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Statement by Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on National Aboriginal Day

“National Aboriginal Day is an opportunity for us to honour and celebrate Ontario’s First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, their unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions to our Province. 

Last month, I was honoured to participate in the Ontario government’s apology for the historic brutalities committed for generations at residential schools.

Apologies are important, but of course, it’s not enough to apologize. We need to learn from the mistakes of history, and we need to stop repeating them. 

Recent events, including the tragic loss of young lives in Attawapiskat, should cause us to redouble our efforts to ensure that every First Nation in this province has access to safe drinking water, safe housing, and quality health care and to ensure that children and youth have access to the opportunities that they need to start their lives, and look forward to their own futures. 

But reconciliation won’t just happen. Political leaders need to have political will to make it happen.

That is our task moving forward.

As we celebrate National Aboriginal Day, I’m recommitting our caucus to doing everything we can to build a future free of racism, discrimination, inequity and injustice.”

 

Joint Statement on Grassy Narrows by NDP MPPs Peter Tabuns and Sarah Campbell

Joint Statement on Grassy Narrows by NDP Environment Critic Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth), and Local MPP Sarah Campbell (Kenora-Rainy River)


“Today’s reports show definitively that the government was told about ongoing sources of mercury contamination of the Wabigoon River. For 50 years, people in Grassy Narrows have been getting sick and dying from mercury poisoning, but when NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked the Premier if they knew about ongoing mercury contamination, the Premier refused to acknowledge anything.

The Premier is dodging responsibility for action, and that has to stop.

People in Grassy Narrows shouldn’t be dealing with mercury poisoning. The science is in, and we can clean up the waterway. New Democrats are calling on the Liberal government to do the right thing and start the cleanup of the Wabigoon-English River system.”

Statement from Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on Liberal cabinet shuffle

“Today’s cabinet shuffle is a public relations exercise by a government that has grown out of touch with Ontarians and more concerned with the fortunes of the Liberal party than the people of this province -- no superficial reboot is going to change that fundamental fact.

 "If the Premier were really listening to people across the province she would stop the sell-off of Hydro One, and put an end to cuts to healthcare and education. Ontarians deserve better than a game of musical chairs from this government. People deserve affordable electricity, good jobs with decent benefits, and healthcare and education they can count on."

Wynne has much to answer for on Pan Am spending

During Question Period today, NDP Tourism, Culture and Sport Critic, Paul Miller, demanded accountability from Premier Wynne  following the Auditor  General’s report that found  the Liberal government went $342 million over budget on the PanAm and ParaPanAm games – paying out more than $5 million in executive bonuses with little to no accountability. 

“Seven months ago, this government had the audacity to claim that the Pan Am Games had come in under budget.  Enough is enough.  We can’t trust even simple arithmetic from this government,” said Miller. 

“Who will the Premier hold accountable for wasting over $300 million of provincial money? At a time when Ontario Hospitals have a $3.2 billion dollar backlog of maintenance, when they’re being forced to fire health care workers, that $342 million could have been spent on priorities like, health care.”

This morning, the Auditor General revealed that the Pan Am Games went shockingly over budget. Ontario’s original budget for the Games was $500 million. The cost so far is $804 million, 61 per cent over budget and climbing. 

Liberal government balancing books on the backs of students with special needs

The Liberal government continues to deny children with autism vital therapy while also cutting front line education workers who help children succeed, said NDP MPP for Oshawa, Jennifer French, today in the legislature. 

“Ontario families know that when $8 million is cut from special education funding across 25 school boards, and $1 billion in dedicated education funding goes unused over the past three years, their children are not a priority,” said French. 

French cite several examples of the impacts of Liberal cuts across the province: 

Premier should act on Human Rights Watch report and fix water crisis in First Nations reserves: NDP

During Question Period today, Ontario NDP health critic, France Gélinas, demanded Premier Wynne take action on a report released by Human Rights Watch that found unsafe water drinking water for First Nation people in 90 Ontario reserves, and called for an end to the First Nations water crisis.

“Last week I asked the Premier to explain how it is acceptable that First Nations people in Ontario still don’t have access to clean drinking water.  Today, internationally respected Human Rights Watch, that is normally concerned with abuses in Sudan or Afghanistan, released a special report on the unacceptable water situation for Ontario’s First Nations people” Gélinas said.

NDP MPP Armstrong demands Liberal government listen to students calling for action to stop youth suicide crisis

During Question Period today, Teresa Armstrong, NDP MPP for London-Fanshawe, demanded that Acting Premier, Deb Matthews, listen to students who have walked out of classes demanding mental health support to deal with a youth suicide crisis in Woodstock and Oxford County.

“Today, students at Woodstock secondary schools are walking out of their classrooms to send this government a clear message to stop the suicide crisis before another life is lost,” Armstrong said.

“Will the Acting Premier listen to these students who are walking out of classes in protest this morning and commit to immediately increasing mental health resources in Woodstock and Oxford County?”

Premier should listen to growing movement and stop kicking children out of autism services: NDP

Today NDP children services critic, Monique Taylor (MPP, Hamilton Mountain), demanded Premier Wynne listen to parents and families who attended Question Period this morning,  and an increasing number of Ontarians, calling on her to stop her plans to remove children from essential autism therapy. 

“We know that every child matters, and that all children regardless of age, should have access to services that we know that they need to thrive,” Taylor said.  “Will the Premier listen to a coalition of voices coming out against her plan to remove children over the age of five from IBI therapy and the waiting list?”

Premier should stop making patients and families in North Bay pay for hospital cuts: NDP

During Question Period today, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, demanded Premier Wynne listen to patients and families in North Bay and stop the cuts to their hospital.  Horwath met with frontline health care workers and patients in North Bay on Saturday.

“Liberal cuts have forced the North Bay Regional Health Centre to layoff over 350 nurses and hospital workers in recent years, to close beds, and to cut services. It means patients leave hospital quicker and go home sicker.  The hospital is understaffed and nurses and hospital workers are stressed and overworked,” Horwath said.  “And the people of North Bay are paying the price for four straight years of the Liberal hospital funding freeze.  How can the Premier defend her record of cutting over 350 workers from the North Bay hospital?”

NDP demands Wynne government keep employment program for at-risk aboriginal youth

Today during Question Period, Ontario NDP MPP Michael Mantha (Algoma-Manitoulin), pressed the Liberal government to reverse its decision to cut a successful employment training program for aboriginal children and youth on Manitoulin Island.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has replaced the “Jobs for Youth Program” with the “Youth Jobs Connection Program.”  Over the past seven years Waubetek Business Development Corp has successfully been delivering the Jobs for Youth program in the region. 

“This program change has resulted in youth employment positions for at-risk Aboriginal youth being reduced from 50 to 4 positions. Will your government reverse the cancellation of this important “Jobs for Youth” program which has done so much to guide aboriginal youth in a positive direction?,” Mantha said.

Over the past seven years, this program has enabled 420 Aboriginal Youth between the ages of 15-18 to be hired, trained and placed over that period.  

 

NDP calls on Premier to support Grassy Narrows youth by committing to mercury cleanup

Sarah Campbell, NDP MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, supported Grassy Narrows youth who were in the public gallery of the Ontario legislature today to ask Premier Wynne to clean up the mercury poisoned Wabigoon River. 

“Many community members are here with us today. Many of the youth, who travelled 1,700 kilometres, are watching today,” Campbell said. 

“Premier, will you look at these youth from Grassy Narrows and tell them that a river that poisons them today, won’t be clean tomorrow, and will never be clean in their lifetime?”

The people of Grassy Narrows have been told since 1970 not to eat the fish they’ve relied on as a central part of their life since time immemorial, because of mercury that was dumped into the river that makes them sick.  “They’ve been asking the Ontario government to fix it ever since,” Campbell said.

Wynne Liberals can stop increasing electricity bills by rewarding conservation over nuclear: NDP

During Question Period today, Ontario NDP Energy Critic, Peter Tabuns, said the Wynne government should stop driving up electricity bills for Ontario families by supporting conservation programs instead of costly nuclear plants.

“When Ontario already has a massive energy surplus, adding billions to our electricity bills, why didn’t the Minister hold back on costly nuclear projects, so Ontarians can finally be rewarded for their conservation efforts?” Tabuns said.

Earlier this week, the Environmental Commissioner said that conservation was Ontario’s cheapest energy option.  But OPG is proceeding with an expensive nuclear refurbishment plan that will add over $5 per month to electricity bills in the province.  “That is if these nuclear projects do not go over budget. But of course, nuclear projects always go over budget,” Tabuns said.

 

Andrea Horwath's Speech to Provincial Council May 28, 2016

Thank-you very much, Mary-Rita.

Bonjour mes amis! Hello New Democrats!

It’s great to see you all again!

We have a busy weekend ahead of us.

Important meetings here at Council. 

And, tomorrow, the J.S. Woodsworth Awards to honour leaders in our communities who are standing up for human rights and for greater equity in this province.

I want to thank the Ethno-Racial Equity Committee and everyone who’s been part of organizing that event tomorrow. And I hope to see many of you there.

 

Premier should stop excluding Ontarians from a public pension plan and support an enhanced CPP

Today during Question Period, Oshawa MPP and NDP Pensions critic, Jennifer French, called on Premier Wynne to support Ontario’s workers by backing an enhanced Canada Pension Plan (CPP).

“New Democrats support a strong public pension plan. We believe that all Ontarians should be able to retire in dignity. This government, however, is excluding thousands—if not millions—of Ontario workers and their families,” French said.

This month, the provinces will talk about a potential increase to the CPP, a plan that leaves no Canadian behind. Ontario’s participation is needed to move conversations forward: changes to the CPP require agreement from both the federal government, and two-thirds of provinces with two-thirds of the population. As the most populous province, Ontario has the ability to direct CPP talks, and even to stop a CPP enhancement.  The Ontario government has suggested that the design of the ORPP—which leaves out thousands of workers—be mirrored in any future CPP enhancement.

“Even the federal government has expressed concerns that the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)—which leaves out thousands of workers—may prevent a future CPP enhancement,” French said. “Premier, will the government support a universal enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan so that every worker in this country benefits?”

NDP demands Premier listen to Grassy Narrows leaders calling for mercury cleanup

During Question Period today, NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic, France Gélinas, demanded Premier Wynne listen to Grassy Narrows First Nations leaders in Toronto today.  They are calling on her to act on a scientific report that says mercury contamination of the Wabigoon river can be remediated.  

 “Yesterday, the Premier said she didn’t know the source and had not read the report into cleanup options for the mercury poisoning of the First Nation People of Grassy Narrows,” Gélinas said.  “Well, it was the government-appointed working group, and I don’t know why no one in the government has read it, since they got the report back in April.”

Gélinas said that despite the report that found mercury contamination continues in the Wabigoon river, and that cleanup can be enhanced safely and economically, the Wynne government continues to claim cleanup is unnecessary.    MPP Gélinas said that last February a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment said:  “Currently there is no evidence to suggest that mercury levels in the river system are such that any remediation, beyond continuing natural sedimentation remediation, would be warranted.”

Campbell calls on Premier for coroner’s inquest into the death of Azraya Kokopenace

During Question Period today, Sarah Campbell, NDP MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, demanded the Premier listen to the Kokopenace family, and the Grassy Narrows community, and support their call for a coroner’s inquest into the death of their daughter, Azraya Kokopenace.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened to Azraya: why did the police drop her off at the hospital? And why did she walk away?” Campbell said.  “But what we do know, from her father, is that Azraya needed help. Azraya was involved with the child welfare system, and under the care of the hospital when she went missing.”

“Will the Premier commit to bring the Kokopenace family, and her community of Grassy Narrows, some peace and back their call for a coroner’s inquest?” Campbell said.  

In April, Azraya Kokopenace, a 14-year-old girl, and member of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, walked away from the Lake of the Woods Hospital in Kenora. She was found dead two days later.  

Parental equality now, not later: NDP MPP DiNovo

Ontario NDP LGBTQ critic Cheri DiNovo welcomed the government’s announcement committing to parental equality, but added that there is no need to wait until the fall for legislation to be tabled.

DiNovo has been championing parental equality rights for LGBTQ parents with her Bill 137 Cy and Ruby’s Act (Parental Equality), which passed Second Reading last December with all party support. 

“There is no need to wait. LGBTQ parents have waited long enough. There are babies being born without parental recognition,” said DiNovo. “The government could still pass my bill before Pride."

DiNovo also noted that the government is still fighting families in court.  

“If the government is sincere, they should not be fighting this case. They should settle with the families with a final court order,” said DiNovo.

For a decade now, the courts have told the Ontario government that the province’s parentage legislation is clearly discriminatory. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath delivered the following response today to the Government of Ontario's apology for brutalities committed for generations at residential schools and the continued harm this abuse has caused to Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Elder Dumont and Elder Charles, Regional Chief Day, President Froh, President Obed, President McMahon, President Dr. Lavell-Harvard, Reverend Wesley and all the indigenous leaders, youth and residential school survivors that have joined us here today. Thank you for being here. Meegwetch.

I want to thank all of the elders, chiefs and guests who are here today in this House on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. There was a time when this House, this province and its institutions were not just complicit but part of authorizing and allowing the most egregious and harmful policies towards First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. For years, governments in this province and in this country did everything they could to ignore and violate the human rights and treaty rights of indigenous peoples, to eliminate cultural practices and to eliminate aboriginal governments, replacing existing forms of aboriginal government and in the process disempowering aboriginal women, who held significant, powerful roles in many First Nations.

Destroy indigenous communities and destroy families. Canada engaged in cultural genocide. As the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Justice Murray Sinclair, writes in the commission’s final report, residential schools are “one of the darkest, most troubling chapters in our nation’s history.” They targeted the most vulnerable people: children. They tried to break the spirit of indigenous peoples, and as Justice Sinclair says, “That any indigenous person survived the culturally crushing experience of the schools is a testament to their resilience and to the determination of those members of their families and communities who struggled to maintain and pass on to them what remain of their diminishing language and traditions.” It is a testament to survivors like Reverend Wesley and to the strength of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada. And this recognition today in this House is long overdue.