province, passed second reading in the Ontario legislature today.

“Dan Duma returned home to Windsor to spend his final moments with his family, only to have the government deny him the care he needed in a home setting,” said Gretzky. “Families in this province should be given every opportunity to be reunited with their loved ones who are returning home to live out their last days.”

Horwath brings story of Hydro woes to Queen’s Park

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the story of Richelle McDonald and her family to illustrate to the Premier the effect that her wrong-headed Hydro One sell-off is having on families in West Niagara and across Ontario.

“Richelle and her husband Justin have three children. The whole family struggles with different illnesses that keep them each on medication,” said Horwath.  “She told me that for the past few months, her hydro bill has been so high that she has been forced to choose between the medications her family needs, and keeping the lights on.”

Wynne Liberals to hand horse racing reins to for-profit gaming giant

NDP Economic Development and Employment Critic Taras Natyshak is concerned the Wynne government plans to hand management of the Ontario horse racing industry over to a for-profit gambling firm, despite earlier promises to the contrary.

“Three years ago I stood in this House and asked the Premier to explain her plan for horse racing in the province. When I asked her why she was betting the farm on the Woodbine Racetrack and handing more market share to a then not-for-profit giant, the Premier answered that what I was saying was just not true,” explained Natyshak, whose home riding of Essex has deep ties to the horse racing industry. 

“I’ve met with the farmers and the breeders who depend on a vibrant horse racing industry for their livelihoods. Horse people do not support the Premier’s plan to give total control of horse racing to the for-profit Woodbine Entertainment Group,” continued Natyshak.

According to Natyshak, small community tracks are concerned about their sustainability moving forwards. Track owners are frustrated by the government’s lack of transparency and accountability on the matter, and claim they are not getting any clear information from the Premier’s office.

“Why is Ontario Racing currently consulting on a 17-year funding agreement that would effectively hand over control of horse racing in the entire province of Ontario to the now for-profit Woodbine Entertainment Group, just as I had predicted three years ago?,” asked Natyshak. “The government’s first plan to modernize horse racing was a disaster that the Auditor General said would kill rural jobs. Why should rural Ontarians believe the Premier’s latest plan will be any better?”

NDP MPP Armstrong demands answers on lack of mental health support for Londoners

During question period today, Teresa Armstrong, NDP MPP for London-Fanshawe, demanded the Wynne government take action for the people of London who are in distress with mental health issues but can’t get the care they need, when they need it.

 “My constituent, Jan, walked into the emergency department at London Health Sciences Centre, in desperate need of mental health care. She was in complete distress after days of suffering alone,” said Armstrong. “Jan waited 7 hours in emergency, before being told that no mental health beds were available. And the best she could do was to add her name to ever-growing wait lists for mental health services.”

Wynne Liberals dragging feet on rail electrification

Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo says the Wynne government is falling behind on its promise to electrify the Union Pearson Express line, and burdening Davenport area residents with an unwanted ‘super bridge.’

“Before the last election, the former Minister of Transportation promised that the Union Pearson Express would be electrified by 2017. But after the election, the government said electrification would have to wait until as late as 2024, as a new environmental assessment is completed,” said DiNovo during question period this morning. “That EA was supposed to have been completed last month, but it hasn’t even started. Instead, the government announced another ‘pre-consultation,’ further delaying progress on electrification.” 

DiNovo says the long-promised electrification is taking a back seat to an unwanted ‘super-bridge’ that will carry rail traffic above road level for nearly two kilometers.

“The minister is willing to accelerate the construction of a 1.5-kilometre bridge that will carve a scar through the Davenport neighbourhood,” explained DiNovo. “The minister refuses to consider the benefits of a tunnel or a trench, as proposed by the city of Toronto, instead of the super bridge, and it’s becoming clear that the trains running along this bridge will in fact be diesel, not electric.” 

Toronto City Council passed a motion opposing the bridge, but has no authority to stop the Metrolinx-driven construction. The rail project has also received wide-spread community opposition over noise, construction, and pollution concerns.

DiNovo urged the Minister to take residents’ concerns to heart, and move forward with electrification.

“Why is the minister fast-tracking a 1.5-kilometre super bridge through Davenport and steamrolling over community concerns, while dragging his feet on the electrification of regional express rail and the UP Express?,” she asked.

NDP demands Wynne government take immediate action on dangerously overcrowded West Lincoln Memorial Hospital

During Question Period today, NDP MPP for Hamilton East – Stoney Creek, Paul Miller, demanded the Wynne government take immediate action at the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, after an NDP investigation found the hospital operating in dangerously overcrowded conditions.

“Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have a disappointing record when it comes to health care in West Niagara,” said Miller.  “Thousands of people had to rally in the 1990s to stop the Conservatives from shutting down West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. And they had to rally again, in 2012, when the Liberals cancelled the new hospital redevelopment project.  Today, the hospital is still in desperate need of replacement. We’re hearing about serious challenges in the Emergency Department.”

Through Freedom of Information, New Democrats have learned that medical and surgical beds at West Lincoln Memorial have been operating at over 100 percent capacity for the past 12 months straight.

“Why is this Liberal government forcing hospitals like West Lincoln Memorial to become dangerously overcrowded – and forcing patients to pay the price?” asked Miller.

The local LHIN says medical and surgical beds should have a maximum occupancy of 85 to 90 percent. Under the Liberal government, West Lincoln’s medical and surgical beds have been forced to operate at over 100 percent capacity for 23 of the last 30 months.  And this past September, the occupancy rate soared to over 120 percent.

“That is not just a shocking statistic. That number represents real lives.  It’s real people who are forced to deal with overcrowded conditions and long waits in hospital hallways,” Miller said.  “When will this Liberal government get serious about the state of our hospitals? When will they finally tackle the dangerous overcrowding in Ontario’s hospitals?”

West Lincoln Hospital has been operating at its current site since the 1940s. Miller said the hospital has been coping with dangerously high occupancy rate and outdated infrastructure, and despite knowing the hospital needed to be rebuilt, the Liberals cancelled its redevelopment in their 2012 budget.

“The people of West Niagara need good quality healthcare in updated facilities. But under this Liberal government, West Lincoln Hospital is outdated and overcrowded. And this government is doing nothing to help patients and staff,” Miller said.  “When will this government stop doing what Conservatives do, stop cutting our hospitals, and finally rebuild the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital?”

Horwath visits Gurdwaras, celebrates Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday

Yesterday Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh toured four Gurdwaras in the Brampton area and celebrated the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji with hundreds of Sikh Ontarians.


“Among other teachings, Guru Nanak Dev Ji established the fundamental Sikh belief in equality and the principle of vand ke chakko – sharing with others and helping those in need,” said Horwath. “These values are also closely shared with New Democrats, and are the foundation of our friendship and partnership with the Sikh community.”


Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh was the first turbaned Sikh to serve in the Ontario Legislature and is the first Sikh to serve as Deputy Leader of a major political party in Canada. He was thrilled to accompany Horwath and talk to the Sikh community about the NDP at the Gurdwara visits Monday evening.


“As New Democrats, we are proud to stand in solidarity with the community as the first political party in Ontario to recognize the November 1984 genocide. Acknowledging that a genocide occurred is one of the first step toward healing and reconciliation. Naming the injustice is extremely important so that we can work toward ensuring it never happens again,” said Singh. “I’m proud of our shared values of social justice, equity and working toward creating more fair society.”


Ontario’s New Democrats have done important work with the Sikh community in recent years. The ONDP was proud to stand with Jagmeet Singh when he officially made April Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario - so that all Ontarian's could share in the Sikh values of Seva, the fundamentals of equality and the importance of supporting and helping our neighbours and our community. The ONDP is the only party in Ontario which passed a resolution committing to work toward the legislated protection of Sikh articles of faith. The party continues to build relationships with the Sikh community.

Deputy Premier Refuses to admit privatization to blame for soaring hydro rates in Ontario

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath cited a study by Hydro Quebec that shows the shocking difference between the average cost of hydro in Ontario (which is increasingly private) versus Quebec (which is public).

“According to a Hydro Quebec survey from April of this year, the average hydro bill that families in Quebec pay is about $100, while that same survey says that the average bill for Ontarians is $224,” said Horwath.  “Quebec’s hydro system is public.  Does the Deputy Premier see a connection between the high cost of Ontario’s hydro and the fact that we have a system that Conservatives and Liberals have been privatizing for the last 20 years?”

Matthews refused to admit a connection.

Horwath continued to hammer the government on the Hydro One sell-off citing two recent visits to families in London and Sarnia to show how exorbitant hydro bills are making life harder for the people of this province.

“Alex and Sherri Moore of London are worried about the cost of enrolling their kids in after-school activities.  Shaun and May Evans of Sarnia are putting off starting a family and they had to get a roommate just to keep up with the ridiculously high cost of their bill,” said Horwath.  “The Premier says she likes to make decisions based on evidence, but we confronted her government with the evidence again this morning: selling off Hydro One will drive hydro rates up even further and hurt families.  She her government are again turning a blind eye to the damage they are doing.”

The Ontario NDP has been loudly and consistently opposing the Premier’s wrong-headed sell-off of Hydro One.  NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has recently visited London, Hamilton, Kitchener, Sudbury, Ottawa, Kingston, and Sarnia to talk to people about how the sell-off is making life harder for them.

Ontario government touts ‘successful’ child poverty strategy while 27% of Toronto’s children live in poverty

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath demanded that the government take meaningful action to address the issue of child poverty in Toronto.

“We should be building a great future for every child in this province, but, instead, thousands of children are being left behind,” said Horwath.  “When will this government finally take bold action to actually eliminate child poverty in the city of Toronto and right across Ontario?" 

Divided City: Life in Canada's Child Poverty Capital reveals that 27 percent of children in this city are living in low-income families that are struggling to find good housing and put food on the table. The report, released today, was prepared by a coalition of social agencies, including Social Planning Toronto, Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, and Family Service Toronto.

“Toronto should be a great city for everyone who lives here. But under this government, Toronto is a Divided City,” Horwath continued in Question Period.  “In neighbourhoods like Regent Park and Thorncliffe Park, over 50 percent of children are growing up in low-income families.  We need to change that, we need to make sure that the next generation has a real future in this great city.”

In 2014, the Liberal government failed to meet its child poverty reduction targets. Today’s report confirms that poverty in many Toronto neighbourhoods remains at “epidemic” levels. Horwath has called on this Liberal government to finally do the right thing, lift wages for low-income families, and eliminate child poverty in Ontario.

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns introduces bill for climate action

Today Peter Tabuns, NDP MPP for Toronto-Danforth, and the Ontario NDP’s environment critic, presented his private member’s bill for climate action in the province. 

"The Wynne government’s climate plans aren't ambitious enough or transparent enough," said Tabuns. 

“Their climate targets do not meet the Paris Agreement, or other climate agreements that Ontario has signed on to.  At the same time, the Wynne government lacks an effective plan ‎for dealing with the huge changes Ontario will face as the world gets hotter. Its plans for reducing emissions are not transparent, and do not have the approval of the legislature.”

As hydro bills continue to climb, Sarnia families are suffering

Today Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath sat down with Sarnia residents Shaun and May Evans to discuss how their skyrocketing hydro bills are affecting their family.

“The NDP has been listening to people like Shaun and May and have been putting forward solutions that will address the immediate needs of Ontarians who are finding it harder and harder to build a good life in our province,” said Horwath.  “We have a responsibility to the people of this province to make sure that we, as their representatives, are doing everything we can to make life easier, not harder.”

Horwath launches endstudentdebt.ca website to highlight the student debt crisis in Ontario

Today at Queen’s Park Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath launched a new website aimed at empowering young people to tell their stories of how student debt is affecting their lives.

Horwath was joined by young people from across Ontario for the launch where she reiterated the NDP’s promise to immediately remove the interest from Ontario student loans if the party forms government in 2018.

“This is a first step in addressing the crisis of student debt in Ontario and it is an important one,” said Horwath. “Seemingly insurmountable student debt delays important life milestones for young people such as buying a car, owning a home, starting a family or starting a business.  This makes student debt not only a burden for those who carry it, but on the provincial economy as a whole.”

The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario strongly supports the NDP’s commitment to remove interest from Ontario student loans and is enthusiastic about the chance for young people to tell their stories.

“Students from across Ontario welcome the NDP’s decision to remove interest on provincial student loans. This is one of the demands of our Fight the Fees campaign that saw thousands of students across the province demand immediate action to address the student debt crisis,” said Rajean Hoilett, Chairperson of the CFS-Ontario. “We hope that this is the first step in realizing students vision for a high-quality system of college and university that is free of financial barriers and accessible to all.”

Ahmad Moussaoui, a 26 year-old resident of Windsor was one of the young people who joined Horwath in Toronto.  Moussaoui is the creator of an online petition calling for an end to student debt that has already received the support of 60,000 people.  He is excited about the chance to join with the NDP and raise the level of urgency of tackling student debt in Ontario.

“If I didn’t have my student debt, I could afford to live on my own and invest in growing my business, and maybe, eventually, I could buy a house,” said Moussaoui.  “Taking the interest off my student loan would definitely be an important first step in helping with my loan.  Thanks to Andrea and the NDP for helping young people raise awareness of this important issue through the new website.”

www.endstudentdebt.ca is live today and will help the NDP fight for an end to student debt in Ontario by collecting stories from young people about how it is affecting them.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's speech to Provincial Council — November 5, 2016

Bonjour mes amis!

Good morning New Democrats! It’s so good to see you all!

Thank-you for being here.

Je vous remercie de votre présence aujourd’hui.

There is no one more devoted to our values or more committed to our vision of social democracy than the people who are here, bright and early, on a Saturday morning!

The work we do at Provincial Council makes it possible for all of us – and our members and supporters – to do the most important things: like knocking on doors, organizing campaigns, and electing strong New Democrats!

And I have to say, right now, our members and activists in west Niagara and Ottawa are hard at work.

We have two by-election campaigns underway. Two by-election campaigns that come just as the Premier’s former Deputy Chief of Staff is facing two charges of alleged bribery for the Sudbury by-election scandal. For those of you who haven’t been following you will be shocked to learn that the OPP now believe Mr. Glenn Thibeault was offered something in exchange for running for the Liberals.

The vote in these two upcoming by-elections is less than two weeks away. Everyone working on those campaigns and working hard to win every vote for our great candidates, Mike Thomas and Claude Bisson, deserve a great big round of applause from all of us this morning.

Today, I want to give you an update on the work that our Caucus is doing. And I want to talk about the kind of change that we need to see, in Ontario today.

But let me start with where we’re at. 

NDP Deputy Leader calls for Thibeault’s resignation from Cabinet

Today during Question Period, Deputy Leader of the Ontario NDP Jagmeet Singh called on the Premier to remove her Minster of Energy from cabinet in light of the shocking allegations of bribery involving him. 

“The people of Ontario deserve a government of integrity. They deserve a Premier that puts integrity ahead of protecting her friends, party insiders and cabinet ministers,” said Singh. “Why has the Premier not yet received the resignation of her Minister of Energy from Cabinet?”

The call comes after charges were laid by the OPP Tuesday against the Premier’s top aide Pat Sorbara.  Sorbara is facing two counts of violating the Elections Act. The first for allegedly bribing former Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier not to run in the Sudbury byelection; the second and perhaps more distributing charge is for allegedly bribing the Minister of Energy to run in that same byelection.

“The Premier must understand why Ontarians are so concerned about the Minister continuing to serve in her Cabinet while he is potentially under investigation for bribery,” noted Singh. “Never before in the history of this Province has something like this happened. The Premier needs to show Ontarians that she is taking this seriously, she needs to ask her Minister to step down from Cabinet until this mess is sorted out.”

During the last provincial election, the Premier promised Ontarians that she was different.  She promised people that her Liberal party would not be riddled with scandal after scandal like her predecessor. 

Yet again the people of Ontario are disappointed.

The NDP is calling on the Premier to stop putting the interests of her party ahead of the needs of Ontarians and ask her Minister of Energy to step down until the very serious allegations against him are settled.