With the Ontario Legislature in recess, Mantha reflects on priorities for the Official Opposition.

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As you know, MPPs have been back to work in Queen’s Park almost immediately following June election. Doug Ford was determined to start swinging that wrecking ball as soon as he could. Like all of my colleagues it has been a real whirlwind trying to fit in all of our new rolls as the Official Opposition as well as getting out to connect with constituents and participate in the many local festivals and summer events back in our ridings. Now that the Legislature has recessed, we have a few weeks in which we can concentrate on matters back in the riding.

As you can imagine, being away from home for such a long stretch of months, my own to-do-list has become pretty extensive. Like most people I will attack my chores by prioritizing what really needs to be tackled first because of its overall importance and impact on home life

Granted, there are no truly right or wrong choices per se, but often what a person chooses to do first might be rather telling about them as a person and what their values might be. For example, should I cut my long grass, clean my closet, fix the leak in my roof or assemble my patio furniture so I can chill in the backyard with a cold beverage? I don’t even need to tell you what my logical priority is.

So let’s apply this same logic to the priorities or choices made by Doug Ford’s Conservatives.

One of the first items Ford was eager to act upon was advising the Prime Minister that Ontario is opting out of any cap-and-trade programs. In fact he even announced he has earmarked $30 million of taxpayer’s money to fight the Feds in court. Directly connected to this, of course, was scraping the Green Ontario rebate program that helps families and businesses reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint.  It’s beyond irresponsible to scrap clean air and climate-change initiatives with no plan to replace them. Not only does this impact us now, but, believe it or not, it directly impacts our children’s education. A large portion of the cap-and-trade money collected by the government had been earmarked to fund much needed repairs to the hundreds of aging schools that our children attend across the province. Three hundred such schools were on the chopping block under the Liberal government. So this choice shows us where the environment and our children’s health and education lay among PC priorities.

A second choice that Ford made was his rush to roll back the modern Health and Physical Education Curriculum in favour of the outdated 1998 curriculum. The 1998 curriculum was written before social media, before same-sex marriage was legal and before texting. There is no mention of cyberbullying, same sex families, gender identity or consent which is putting the safety and well-being of Ontario’s young people at risk. We hear Ford’s boastful promise to hold the most comprehensive consultation in history, with parents and other stakeholders about our children’s education. Why not keep what we know is up to date and useful to our children and still hold his historic consultation? Then consider curriculum changes armed with the new information. Again, what does this say about the PC priority of keeping our children safe?

The Ford Conservatives acted recklessly to abruptly cancel the Truth and Reconciliation summer curriculum writing sessions – leaving it literally to the last moment after many participants had already arrived in town for the meetings. This cancellation is a major impediment for educators planning the upcoming school year. It is unclear if the Ministry of Education intends to replace the current curriculum modernization program in the future. What is clear is that Doug Ford’s cuts have directly impacted our children’s education in very short order.

One of Fords most treasured changes came in the form of Bill 5 which slashed the number of Toronto City Councillors in half and cancelled regional chair elections which were already underway. Doug Ford’s actions are a blatant abuse of power to settle old political scores. Ford did not campaign on interfering in local democratic elections, instead he actively blocked the public from consulting on the changes. Terminating elections where a political foe is running while preventing the public from having their say on the changes is deeply chilling. He neglected to inform voters of his plan during the election. How does spending so much time and effort on meddling with the municipal structure of just Toronto help all Ontarians? How can we trust that our communities won’t be his next target?

But without question, Ford’s pièce de résistance… you guessed it – Buck-a-Beer. Ford says that Ontario’s consumers win on this at the cash register without it costing taxpayer’s a dime. But in truth, the subsidies Doug Ford is offering come with a substantial price tag at the LCBO — more than $100,000 per month, per brewery. And they hurt Ontario’s excellent small and craft breweries by subsidizing other bigger breweries to undercut them. Besides, less than a handful of brewers have even shown a modicum of interest in lowering their prices. So cheap beer is a priority in Doug Ford’s eyes? I am quite certain that Doug Ford’s priorities are not the priorities of most Ontarians.

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 mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin

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