From the Park – Sleight of Hand

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Last week I began my column by mentioning the fascinating art of sleight of hand.  Those of you who are fascinated by observing the sleight of hand magic tricks have been exposed to a real treat on the nightly news lately; watching the Liberal masters of this art. The thing is, we all know that the magicians we see on the stage or performing on the street corners are just performing a trick in which the hand is quicker than the eye.  And that’s just what we are getting from this Liberal government – tricks.  Like I said before, the ‘gifts’ they offer voters is simply a “now you see it, …now you don’t” illusion.

Let’s start with child care. Up front the government itself says that it is a government’s responsibility to provide all families with access to essential, high-quality child care. They must ensure every child’s journey includes education, social/emotional support and cognitive development. To be effective the childcare spaces must not only be available and high-quality, but they must be affordable for young families. Parents are struggling with low minimum wages, many employers offer only part time work, and people are forced to work 2 or 3 jobs with odd shifts. How’s a family supposed to thrive in that sort of situation? The government must not only create the spaces but make sure they are affordable and not-for-profit. The government says, “Okay, here are more child care spaces.”  But they won’t commit to making them affordable with a decent minimum wage, making them not-for-profit and laying out trackable, achievable goals. So those child care spaces are “now you see them, …now you don’t.”

After many months of prodding and pushing by a multitude of citizens groups and the New Democrats, the Liberals finally acknowledged that they need to make life more affordable for people.  They recently announced they would offer hydro customers a TEMPORARY rebate for the provincial 8% portion of the HST on hydro bills.  But, in another sleight of hand move, it’s there now – but how long can we count on seeing it before it vanishes before our eyes? Many of us miss the fact that prior to 2010 there was no PST on hydro at all. As well, the Liberals were all too happy to make sure hydro companies listed a 10% discount as a separate item on hydro bills so the government would get the credit, but feigned the decision was “out of their hands” when it came to hiding the upcoming carbon tax as part of a delivery fee on future hydro and gas bills. “Now you see it, …now you don’t”

Now consider the recent announcement that the Liberals were enhancing the rural rate relief program to reduce delivery charges for low-density residential customers, promising to lower hydro bills by about $30 per month.  The truth of the matter is that only about 330,000 Hydro One customers living in “low-density” areas will qualify for this rate relief. Meanwhile, Statistics Canada says there are 1.8 million people living in rural Ontario. Most rural Ontarians are not going to be getting this enhanced rural rate relief. The government has not been clear about this. Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault stood in the House and said, “A 20% reduction for families in rural, remote and northern communities, like in my part of the province, will actually be a significant savings for many families.” The reality is, most rural Ontarians are not going to get this 20% in savings. “Now you see it, …now you don’t.”

And, the best for last…. the sell-off of Ontario’s most important and profitable public utility. Ontarians are being forced to stand on the sidelines and watch something that was built by and owned by all people of this province, as it is sold out from under us. In fact, just this week in the Legislature, both the Liberals and the Conservatives voted down NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s motion calling for the immediate halt to the sell-off of Hydro One and any further privatization of the province’s electricity system. Watch now, and don’t blink. Watch as our precious public utility vanishes before your very eyes. And no magic trick will ever bring it back.

The bottom line is, when it comes to sleight of hand, the audience is only fooled for so long. Eventually they see there’s something up the sleeve or behind the back of the magician. Something tells me that that time is coming soon.  Maybe voters will decide to perform some prestidigitation of their own.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at[email protected] or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

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