While Libs focus on misleading partisan advertising, people in Ontario suffer

Today during question period Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called out the Liberal government for its shockingly poor handling of numerous major government programs, illustrated in this year’s Auditor General report.

“People want to believe in the future of Ontario, but yesterday’s Auditor General’s report shows that the government is making decisions that aren’t about people,” said Horwath.  “People are waiting nearly 40 hours for acute care, they’re waiting longer to see a family doctor and information about wait times for surgery is misleading.”

In addition to the mess that this Liberal government has made of Ontario’s healthcare system, the Auditor took them task for the improper administration of many jobs programs in the Province.

“Half of the people who enter an apprenticeship aren’t finishing and the second career and employment services programs are helping less than 40% of the people who are trying to build a better life with a better job,” noted Horwath.

This government is letting people down. While underfunding by the government means that people are finding it harder to get a job, and waiting longer for healthcare, the government was able to find $20 million for advertising that the AG called “misleading”.

“Can the Acting Premier explain to a person who has spent hours in an emergency ward waiting for a bed, or trying hard to find a new job, why the government is more interested in spending taxpayer dollars on the Liberal reelection campaign, than they are in helping the people of Ontario?” Horwath finished.

Health care wait times increasing, as Liberals close beds and cut hospital funding

During Question Period today, Ontario NDP Health Critic France Gélinas called on the Wynne government to stop cutting health care in Ontario, as the Auditor General confirmed that people are waiting longer in emergency rooms and for surgeries. 

“It’s getting harder to access health care when families need it,” said Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt. “After years of cuts and layoffs in our hospitals, people are waiting up to 37 hours in the Emergency Room. After years of bed closures, the Auditor saw people on stretchers in hallways, because our hospitals are dangerously overcrowded.  And after years of budget cuts to our hospitals,  the Auditor found that long wait times for surgeries are putting patients at risk. 

“How can this Liberal government keep failing the patients of Ontario by forcing people to wait longer and longer for the health care they need?” Gélinas asked.

The Auditor General’s report is an indictment of the Premier’s record on health care.

“This Liberal government has closed mental health beds, leaving people in distress waiting, without help, for months on end.  This Liberal government has squeezed hospitals budget to the point that

the Auditor says nearly 60 percent of hospitals are deferring surgeries to balance their budget,” Gélinas said.  “And while this Liberal government claims to publish wait times for surgeries, the Auditor found that the real wait times are actually months longer than this government claims.  The Auditor actually said the information is ‘misleading’ for patients.”

“Why is this Liberal government cutting health care, closing hospital beds, and publishing wait times that are misleading?” Gélinas asked.

Horwath highlights Northern Ontario hydro woes at Queen’s Park

Fresh off a three day tour of parts of Northern Ontario, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath raised hydro concerns that she heard from northern businesses and families during Question Period today.

“On Tuesday I met Jean Bastien, mine manager, and a number of miners at Richmont Mines, near Dubreuilville,” said Horwath.  “The company is hoping to hire more employees. But skyrocketing electricity costs are a big problem. They’re hampering the company’s efforts to expand and create more jobs.” 

During Question Period today Horwath again called on the Liberal government to do the right thing and stop the selloff of hydro one to help businesses in the north create jobs. Horwath also talked about her visit with Sault Ste. Marie senior Sharon Hill, who is struggling to get by with high hydro bills and no pension.

“It’s not just businesses who rely on hydro that are worried.  Sharon’s hydro bills have hit $300 a month already this year and the worst of winter is still to come,” Horwath said.  “After a long, full life, people shouldn’t have to worry about something as basic as keeping the heat on.” 

Whether speaking with a miner, a saw mill operator, a young family, or a senior like Sharon, hydro bills were the biggest worry that Horwath heard about over the past few days in the North.

“Will the Acting Premier do the right thing for people like Sharon and businesses like Richmont Mines, get hydro rates under control, and stop the sell-off of Hydro One?” Horwath finished.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's Statement on World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week

More than 75,000 Canadians and over 30,000 Ontarians are currently living with HIV/AIDS. Studies suggest that roughly one in five people living with HIV/AIDS are unaware they have it, and the number of Canadians living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow. 

World AIDS Day and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week are important reminders for us to honour and mourn those we have lost to the virus, as we continue to work to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, while fighting the stigmatization that so often targets people living with the disease.

Around the world, options for preventing the spread of HIV, and treatments for those infected with the virus have improved dramatically. People living with HIV and AIDS live longer, with much greater quality of life than others before them.

But there is more we need to do. We must ensure at-risk individuals have access to the testing, services, and supports they need in a timely manner, and we need to do more to reach out to the communities that are disproportionately at risk, starting with meaningful consultation. This epidemic is more than a medical issue – social factors play a significant role in exposure, education, access to testing, stigmatization, and treatment outcomes.

On December 1, New Democrats stand alongside millions of Canadians to mark World AIDS Day 2016, and the start of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. The global theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Hands up for #HIVprevention” – a theme focused on different aspects of HIV prevention, and how different communities are affected, including vulnerable populations, women and girls, and those already living with the virus.

Ontario’s NDP is committed to eliminating new HIV infections, reducing AIDS-related illness and death, and fighting discrimination against those living with the virus. New Democrats extend our sincere thanks to the organizations, experts, and activists who work tirelessly to raise awareness and reduce the harm caused by HIV and AIDS.

NDP: AG report confirms major change needed to address Liberal broken promises

Ontario NDP Finance Critic Catherine Fife, MPP Kitchener-Waterloo, responded to the Auditor General’s 2016 Annual Report, which showed that major changes need to happen for Ontario to have the sorts of opportunity and future that people believe people can and should have. Unfortunately the Liberals are not living up to their promises. 

“People feel like we’re at a tipping point in Ontario, and major changes need to happen if the next generation is going to have the same opportunities or better opportunities than we had,” said Fife. “Instead, what we see in today’s Annual Report is that the wait for care in a hospital is too long, the Liberals aren’t creating the sorts of opportunities and jobs that people need, they are failing young people with mental illness, and all the while the government is spending more money on advertising just to pat themselves on the back.”

Fife highlighted key findings from the report:

  • In Ontario’s healthcare system, emergency rooms are overcrowded, and people are waiting 37 hours for acute care, when they should be receiving it in eight hours. Meanwhile, the Auditor describes the public information about surgical wait times as “misleading.”
  • Employment and Training programs aren’t focused on results. There is insufficient data on demands for skilled labour. Fewer than four in ten participants completing the Employment Service Program were able to find full-time work. And people are not finishing apprenticeships, but the government doesn’t know why.
  • Children living with mental health challenges are making more visits to the hospital, but the government doesn’t know why, and the data showing wait times is “misleading.”
  • Instead of investing in building a future, the Liberals are spending more on partisan government advertising to promote the government which the Auditor calls “misleading.”

“Andrea Horwath and the NDP know that Ontario can be a place where people build a future. But the Liberal government is cutting healthcare, they aren’t creating jobs, life is getting tougher and more expensive, and instead of fixing the problems, they’re spending money on misleading partisan advertising to promote themselves. That’s not the leadership that people were promised,” said Fife. “People know New Democrats are different. We’re focused on good jobs that can support a family, on strengthening public services like healthcare and education, and on opportunities for everyone.”

NDP demands Wynne government release new HIV strategy

During question period today, NDP health critic, France Gélinas, demanded the Wynne government release Ontario’s long overdue HIV strategy, to mark World AIDS Day tomorrow.

“I want to thank the people living with HIV and Ontario’s AIDS service organizations for their response to the epidemic.  We have made real progress. But there’s still  more to do,” Gélinas said. 

“Every single year, 800 Ontarians get diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  That’s far too many.  We must do better.  For nearly two years, we having been waiting for the Minister to sign-off on the new plan to reduce HIV infection in Ontario, and provide better care for people at risk of infection. Today, we are still waiting.”

“Why is the Minister taking so long to release Ontario’s new HIV strategy?” asked Gélinas

World AIDS Day is marked by the World Health Organization and takes place every year on the 1st of December.  It is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease. Gélinas joins people in Canada and around the world demanding action on AIDS prevention and control.

“Two years to sign-off on the new HIV/AIDS strategy is a long time.  AIDS service organizations and people living with HIV are doing incredible work to end the epidemic.   But for every year the Minister waits, 800 more people health and lives are in danger,” Gélinas said.  “The new strategy is done, it is supported and it needs to be released. After two years of waiting, the Minister needs to sign-off.” 

“Will the Minister mark World AIDS Day by finally, at long last, releasing Ontario’s new HIV strategy?” asked Gélinas.


Singh to government: stop just apologizing and start fixing the problem with hydro rates

Today during Question Period Ontario NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh implored the Liberal government to stop just apologizing for high hydro rates and finally take some action to provide relief for people and businesses that are suffering.

“Bob and Janine of Sundridge, Ontario thought they’d be able to afford to retire. They had budgeted to live on Old Age and CPP,” said Singh.  “But then their Hydro bills started to climb. In spite of heating their home with wood, their hydro bill was almost as much as their rent and they were forced to leave their community, where Bob had lived for 80 years.  Bob and Janine didn’t need just an apology, they needed lower hydro bills.”

It’s not just seniors like Bob and Janine that are suffering under this Liberal government’s incredibly poor handling of Ontario’s energy system, small businesses are suffering too.  On Monday we learned that Mucci Farms, which has been growing tomatos in Kingsville for 45 years, is opening its newest greenhouse in Ohio, because of electricity costs.  Bert Mucci said, “We are paying one of the highest rates in North America… It's causing us to move out of Ontario right now."

“Small business people are at their wits end,” said Singh. “The Windsor Essex Chamber of Commerce says they’re hearing from more and more businesses ready to relocate to Ohio, or simply go under because of their bills.  Admitting a mistake is a good step, but it doesn’t help a single small business owner.  Will the Acting Premier take a first step and stop the sell-off of Hydro One?”

Amidst the slew of non-responses to the NDP Deputy Leader’s questions today, the Minister of Energy touted various government programs that are simply inadequate in addressing the growing hydro bills of both families and businesses across Ontario.

“Over and over Liberal Ministers stand up in Question Period and pat themselves on the back and tell themselves what a great job they’re doing on hydro.  And every time they do that they show just how completely out of touch they are with people struggling to pay their bills,” finished Singh.

Singh calls on Liberal Government to put Wabigoon-English River clean-up in writing

Today during Question Period, Ontario NDP Deputy Leader Jagmeet Singh called on the Liberals to fully commit their government to the clean-up of mercury from the Wabigoon-English River in Grassy Narrows First Nation and to put that commitment in writing. 

“Last week the Minister of Environment and Climate Change committed to cleaning up the Wabigoon-English River, something the Premier has yet to back up,” said Singh.  “When will the government put their commitment to clean up the mercury in writing, or at least give Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Fobister a start date on the clean-up that was promised by the Minister?” 

The Wabigoon-English River was poisoned in the 1960s when 9,000 kg of mercury was dumped into it by a paper mill.  Scientific reports and medical researcher published this spring show that up to 90% of the people who live at Grassy Narrows are suffering from symptoms of this mercury poisoning. 

“People in Grassy Narrows have been living with mercury poisoning for more than 50 years. People lose their vision, their hearing, their balance, and sometimes even their ability to speak,” said Singh.  “The government has been studying the mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows for generations. Cabinet has had clean-up plans on the table since 1984. It’s time to act. Plain and simple.”

The Minister of Energy agreed to a clean-up of the River last week in the legislature and Chief Fobister has said that Grassy Narrows First Nation is going to hold him to his word.  The Ontario NDP has committed to doing the same.

NDP calls for moratorium on hydro disconnections

With hydro rates climbing, and temperatures dropping, Ontario NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns says the time has come for a moratorium on hydro disconnections in Ontario.

“There is a newspaper report today showing that food bank use is soaring because families can’t afford to pay their hydro bill and their grocery bill,” said Tabuns during question period this morning. “This past summer, the Minister of Energy refused to call energy poverty a crisis, even though 60,000 Ontario families have had their hydro cut off. We can expect the number of disconnections to soar next spring, when Hydro One will resume cutting off families who can’t pay their bills.”

United Way of Bruce Grey is leading the call for a moratorium on hydro disconnections. Across the province, more stories are emerging daily about families struggling to pay outrageous hydro bills. Tabuns says the sale of Hydro One will only worsen the issue.

“The Premier has finally acknowledged that soaring hydro prices are a ‘mistake,’ but the minister refuses to do anything to correct that mistake,” said Tabuns, MPP for Toronto-Danforth.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault “won’t halt the sale of Hydro One even though we know that privatization is going to drive prices up even further. He won’t direct the Ontario Energy Board to put the interests of consumers ahead of the private investors who will benefit from that privatization,” continued Tabuns, asking, “Will he at least agree to a moratorium on hydro disconnections?”

Wynne government must stop pushing people into poverty with skyrocketing hydro rates: NDP

During question period today, NDP MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, Percy Hatfield, demanded the Wynne government stop the privatization of Hydro One and control rising hydro costs, after a food bank report showed that more Ontarians are unable to afford their electricity bills and are being  pushed into poverty. 

“This year’s Hunger Report, from the Ontario Association of Food Banks, shows that the rapidly increasing cost of hydro is making it even harder for people to put food on their table,” Hatfield said.  “In fact, Ontario’s food banks say the rising cost of hydro is having a “direct” and “devastating” impact in the lives of struggling Ontarians.”

“When will this government do the right thing, stop the privatization of Hydro One, and stop pushing people across Ontario into energy poverty?” Hatfield asked.

Ontario’s food banks are feeding over 335,000 people each and every month, more than when the recession hit 8 years ago.

“Hydro rates are out of control. They’re pushing families and seniors into poverty across Ontario,” Hatfield said. “Since 2008, there’s been a 23 per cent increase in the number of seniors relying on food banks.  And this government just isn’t doing enough to help people who are struggling and falling further behind on their hydro bills.”

The Hunger Report says: “The help that currently exists from the provincial government is not comprehensive or inclusive enough for the majority of Ontario families struggling to make ends meet.”

“When will this government take real action to get hydro rates under control, stop pushing people into poverty, and stop any further sell-off of Hydro One?” Hatfield asked.

NDP demands Wynne government stop forcing community schools to close

During question period today, Windsor West MPP and NDP Education Critic, Lisa Gretzky, called on the Wynne Liberal government to take responsibility for their role in closing schools and to recognize the value of community schools across Ontario. ‎

“In Markdale, the closure of Beavercrest Community elementary school would devastate the community and hinder economic growth in the area,” said Gretzky. “Chapman’s went so far as to offer to buy the school; even the Mayor of Grey Highlands offered to offset deficit spending. Hundreds more schools like Beavercrest may be on the chopping block—schools like Queen Victoria Public School, Hugh Beaton Public School and Prince Edward Public School in Windsor.” 

Approximately 25 per cent of the Beavercrest student population are the children of employees at Chapman’s Ice Cream. The company, along with area politicians and residents have put forward a number of proposals to allow Beavercrest to stay open.

“Rather than providing community schools with the resources to stay open, this government is cutting rural grants, eliminating base top-up funding and grossly underfunding renewal needs,” said Gretzky. “If business, local politicians, students and families can see the value of schools like Beavercrest and those in my community, then why doesn’t this government?”


Horwath honoured as ‘Diversity and Inclusion Hero’ by Anatolia Islamic Centre

On Saturday, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was honoured by the Anatolia Islamic Centre for her and her party’s work in establishing Islamic Heritage Month in Ontario.

“I am incredibly humbled to be presented with this award,” said Horwath.  “Establishing October as Islamic Heritage Month in Ontario was an important opportunity to celebrate Islamic culture and to reaffirm that our province’s diversity is something to celebrate.”

NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong put forward Bill 23 – the Islamic Heritage Month Act – in early October and rallied support from both Liberal and Conservative Members to ensure its speedy passage through the Legislature.  For the first time ever in Ontario, this October was officially marked as Islamic Heritage Month. 

“The NDP is proud to stand with the Muslim community in making this happen. As we see an increase in islamophobic incidents both in Ontario and across the country, it's now more important than ever before to acknowledge and to celebrate the contributions of Muslims in Ontario,” finished Horwath.

The Anatolia Islamic Centre was established in 1998 and is very active in providing community services to both Muslim and non-Muslim families in the Mississauga area.  Horwath was honoured with the Diversity and Inclusion Hero Award at the organization’s ‘Motivation Conference” this past Saturday.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath statement on Holodomor Memorial Day

On Holodomor Memorial Day, we remember a truly dark period in human history.

Through oppressive political force and deliberate starvation, the Soviet regime snuffed out the lives of over seven million Ukrainians; millions more were made to suffer. The Ukrainian people persevered, but faced a new challenge – an international community unwilling to acknowledge the extent of their losses, or to condemn their oppressors.

It was only in 2009 that Ontario passed legislation marking the Holodomor Memorial Day – the first tri-partisan legislation in Ontario history.

While the Soviet regime tried to crush the Ukrainian people, they endured, and eventually won their independence. Thanks to their efforts to preserve their unique culture and identity, Canada is lucky to have a vibrant, thriving Ukrainian community, many of whom live in Ontario.

Today, New Democrats and all Ontarians stand with Ukrainians around the world to remember, and condemn, the atrocities of 1932-33.

At the same time, we are mindful of the troubling political situation in Ukraine today. If we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, we must be vigilant in promoting basic human rights and democracy, and addressing injustice wherever we see it.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath statement on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

One third of women around the world will experience violence in their lives, often by someone they know and trust. Half of all women killed will be murdered by intimate partners. Here in Canada, First Nations women and girls face an epidemic of violence, with hundreds missing or murdered.

Around the world, and in our own backyard, women’s rights that have been taken for granted for decades are being threatened, putting women’s safety in danger.

Women deserve better. Violence against women and girls is a problem that affects everyone, and it will take everyone working together to stop it.

Ontario’s New Democrats are committed to working to bring an end to violence against women. New Democrats want to work alongside all Ontarians to build a province where women and girls are respected, safe, and given every opportunity to thrive. And we want to build a community and justice system where victims of intimate violence are supported and believed, not re-victimized.

We can be proud of the protections and rights that have been entrenched for women in Canada, but we must never become complacent. Together, let’s build a future free from violence against women and girls.

NDP PMB to close Bribery Loophole, and strengthen integrity

The “Putting Voters First Act,” being introduced by NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson, will close a loophole in Ontario’s Election Act. The Private Members Bill will make it illegal for anyone to solicit or receive a bribe in exchange for seeking a nomination or running for office. 

“People want to believe in good government. I think most Ontarians believe it shouldn’t take a Private Member’s Bill to make it clear you can’t ask for a bribe, but given the behavior of the Liberals it  seems we do,” said Bisson. “Senior Liberals have already been charged for offering Glenn Thibeault a bribe, which is illegal. It’s common sense that asking for a bribe or accepting a bribe should be illegal too.”

On Monday, a Federal Prosecutor said that Glenn Thibeault “sought certain benefits, offers or job or employment as part of his conditions to run as (an) MPP,” but noted that “[t]he section makes it an offence to offer, not necessarily to receive (a bribe).” Bisson’s PMB would close that loophole and clarify that soliciting or accepting a bribe is also illegal. 

Bisson is calling for the bill to be passed quickly. 

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.