News

Skyrocketing hydro costs leave Ontario public libraries in crisis

This morning during question period, NDP Economic Development, Employment, Research and Innovation Critic Catherine Fife outlined the dire position libraries across Ontario are facing as hydro rates continue to rise. 

“We know that our public libraries provide extraordinary value to their communities,” said Fife. “Whether it’s employment skills upgrading or the integration of new Ontarians, or whether it’s providing free space for seniors’ groups or the early development of literacy skills, our public libraries create community across this province.” 

Fife, the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, raised the example of libraries in her riding. 

“In Waterloo, our public library hydro bills have been rising, with no end in sight. In fact, I’ve heard first-hand over the last three years that the increase in their hydro bills have been staggering. In 2014-15, Waterloo Public Library’s electricity costs rose by 18 per cent; the following year, by 26 per cent,” said Fife. “Public libraries’ operating budgets are being squeezed and public service is being sacrificed.”

Fife criticized the government for failing to release details of their promised hydro cost reduction plan, and the continued under-funding of public Libraries. 

“Our public library budgets are being compromised because of your out-of-control hydro rates. Your government’s public library operating grants fund less than 5% of library operating budgets,” said Fife. “Rising electricity bills and chronic underfunding have created a crisis for libraries. Out of desperation, Toronto public libraries are now opening without staff. Imagine: libraries without librarians. Why is your government forcing libraries to choose between paying their bills or staffing their libraries?”

NDP MPP calls on premier to stop cuts to vulnerable children and families

Monique Taylor, MPP for Hamilton Mountain and the NDP critic for children and family Services, today called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop her Liberal government’s cuts and start strengthening Ontario’s social services that children and families depend on.

“Good health outcomes and success in education are determined, in large measure, by social conditions,” said Taylor.

Wynne government failing seniors in Windsor struggling with hydro bills: MPP Hatfield

During question period Thursday, Percy Hatfield, NDP MPP for Windsor-Tecumseh, demanded answers from the Wynne government for seniors in Windsor struggling to pay their hydro bills.

“I have a constituent.  She’s 67. Her husband is a stroke victim. She’s trying to save money. She got rid of her electric clothes dryer and switched to natural gas.  It only saved her 10 bucks a month. Her most recent hydro bill was for $130 of usage, but more than $100 in delivery charges,” Hatfield said.

MPP Sattler demands Wynne government stop blocking project to help mental health patients

During question period Thursday, Peggy Sattler, London West NDP MPP, demanded the Wynne government stop blocking a project to help thousands of mental health patients in London.

“London health providers and emergency service personnel have been asking for months for the minister of health to approve this project as a pilot, to allow it to go ahead. The minister told the media yesterday that the project is already underway, but in fact, it is being held up on his desk,” Sattler said.

Local NDP MPPs urge minister of education to end Niagara lockout

Today, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates and Ontario NDP Labour Critic and Welland MPP Cindy Forster called for Premier Kathleen Wynne's education minister to put an immediate end to the Niagara Catholic District School board (NCDSB ) lockout so that thousands of affected school children and their families can get back to the classroom.

“Coming from significant experience at the bargaining table, resorting to a lockout will only have damaging impacts on the students and families caught in the middle of this dispute.  As adults and especially as elected representatives, we serve as role-models to the students. The Liberal minister needs to put an immediate stop to the lockout so our students and teachers can get back to the classroom,” said Gates.

Thousands of students have been affected by the lockout. Over 460 other school boards in the province have reached agreements and NCDSB is one of three that has yet to settle. 

“Let’s not forget that it’s the Liberal government and Premier Wynne’s short-changing education with a flawed funding formula that has been divisive and that has ultimately caused these disruptions. Teachers and students just want to go back to school,” said Forster.

Gates and Forster are calling on the education minister to put an immediate end to the lockout and call both parties back to the bargaining table.

Premier Wynne fails to stand up for Ontarians in federal budget

Ontario NDP Finance Critic John Vanthof issued the following statement:

“Ontarians expected Premier Wynne to stand up for their interests in this federal budget. Instead, just like the recent health accord, Premier Wynne has settled for far less support from Ottawa than what Ontario needs. 

Our province needs stronger funding commitments from the federal government when it comes to affordable housing, infrastructure and transit, more affordable pharmacare, and equitable access to clean drinking water and education for First Nations communities. Ontarians deserve better.”

Precarious work causing stress and sickness for Ontarians: MPP French

During question period today, Oshawa MPP Jennifer French called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to address the damaging effects of precarious work on hardworking Ontarians and release the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review.

“Ontarians are working two and three part-time and piecemeal jobs without knowing when they’ll be scheduled next,” said French. “Job prospects are getting worse, wages are down and the cost of living keeps going up, but the Liberals aren’t willing to alleviate this stress and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

MPP French’s question referenced a recent study commissioned by the Ontario Federation of Labour which found that precarious work environments cause increased stress and sickness for workers in Ontario.

“Hard-working Ontarians are stressed and they are becoming sick over unpredictable work schedules,” said French. “They deserve wages they can count on. They deserve hours that they can rely on, and they deserve schedules they can plan around.” 

Past statements by the government claimed that the report would be released in the spring of 2017.

“Does the Premier have the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review? And if she does, what is she waiting for?”

Premier Wynne allowing privatization of health care through rise of for-profit clinics and services

France Gélinas, NDP health critic, continued Wednesday to press Premier Kathleen Wynne about her choice to allow the growth of private for-profit health clinics and services, while she continues deep cuts to public health care in the province.

“People shouldn’t have to pay up, or wait longer for the health care they need. But that’s exactly what’s happening under this premier,” Gélinas said.  “Companies are charging people to jump to the front of the line.  They're doing it unchecked, on the premier's watch.”

Wynne is allowing people to be charged – and allowing wait times for everyone else to get longer – as private, for-profit health companies are flourishing following Wynne’s deep cuts to Ontario’s public health care system. 

“For-profit companies like Maple are charging people for services like diagnosis and writing prescriptions,” Gélinas said.  “Does the premier believe it's ok for companies to charge Ontarians for seeing a doctor or getting a prescription? 

“If your child is sick, you should not have to reach for your credit card to buy answers.” 

Gélinas said that companies are charging people to see a doctor and to get a diagnosis, asking them to rack up credit card bills. Maple says it charges fees for services like doctor's visits and getting a prescription written because those services are “not covered by OHIP.” 

“Under the Wynne government, parents of a sick child are basically given the choice between paying up, or waiting longer.  And they have to watch while those who pay up, leapfrog ahead of them onto the surgery list,” Gélinas said.

“So when did the Premier decide that people have to choose between paying up – or waiting longer – to get their family the care they need?”

Hospitals’ hydro bills skyrocketing, Liberals admit almost no relief coming

As the NDP revealed documents showing skyrocketing hydro bills in Ontario hospitals, the Liberal government was forced to admit that hospitals will see almost no relief under Premier Kathleen Wynne’s $40-billion borrowing approach.

“Health care is at a tipping point in Ontario," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "There have already been frontline workers laid off at many hospitals, and with skyrocketing hydro bills, hospitals are being squeezed tighter. Now, Wynne’s government has admitted that hospitals will see almost no relief from skyrocketing hydro costs under the premier’s scheme.”

According to documents the NDP obtained via access to information laws:

  • Toronto’s University Health Network has seen a $6 million cost hike to its hydro bills, or 39 per cent, over six years
  • Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Healthcare has seen hydro costs increase by $4.16 million, or 105 per cent, in just six years
  • London Health Sciences Centre has seen hydro costs increase by nearly $2 million, or 29 per cent, even though their consumption dropped over the past six years
  • Toronto’s Sinai Health System is paying $1.45 million more, a 48 per cent increase in five years
  • Toronto East Michael Garron Hospital has seen a $1.3 million hike on its hydro bills, or 67 per cent, in six years
  • Windsor Regional Hospital’s Met Campus has seen a $880,000 hydro bill increase, or 49 per cent, in five years

Although no plan by the Wynne government has been made public, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault was forced to admit in Question Period on Tuesday that hospitals will only “see a modest reduction between 2 per cent and 4 per cent.”

“Health care workers are doing the best they can, but they're being asked to do more with less by Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government," said Horwath.  “Wait times are already too long. Staff are already run off their feet. These hydro bills are part of the problem, pushing hospitals to the breaking point. The Liberal approach will do nothing to help our hospitals.”

Horwath has released an NDP plan to cut hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent for all hydro customers, which includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will return an additional $7 billion to the province which can be invested in Ontario services like hospitals. The NDP plan will also offer immediate relief with actions like eliminating time-of-use billing.

The Conservative party has not released a position or plan, but previously supported the selloff of Hydro One.

NDP: Wait for long-term care beds leaving families in crisis

NDP Home and Long-Term Care Critic Teresa Armstrong says extended wait times for long-term care beds are leaving Ontario families in crisis, scrambling to find care for loved ones, often at personal expense.

“Last week, I had a town hall meeting on long-term care in my riding. One of my constituents told me she was forced to take her father out of the hospital, and he has been living in a hospital bed in her living room,” said Armstrong this morning during question period. “She has missed so much work that she isn’t sure she has a job to go back to, and she is currently unable to pay her mortgage and her hydro bills because her father needs daily care.”

Far from an isolated case, Armstrong, the MPP for London-Fanshawe, stressed that the current crisis is the result of years of inaction by the Liberal government, who failed to adequately address rising need for long-term care options.

“The growing demand for long-term-care beds has not just come up out of the blue. Experts have warned this government for more than 10 years. Now, there are 26,500 seniors and their families caught up in cycles of stress, poverty and loss of dignity. The same experts have also told you that the wait-list will double in six years to 50,000 people,” said Armstrong, calling on the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care to take action.

“Minister, you have failed my constituents, and I want to know exactly what you are doing for the 26,500 seniors and their families who are languishing on waiting lists, waiting for a long-term-care bed,” said Armstrong. “Will you commit to ensuring that every senior has access to a long-term care bed when they need it?”

 

Horwath presses Wynne to finally protect all renters in Ontario

Today during question period, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop allowing massive, unfair rent hikes. 

An NDP bill tabled today will close the loophole that has thousands of renters at risk. 

The Rent Protection for All Tenants Act was introduced by Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns Monday, and will close the loophole that allows landlords in buildings built later than 1991 to hike rents as much as they want, whenever they want.

“We hear from families that say these increases are chasing them from their homes – the place they’re raising their kids.  Some people are seeing rent increases of hundreds of dollars or even $1,000 a month,” said Horwath.  “That’s not fair, it doesn’t have to be this way and Wynne Liberals could have done something about this years ago.”

Horwath said if Premier Wynne has been listening to Ontarians, she should support the bill.

“Premier Wynne has had years to correct this loophole that’s leaving millions of Ontarians unprotected,” said Horwath. “Meanwhile, tenants either face massive rent hikes, or the fear that they're next.”

The NDP bill will amend the Residential Tenancies Act to include all renters in a rule that caps rent increases to the annual rent increase guidelines – about 1.5 per cent this year. Currently, only tenants of buildings constructed before 1991 have that protection.

NDP hydro plan is on the table, Krmpotich wants to see Romano's Conservative plan

Last week, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP Sault Ste. Marie candidate City Councillor Joe Krmpotich, revealed that hydro bills at the Sault Area Hospital have jumped nearly $1 million in recent years. With Horwath questioning the premier on that issue this morning, Krmpotich wants to know what Ross Romano would do about soaring hydro bills.

"Last week Andrea was here, listening to the people of this community, and today she has taken those concerns back to Queen's Park to fight for us," said Krmpotich. "That's in pretty stark contrast to Mr. Romano, whose reaction when he heard that soaring hydro rates are threatening frontline care at the Sault Area Hospital was to issue a press release arguing that privatization of our system hydro wasn't the problem."

Romano, a cut-and-privatize Conservative, tied himself in knots, to blame anything but privatization for skyrocketing hydro prices. But Romano has refused to provide Sault voters with any kind of a vision or plan to make hydro more affordable.

"My message for Mr. Romano is this," said Krmpotich. "The NDP has released our extensive plan to lower all hydro bills by about 30 per cent. Where's your plan?" 

Horwath's plan to cut hydro bills by about 30 per cent includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will provide Ontario with an additional $7 billion that can be invested in Ontario services like hospitals. It also included immediate cost-cutting measures like removing time-of-use billing.

The NDP's public plan is in stark contrast to the Wynne government's phantom plan – a borrowing scheme that will force people to pay $40 billion more in interest to bankers. Since the Wynne government hasn't released their plan yet, it's not clear when or how Ontarians will be billed for that $40 billion. 

"Our community deserves a healthy debate about how to fix the sky-high hydro bills families and our local businesses are facing," said Krmpotich. "Now let's hear Mr. Romano's plan."

The entire NDP plan is online at ontariondp.ca/hydroplan.

 

NDP demands to know the price tag of Wynne’s self-serving hydro ads

The NDP is filing requests under Freedom of Information laws to find out just how much public money Premier Kathleen Wynne is spending on advertisements in defense of sky-high hydro bills and the multi-billion-dollar borrowing scheme she still hasn’t released.

“Not one dime has come off people’s sky-rocketing hydro bills and Wynne hasn’t tabled legislation, or even a credible plan to save us money. Yet, she’s spending more of people’s hard-earned dollars on ads claiming the problem is solved,” said Peter Tabuns, Ontario NDP Energy Critic.

 

NDP moves to extend rent-hike protection to everyone

The NDP is proposing a new law that would provide rent-hike protection for all renters by immediately closing a loophole that allows landlords in buildings built later than 1991 to hike rents as much as they want.

The private member’s bill, the Rent Protection for All Tenants Act, will be tabled Monday by the NDP’s Peter Tabuns, NDP MPP for Toronto-Danforth. 

NDP’s Horwath demands Wynne’s hydro legislation be tabled Monday

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to table her promised hydro bill on Monday.

“Premier Wynne, has issued a news release and delivered talking points – now it’s time to deliver a plan,” said Horwath. “Ontario families, businesses and municipalities have a right to know what will happen to their bills and who will pay the price for $40 billion going to pay interest rather than investing in hospitals, schools, transit and roads.”

Horwath said the media appearances and talking points have raised more questions than answers. There’s confusion throughout the province on whether Wynne’s borrowing deal will help all Ontario businesses, whether there will be any relief on time-of-use premiums or if hospitals, schools and municipal facilities like community rinks will qualify for relief.

Plus, noted Horwath, there have been no details around repayment of interest costs that could amount to as much as $40 billion.

“If Wynne is planning to sign Ontarians on to a $40-billion borrowing deal, she owes us all one heck of an explanation. That’s why I’m calling on her to table a bill Monday – so it can be properly debated by the legislature, by the public, and by experts.”

Horwath is concerned that the Liberals plan on tabling their bill close to the end of the legislative session, undercutting scrutiny and debate. "Kathleen Wynne might think such a strategy will be good for her and the Liberal party but it is yet another affront to the people of Ontario".

Unlike the Wynne government, Horwath has already publicly released her plan to lower hydro rates by up to 30 per cent. The extensive NDP plan includes immediate bill-cutting measures like scrapping time-of-use premiums and unfair higher delivery charges; and it repairs the hydro system for the long-term by reversing the selloff of Hydro One.

Horwath’s plan will bring an additional $7 billion in dividends to the province – money that can be used in schools and hospitals – while Wynne’s borrowing deal is expected to cost Ontarians as much as $40 billion more in interest payments.

While the Wynne plan appears to benefit bankers most, the Conservatives haven’t provided any sort of a plan at all to deal with sky-high hydro bills.

Open Letter from Andrea Horwath to Premier Wynne on North Bay hospital cuts, a direct result of Wynne govt's health care cuts

Dear Premier Wynne:

 

Your government’s cuts to health care have gone too far. Today, I am writing to ask that you take immediate action to stop cutting health care services and laying off health care workers at North Bay Regional Health Centre.

North Bay has experienced devastating health care cuts as a direct result of your government’s bad decisions. For four straight years, the Liberal government froze hospital budgets. These cuts forced North Bay Regional Health Centre to layoff over 350 nurses and hospital workers, while closing beds and cutting services.

On June 6, 2016, in Question Period, I asked you how you could possibly defend your record of cutting over 350 jobs at North Bay hospital.

Unfortunately, instead of changing course, your government is doing even more damage. 

This morning, we’ve learned that North Bay Regional Health Centre will cut another 30 to 40 jobs over the next two weeks. This is very troubling news for families, seniors, and everyone who needs health care in North Bay.

Health care in Ontario is at a tipping point. After four years of frozen budgets, hospitals across Ontario are overcrowded and many are running beyond safe occupancy levels. And according to the Ontario Hospital Association, Emergency Department wait times are now the longest on record since Ontario started measuring these wait times.

North Bay Regional Health Centre says that the hospital is experiencing “extremely difficult times.” When the hospital failed to cut enough to balance its 2015-16 budget, your government punished it by cutting another $7 million.

Moreover, like people across Ontario, North Bay Regional Health Centre also faces skyrocketing electricity bills. According to hospital officials, energy costs are projected to increase by 12 per cent, or $200,000, this year – but the hospital will not qualify for hydro relief under your Liberal government’s $40 billion borrowing scheme.

As Premier, you can finally do the right thing and stop cutting health care in North Bay and across Ontario. I ask you to work with North Bay Regional Health Centre to prevent the layoff of 30 to 40 additional health care workers.

It’s your job to protect those jobs – and protect the care that people need in North Bay. Communities across Northern Ontario deserve nothing less.

We cannot stand by silently while you do even more damage to the health care that people count on. That is why New Democrats will continue to demand an end to your government's cuts to health care services across Ontario.

Sincerely, 

Andrea Horwath, MPP
Leader, Ontario's New Democrats

Hospital hydro bill up nearly $1M, forcing layoffs

Front-line workers say patient care being put in jeopardy

 

SAULT STE. MARIE – The hydro bill at the Sault Area Hospital has jumped nearly $1 million at the same time as the Wynne government has frozen hospital funding – and that pressure is leading to front-line health care cuts.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP candidate in the upcoming by-election City Councillor Joe Krmpotich were in Sault Ste. Marie Monday to address the concern, which was revealed in documents the NDP obtained via access to information laws.

“The pressure from skyrocketing hydro bills and frozen hospital budgets has already led to frontline workers being laid off, and longer wait times for diagnostic tests like MRIs or CT scans,” said Horwath. “It’s clear that hydro costs are hurting families in more ways than one – it’s hurting people every month when the bill comes, but it’s also hurting the services we count on, like hospitals, schools and city services like community centres.”

Over four years, from 2011 to 2015, the hospital’s total annual electricity consumption has stayed the same, yet the total billed amount for hydro has risen to $2.7 million from $1.8 million – an increase of 45 per cent.

“The hospital staff and administrators are doing the best they can, but what they are being forced to deal with is just mind boggling,” said Krmpotich.  “How can the hospital be expected to provide the best quality of care when Premier Wynne is squeezing them like this?”

Horwath and Krmpotich were joined by frontline health care workers from the hospital who say they are very concerned about patient care being put in jeopardy.

“We have already lost nursing hours in the imaging diagnostics unit,” said Glenda Hubbley, a Registered Nurse at the hospital and president of the Ontario Nurses Association local in Sault Ste. Marie. “We just want to provide the best care possible, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that.”

Horwath recently released an NDP plan to cut hydro bills by as much as 30 per cent, which includes returning Hydro One to public hands – a move that will provide Ontario with an additional $7 billion that can be invested in Ontario services like hospitals. The NDP plan is in stark contrast to the Wynne government's band-aid fix – a borrowing scheme that will force people to pay $40 billion more in interest to bankers. 

Horwath has also said an NDP government would stop the Wynne hospital cuts – she’s committed to meeting the unique needs and pressures that northern hospitals like the facility in the Sault face.

“By focusing on herself and her party, Premier Wynne has driven the Sault to its breaking point,” said Horwath. “That’s why it’s time for a strong voice at Queen’s Park, fighting for the Sault. That’s why Joe Krmpotich is our choice in the by-election.”

 

 

NDP’s Horwath launches petition to get 300 schools off the chopping block

The Wynne government revealed Thursday that 300 more schools are on the chopping block, prompting NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to launch a petition campaign to block any further closures. 

Wednesday, the NDP revealed internal briefing notes from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals which prove the government’s policy for measuring school utilization is wrong and misleading. It calculates fully-utilized schools as nearly empty by intentionally ignoring English as an additional language programs, child care programs, adult education programs and more.

“The rules for closing schools are broken – and until they’re fixed, not one more school should be shut down,” said Horwath. “Schools can and should be important community hubs. When they offer child care or adult education, they’re offering something incredibly valuable.” 

“Premier Wynne just doesn’t get it – intentionally ignoring those things and closing hundreds more schools will come at a huge cost to families, and to the province.”

Horwath said the Liberal government’s bad policies combined with cuts to education are hampering school boards. Her petition calls on the government to remove all 300 schools from the list of schools being considered for closure, review the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines, and fix broken utilization formula. The NDP has also demanded the Wynne government review the funding formula which is pressing school boards to close schools. 

Since 2011, 277 schools have been permanently shut down under Wynne’s watch.

LINK TO THE PETITION (pdf)