Well, as of June 21st, with the onset of the summer solstice, we can finally say that summer is officially here. My colleagues in Queen’s Park said they thought it had already set in, but then Premier Ford announced an emergency recall of MPPs to attend to what he said was an urgent matter. So urgent, in fact, that the Legislature had to sit night and day over the weekend and into Monday. I wonder how much that little exercise cost Ontario taxpayers for Doug Ford’s assembly “extra innings?”
As to classifying the matter as an ‘emergency’, all I can say is that I guess what constitutes an emergency is all in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. Mr. Ford’s perspective is understandable, I guess. In his shoes, passing a law that strips the rights of Ontarians to share their views, concerns and observations of current government’s performance – for a full year leading into the 2022 provincial election, certainly could be seen as an emergency if he wants to save his own hide.
What’s done is done, though. Ford successfully rammed his stifling legislation through, but he had to callously resort to invoking the notwithstanding clause for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to do so. Voters can speak their mind on this a year from now.
But now, summer is here, and it’s time to set our sights on the future with a hopeful outlook while we enjoy the incredible opportunities that nature provides us in our own back yard here in Algoma-Manitoulin.
Let’s start by improving the lives of our most precious resource in Algoma-Manitoulin – our children and youth – for they truly are our future. For the last two years they have been growing up under dark clouds of isolation — mentally and socially. Heck, they couldn’t even enjoy recesses with their friends or after school sports. With the mental and physical well being of our children in mind, the NDP’s sports critic, MPP Paul Miller, is calling upon the government to ask experts to make a public recommendation about creating a ‘game plan’ for the safe return of outdoor leagues in Ontario. The mental and physical health of our children and youth depend on it.
This would help kids get back onto baseball diamonds and soccer fields which would boost their mental and physical health at a time when they really need it. Young people are suffering from anxiety and isolation after being separated from their friends while schools stayed closed for months. Unfortunately, the government passed up the opportunities to get students back into the classroom before the summer. Too late for school now, but it’s not too late to take steps to give kids a chance to safely get outside and play team sports.
But let’s leave politics on the bench for now. To ensure success and safety, the government should seek advice from public health experts, and make it public. Experts from the Science Table have said outdoor activity is safe, but league sports like youth softball is largely on hold until the next reopening stage. The well-being of young people should be a priority as the province re-opens.
Almost all of us have loved ones in long-term care or senior homes. They too have been suffering for so long. Like our children and youth, they too need so see some hope coming their way. Finally, the news is telling us of brightened trends of declining positive test cases as we see the number of first and second vaccinations climb faster and faster. Also, the government finally took a realistic look at the need for LTC residents to have visitors and special caregivers. So LTC homes now are responsible for supporting residents in receiving visitors with a priority of minimizing exposure to COVID-19. So that is a step in the right direction, at least.
However, in the minds of many, the Ford government was really pushing the envelope too far when it issued a news release on May 27th stating that it had taken action to ensure seniors in LTC homes stay cool this summer. The release said that the government had improved regulations and that it was investing heavily in air conditioning. They said they were not sparing any expense to make sure LTC residents are healthy, cool and safe this summer.
What they didn’t tell Ontarians was that for years now, LTC homes have been already required to have cooling in common areas, but not in residents’ rooms or other areas. The problem with this is that there is just not enough room to safely fit all residents into existing common areas. And what is there to do there with so many packed in? As well, staff members are so over worked that often times they just don’t have the time to take patients to the cooling areas. Just picture your loved one up in a third floor room on a sweltering, muggy day this summer. They don’t have AC in their room and they can’t get to a cool common area themselves. Would you want your loved one sitting in muggy dead air room of 28, 29 or 30C degrees?
Our seniors deserve so much better.
The NDP has already prepared a plan to handle this issue. We have released a realistic plan for better care and better quality of life for aging Ontarians – and more peace of mind for their families. It makes the entire system public and not-for-profit, creates 50,000 new spaces and ends the wait for home care and long-term care, and finally gives every resident the hours of daily care and attention they deserve.
This past year Ontarians have learned what really matters in our lives. And we have learned that what government does, or doesn’t do, also matters. We’ve seen bad choices with devastating consequences.
Ontarians have had enough of this. The people of Ontario deserve to have a leadership that chooses the health and prosperity of the people over big business and those with deep pockets. The people of Ontario need to have leadership that is focussed on protecting workers. Leadership that stands up for local businesses, not big box stores. Leadership that, instead of cutting, invests in health care and our kids.
This is what matters to the people of this province — and it is what matters to me.
Summer is here, and we all deserve this much needed respite. This summer, let’s start to look at things anew with a positive outlook on hope for change and new ways of thinking.
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.
Michael Mantha MPP/député