Now that the summer recess and subsequent prorogation until October is finally finished, a few days ago, I was making my way back to Toronto to get set up in my apartment and office for the upcoming new session. I know that my colleagues and I are excited to get back into the House. It was clear from our recent preparatory caucus meeting that we all realized how much is on the line for all of Ontario between now and next June.
I have a reputation of frequently utilizing many opportunities to extol the unbridled beauty to be enjoyed in Algoma-Manitoulin. As I travelled, I marvelled at the brilliantly coloured trees that line our highways and the picturesque rural scenes along the way. For some reason, I took particular notice of a horsedrawn buggy that drove down the shoulder of the road. I always am mindful when passing such vehicles not to do anything to startle the animal. The result could be most tragic if the horse did bolt unexpectedly. As I passed, I noted that the horse was wearing blinders. There are several types of blinders, but basic ones are simply patches of leather placed on the side of the horse’s head beside their eyes. I know this is going to sound silly, but I thought, “the poor thing doesn’t know all of the beauty that she’s missing.” Next time I meet Mr. Ed, the talking horse character from an old-time TV show, I’ll have to ask him if horses do enjoy scenic panoramas just as people do.
Some will be surprised to learn that horses have an incredible 350-degree field of vision. As a result, some horse owners choose to put blinders on their horses to help them stay focussed on their tasks, be it racing, pulling a plow in a field or a carriage along a roadway. They don’t know what is happening around them, so they focus on doing what the drivers direct them.
The Ford government kicked off this latest session of the Legislature with a Throne Speech. A Throne Speech introduces the government’s goals and outlines how it will achieve them. Several of my colleagues and I were really pumped to hear what the Conservatives have planned. Remember, Ford prorogued the Legislature until after the federal election. He said he did this so the Conservatives could have a finely tuned agenda that would mesh with whichever federal party formed government. So, my NDP colleagues and I were ready for whatever came at us. The opportunity to effect real change and propel Ontario towards social, economic, educational, environmental and health improvement is without limit as we inch our way out of this world pandemic.
Talk about a lunch-bag letdown…This Throne Speech was six pages comprised of 2,325 words that, in the end, told Ontarians nothing. There was so much vital information that was glaringly missing. There was nothing in it about education. Plans for Northern Ontario, a vital part of any economic development, were totally lacking. The Throne Speech primarily was a summary of what the government already did and how proud they were of their success in handling the pandemic. The speech barely even skimmed the surface of his future plans and focus, leaving Ontarians guessing where Ford plans on taking us all.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s reaction was that “Today’s Speech from the Throne is disappointing for everyday families and working folks in Ontario. Ford announced nothing new whatsoever to help patients, students, workers, or small business. With this speech, he again made it clear that he’s not here for you and still doesn’t want to spend the money on you.
I can tell you for sure, the volume of phone calls, emails and letters that our offices are receiving from constituents is staggering. Some of the messages coming in may have an angry tone, but in reality, that anger stems from frustration and fear for the future. People are worried about their children’s quality of education and social development. They are concerned about losing their jobs and earning a liveable wage. They are concerned about what will happen to them if they get sick and don’t have a family doctor. They are scared they may have to wait months or even years to see a specialist. They are worried about what will happen to them and who will care for and protect them when they need long-term care in their declining years.
After the speech, I returned to my office and mulled over the content — or should I say its vacuum of content. It was then that the recently experienced image of the dark horse with blinders trotting down the road came to mind. The horse was seemingly oblivious to what was going on all around it. The horse simply did what the owner behind her told her to do. The owner held the reins and power. The horse may be front and center and garners everyone’s attention, but in reality, she just does what she is told and goes where she is told. It seems clear that the only way Doug Ford can possibly be so oblivious to what is going on all around him is if he is wearing blinders and has someone whispering in his ear where he is going and what to do.
Ontarians deserve so much better than this. They need a government that sees and understands what is going on all around them. They need a government that has a true sense of what is needed and plans on how to get there.
The NDP is committed to doing everything in its power to support our health care system and our children’s schools. Our small businesses need to get through the pandemic safely. We are determined to do all we can to helping Ontarians to move forward and develop lasting strength. In this legislative session, my NDP colleagues and I are committed to fighting for:
· A plan to hire thousands of nurses and personal support workers and shorten painful waits for backlogged surgeries
· A safe schools plan with smaller class sizes, hiring teachers and education workers
· Mandatory vaccines for health and education workers
· A round of grants to help local businesses get back on their feet
· Safety zones and proper enforcement of vaccine certificates
We are committed to investing in health care and our kids instead of cutting deeper. We are committed to standing up for local business – not big box stores. And we are committed to protecting workers – not Ford’s buddies who hold the reins.
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 phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député