As most people know, each September the Ontario Plowmen’s’ Association hosts the International Plowing Match which is an agricultural expo held in a different corners of the province annually. This year it was in Pain Court, down near Chatham. As well, tradition has it that MPPs and the party leaders attend and use the event as a way to connect with the farming community. Personally, I always really enjoy the friendly and relaxed atmosphere where I get to connect with friends I’ve made over the years. It also provides me with an opportunity to interact with members from across the aisle in a meaningful, positive way.
Truly, I do have to admit that one of the other key factors is that my NDP colleagues and I enjoy being there to cheer on Andrea Horwath as all of the party leaders compete with each other, getting behind the wheel of a tractor and try their hand at plowing. I’m happy to say that Andrea extended her successive win record to five this year with her straight and even furrows. Mr. Ford is encouraged to practice his skills over the next year so that he may be ‘straighter’ with his lines for the next competition.
As they say, ‘all good things must come to an end,’ just as it has for Doug Ford’s honeymoon with Ontario voters. It seems that just months after making promises at the campaign alter to look out for the ‘little guy’ or average Ontario worker, the wooing commitment has been put aside. Proof the honeymoon is over is clear from all of the protests held across the province and even in the Legislature where citizens have made their displeasure known from the public gallery, much to the chagrin of the government.
After just four months in office it is clear Doug Ford is not looking out for the ‘little guy.’ The truth is that his priorities do not match with the majority of Ontario voters. Remember, while the Conservatives won a majority number of seats in Queen’s Park, they only captured 40% of the popular vote. One example of Ford’s callous attitude toward average Ontarians is the Conservative plan to freeze the minimum wage at $14 an hour, cancelling the January 1st increase. This rips $2,000 a year out of the hands of the lowest-wage workers in the province. Ford is listening to the many lobbyists who are buzzing the backrooms as they twist government arms to also cancel improvements to labour laws such as the new sick day and pay equity protections granted to Ontario workers this year.
Still thinking of the ‘little guy’, Ford’s latest spurn for the average worker is to give big business a 30% break on the insurance premiums they pay to the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB). This windfall for big business stems from the elimination of WSIB’s unfunded liability – the difference between its current funding levels and long-term payouts. WSIB was created to provide much needed support for vulnerable injured workers. Instead all the Conservative plan does is line the boss’s pockets while the injured workers life is in shambles. So how is this looking out or the little guy by taking this action? Ontario workers deserve better!
New Democrats are also concerned for Ontario farmers who are very important ‘little guys’ in the province. Just days ago the Federal Government finished negotiating the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces NAFTA. One of the results is that dairy farmers will be taking a hit. The new agreement also fails to address the steep and punitive tariffs currently being charged on steel and aluminum. With thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity on the line, many of Ontario’s family farms are at risk.
The USMCA threatens to undermine supply management in Canada. This a system has allowed for a stable agriculture sector and food supply across the country for over 50 years. Ford refuses to allow for the possibility that Ontario’s farmers could expect Ontario to be involved in support, even transitional support, to ensure their long-term stability. Farmers have relied on supply management to ensure they can earn a living and pay the bills while they do the hard work of feeding our families.
The USMCA is devastating news for Ontario farmers. Some farm families are wondering whether they can continue or if they’ll need to pack it in. They need to see our provincial government taking swift action, including financial assistance and a plan to ensure Ontario farms are sustainable in the long-term. Ford’s much-lauded trip to Washington obviously failed to move the needle on trade negotiations. So at the very least he should step up now with support for Ontario farmers, labourers and Ontario industries.
The Quebec government stepped up with direct financial aid and money for transition training. The people of Ontario deserve no less. Now is not the time to point fingers and pass the buck on to the federal government. All Ontario families are being put at risk. We need a leader that offers solutions and hope instead of just criticism.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député – Algoma-Manitoulin