Horwath announces Ontario’s first universal Pharmacare plan

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NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced Saturday that she’ll create the province’s first universal Pharmacare plan – a commitment to ensure all Ontarians can afford the medicine they’re prescribed.

“You shouldn’t have to empty your wallet to get the medicine you need,” said Horwath. “No family should have to rack up credit card debt to treat an illness. And no one should ever go without the treatment they need because of cost.”

One in four Ontarians doesn’t take their medication as prescribed because of cost, and 2.2 million Ontarians have no prescription drug coverage at all. With a growing number of people working non-traditional or unstable jobs, or finding it more difficult to land a job that comes with some benefits, the cost of medications is a growing struggle.

  “There are many in Ontario who split their pills in half to make the bottle last longer,” said Horwath. “Or they leave the doctor’s office with a prescription they need, knowing they’ll never fill it because of the price.

“Imagine if everyone could take their medication without the barrier of cost. We can help people live healthier, less stressful lives. We can make their month a little more affordable. And by preventing emergency room trips, we can improve people’s lives, and also relieve the strain on our overcrowded hospitals.”

Horwath, who made the announcement at an NDP convention on Saturday, will reveal details of her plan Monday morning.

“My plan is affordable, and when we think of the risk to people’s health from skipping their medication – even the risk to their lives – it’s clear that we can’t afford not to implement universal prescription Pharmacare,” said Horwath. “This plan will mean lower cost, less worry and better health for everyone.”

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Media Contact: Sam Pane, 416-400-6279 or Robin Nieto, 416-770-7841

Wynne Liberals put rural, northern schools at further risk of closure

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QUEEN’S PARK – Yesterday the Wynne Liberals quietly released their 2017-18 education funding allotment and the news isn’t good for rural and northern students and their families.

The Geographic Circumstances Grant was slashed another $6 million, on top of the $10 million in cuts Wynne has made since she took office.

“Figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Education show that Kathleen Wynne’s newest cuts to classrooms will mean fewer supports for students, more layoffs, and even more school closures across rural and northern Ontario,” said NDP Education Critic MPP Peggy Sattler.

The Geographic Circumstances Grant is a program designed to address higher costs faced by rural and northern schools due to their remoteness. The $6 million slash applies to the 2017/18 fiscal year, bringing the total cut to that grant by Premier Kathleen Wynne to $16 million since 2014.

 

“At a time when rural and northern families need investments in education and kids, the Wynne Liberals are continuing to cut this critical program and putting the future of our students at risk. Families deserve better,” said Sattler.

Children with special needs are also losing out under the Wynne Liberals.  This year’s allotment included more than $4.6 million in cuts to special education programs across 15 different school boards.

“Students with special needs will suffer disproportionately because of deep cuts to the services families depend on,” said Sattler. “Premier Wynne simply doesn’t get the challenges rural and remote schools and communities face – and she obviously isn’t listening to parents and teachers who know that children need more support and resources in education, not fewer.”

Wynne dragging feet on funds for children’s autism treatment: NDP MPP Taylor

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Queen’s Park – Monique Taylor, NDP critic for children’s services, joined with families of children with autism today at Queen’s Park to continue to fight for services — because children are still unable to access the treatment they need.

“They are here because they’ve been let down so many times before by the Wynne government and they see the writing on the wall for more of the same,” said Taylor, NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain.

“Despite the promises, newly diagnosed children, five and over, are still unable to access intensive treatment.  The families of children who have been approved for treatment can’t access the funds when they need them.

“Will the Wynne government tell these families today that children five and over will receive the intensive treatment they need?”

April is Autism Awareness Month and Taylor recounted the story of a mother whose twin boys have autism. She is in a constant struggle to get funding for the treatment they need, while the Wynne government has provided no assurances that the funding will continue.

“Because of her uncertainty, she had to register them for mainstream schooling, even though she knows that without intensive treatment, they will regress. The important progress they have achieved will be lost,” Taylor said.

“Right now, she will be out of pocket for more than $2,500 just for May, money she does not have, because this government, for some reason, can’t get its act together and make the approved money flow.

“Will this government ensure that approved funding is available when it is needed and that families get the information they need?”

NDP to Wynne: How many more executives hiding salaries from Sunshine List?

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QUEEN’S PARK – Today, Ontario NDP Finance critic John Vanthof called on the Wynne Liberals to reveal how many highly paid executives being paid with public dollars are hiding their salaries from disclosure on the sunshine list.

“Transparency is vital to good government.  Ontarians need to be able to trust that the sunshine list is true and comprehensive,” said Vanthof during Question Period.

This morning, Ontarians learned that the vice-president of the Canadian Hearing Society received a massive raise that was hidden from disclosure on the sunshine list because he opted to be paid as a “consultant.”

“Can the acting premier tell us, how many more ‘consultants’ are being paid high salaries with public money while keeping themselves off the sunshine list?” asked Vanthof.

The Ontario NDP has been critical of massive executive salaries, particularly at Hydro One — including a $4.5 million payday for the CEO, a 500 per cent increase since Wynne started privatizing the company — while everyday families struggle to pay their hydro bills. But Wynne has kept that salary and others off the sunshine list — leaving Ontarians to wonder how many more million-dollar executives are taking public money without public disclosure. 


HANSARD EXTRACT: QUESTION PERIOD, APRIL 12, 2017

QUESTION: Executive compensation

Mr. John Vanthof: My question’s to the Acting Premier. This morning, we learned that executives at the Canadian Hearing Society, which is funded by the Ontario government, received massive raises at the same time their employees are walking the picket line because they haven’t had a pay increase in four years. That is shameful. Even worse is the fact that the organization’s vice-president was able to avoid having his massive pay raise out on the sunshine list because he chose to be paid as a consultant.

Can the Acting Premier tell us how many more consultants are being paid high salaries with public money while keeping themselves off the sunshine list?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: President of Treasury Board.

Hon. Liz Sandals: First of all, let me say that the individual’s salary has been given to any member of the opposition and any member of the media who has asked for it.

With respect to the sunshine list, when you’re dealing with tens of thousands of records, every year there will be a few that are missed. Sometimes it’s a clerical error. Sometimes when we track it down, we’ve got an agency that actually didn’t submit the records on time to be included in the list. But what we always do in a circumstance like that, as we did in this circumstance, is make the information available to anyone who asks and then we publish an addendum, which has all the information that was missed. We will do that again this year. It will be printed in the addendum.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. John Vanthof: One of the biggest issues is these people are giving themselves raises while the people who actually help hearing-challenged people are out on the picket lines, unable to do their jobs.

Transparency is vital to good government. We all know that. Ontarians need to be able to trust things like the sunshine list. Can the Acting Premier clarify just how many executives are receiving salaries of more than $100,000 but didn’t show up on the sunshine list this year or last year or the year before? Please make that public.

Hon. Liz Sandals: As I just told you, if you wanted to have the answer for last year, you would go and look at last year’s addendum. I’m sorry; I don’t have that in front of me.

Anybody, in any year—as long as the sunshine list has existed, there has always been an addendum. Many years, it has not been published until the fall. This year, we’re actually going to publish a preliminary addendum in the spring, and then, if there’s still anybody that’s missing—because as I said in the first answer, sometimes we find there’s an agency that’s just totally missing and we have to chase. But we’ll get those clerical errors out there in an early addendum this spring, and if there’s anything we still missed, it will be in an addendum in the fall.

Wynne failing northerners facing highest risk of heart attack or stroke in the province: NDP

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Wynne failing northerners facing highest risk of heart attack or stroke in the province: NDP Queen’s Park – During question period Tuesday, NDP MPP Michael Mantha demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne take the health care of northerners much more seriously, after a shocking new study showed people in northern Ontario have nearly double the level of cardiovascular risk than people in the Greater Toronto Area. “Why isn't the province delivering the same level of health care to people living in northern Ontario?” asked Mantha, the MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. The new study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed a sharp divide in health outcomes between northerners and the rest of the province. It found the much higher risk of cardiovascular trouble, like heart attacks, may be a result of the fact that northerners have fewer preventative health care services — such as having an annual physical, seeing their doctor to have their cholesterol or diabetes checked, and having their blood pressure monitored and well controlled. “This should be a wakeup call to the Wynne government, and one that's coming too late for too many families,” Mantha said. “Two regions of northern Ontario, including my riding of Algoma-Manitoulin, have some of the lowest health outcomes for cardiovascular health in the province. “So a father in my neighborhood is twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as a father in a southern community. I think we all understand: that's not acceptable. “This government needs to make rapid improvements to preventive care in northern Ontario,” Mantha said. “When will this Liberal government go beyond broken promises and invest in health care for northern people?”

Posted by Michael Mantha Algoma-Manitoulin on Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Queen’s Park – During question period Tuesday, NDP MPP Michael Mantha demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne take the health care of northerners much more seriously, after a shocking new study showed people in northern Ontario have nearly double the level of cardiovascular risk than people in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Why isn’t the province delivering the same level of health care to people living in northern Ontario?” asked Mantha, the MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin.

The new study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed a sharp divide in health outcomes between northerners and the rest of the province. It found the much higher risk of cardiovascular trouble, like heart attacks, may be a result of the fact that northerners have fewer preventative health care services — such as having an annual physical, seeing their doctor to have their cholesterol or diabetes checked, and having their blood pressure monitored and well controlled.

“This should be a wakeup call to the Wynne government, and one that’s coming too late for too many families,” Mantha said.  “Two regions of northern Ontario, including my riding of Algoma-Manitoulin, have some of the lowest health outcomes for cardiovascular health in the province.

“So a father in my neighborhood is twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as a father in a southern community. I think we all understand: that’s not acceptable. 

“This government needs to make rapid improvements to preventive care in northern Ontario,” Mantha said.

“When will this Liberal government go beyond broken promises and invest in health care for northern people?”

MEMBER STATEMENT – Thanks to the Earlton Lions Club for their amazing service to the North

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Mr. John Vanthof: I’m sure we all have great service clubs in all parts of this province, and today I would like to focus on one that’s in my riding. The Earlton Lions Club has 26 members and it’s from a small town, in Earlton. They do amazing things. For the last 29 years, they have held a truck and trailer draw. Now it’s a motorhome, for the last three years. Every year, they travel throughout northern Ontario to sell tickets for these trucks and for this motorhome. That’s just one of the things they do.

With the money they raise—because they travel throughout the north to bring this money forward, they redistribute that money throughout the north. From the little town of Earlton, from 26 members, they give money to hospitals—the Timmins hospital, the North Bay hospital, the Sudbury hospital, Kirkland Lake, Matheson, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane and Temiskaming Shores, each and every year. This year there’s a special fundraiser going on for the Temiskaming Shores hospital. The little lions, the Earlton Lions Club, gave an extra $50,000 to the Temiskaming Hospital.

As one last example, the army cadets in Timmins were raising money to go to Vimy Ridge for a special celebration. They were $3,000 short. Who came to their rescue? The Earlton Lions Club.

I would like to, on all of our behalf, thank them and all the other service clubs in this great province of ours.

 

Liberals block 30% cut to hydro bills, support privatized hydro

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QUEEN’S PARK – Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals voted Tuesday against cutting hydro bills for Ontarians by 30 per cent, and in favour of the privatization of Hydro One.

“Everyday families, businesses, municipalities and hospitals are hurting from the Wynne government’s sky-high hydro bills,” said Horwath. “But, once again, the Wynne Liberals are focused on Premier Wynne and the Liberal party – not what Ontario people need.”

The vote was on a motion, Addressing the Root Causes of High Hydro Costs, that would have reduced hydro bills for businesses and families by up to 30 per cent. The plan includes eliminating mandatory time-of-use pricing, ending unfair rural delivery charges, and fixing problems in the system like oversupply and exporting power to other jurisdictions at a loss. The motion would have adopted the NDP’s hydro plan – one it released weeks ago – and includes reversing the privatization of Hydro One. That move would pay for itself, and bring in an additional $7 billion in revenue to reinvest in Ontario.

“The cost of electricity has gone up over 300 per cent under the Liberal government, including 50 per cent just since Premier Wynne took office,” said Horwath. “Instead of taking a serious look at the NDP’s comprehensive and achievable plan, Wynne is musing about borrowing and sticking the next generation with as much as $40 billion in interest to buy some pre-election political relief for herself and her party. We’re all going to pay for that, one way or another.

“And she’s still planning to continue the disastrous sell-off of Hydro one. She’s still planning to charge time-of-use premiums that punish parents for cooking dinner at dinner time and seniors for staying home during the day. Not only does her approach fail to address the mess the Liberal and Conservative governments made of our hydro system – it drives us further in the wrong direction – including by selling off even more of Hydro One.”

“Will the Premier commit to not sell off the LCBO?”

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March 23, 2017 Legislative Assembly of Ontario Hansard

Question Period – Privatization of public assets

Mr. John Vanthof: My question is to the Acting Premier. LCBO employees are professionals who perform an important public service, regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol-related products in the province. They’re doing a very good job because, even on the profit side, they’ve shown growth in 21 straight years. Last year, 2015-16, there was $2 billion in profit—profit that, because it belongs to us, goes to schools, to health care, to home care. But those profits would also be very attractive to the private sector, for good reason.

My question is, will the Premier commit to not sell off the LCBO?

Hon. Deborah Matthews: Minister of Finance.

Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, let me be really clear here. Notwithstanding what Smokey Thomas has requested, which is to buy the LCBO and privatize it for their own benefit, it is not for sale, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. John Vanthof: Once again to the Acting Premier: LCBO stores are clean, safe, highly regulated places to purchase alcoholic beverages.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Stop the clock. Come to order. Please finish.

Mr. John Vanthof: They’re a clear gem among this province’s crown assets. Despite the Minister of Finance’s attempt to deflate or—what’s the Premier’s word?—conflate the issue, Hydro One wasn’t for sale either. The Premier said it wasn’t for sale, and then, magically, it was. The question is, is the same thing going to happen to LCBO?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you. Minister?

Hon. Charles Sousa: Well, we still own Hydro One and we’ll always be the largest shareholder, and we’ll reinvest dollar for dollar into our economy to continue to build new assets.

The member opposite has made an important point: The LCBO is a highly attractive organization. Its value is strong, its contribution to the province is strong, and that in itself is why we are not even considering mobilizing anything for the LCBO, except expanding its reach to ensure that it continues to contribute for the benefit of Ontario. Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we’re doing.

When it came to Hydro One and other assets, we made the same investment and realized we could do better—and we are doing better on all cases.

LCBO is not for sale.

 

15 years of inadequate Liberal Hydro plans have long-term consequences for Northern Ontario’s small businesses

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Queen’s Park – Today in Question Period,  John Vanthof (MPP Timiskaming-Cochrane) pushed Premier Kathleen Wynne to admit responsibility for the disastrous consequences that the Liberal government’s inadequate Hydro plans have had on northern Ontario’s small businesses over the past 15 years.

“I’d like to tell a little tale about Henry Fiset and Sons Ltd. Jerome and Terry Fiset are pillars in the community of Elk Lake, where they run a machine shop,” Vanthof began. “In January of 2011, Henry Fiset and Sons Limited had a hydro usage of 391 kilowatt hours daily. Over the next few years, Jerome and Terry made huge energy efficiency improvements in their business – by January 2017, they were using only 220 kilowatt hours per day.” Unfortunately, the small family-owned business failed to ever realise an economic benefit from their energy-saving efforts. “Even though Jerome and Terry did their part to achieve a 43% reduction in energy usage, the overall Hydro bill cost per kilowatt hour went up by 66%”, Vanthof concluded.

Vanthof asked the Premier directly: “Will you finally admit that your hydro plan for family businesses like Henry Fiset and Sons has been a disaster?”

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault admitted the energy rebates previously provided to businesses and families in both rural and northern Ontario did not provide the necessary relief that Hydro customers were looking for. The Minister went on to claim that the Liberal’s Ontario Fair Hydro Plan would offer a 25% reduction in Hydro costs, with the stipulation that eligible businesses use the time-of-use pricing scheme.

Vanthof noted the irony of the governing Liberal party having held power for 15 years, but only recently making an effort to implement a fair hydro plan when faced with political danger. “When were they thinking about people like Jerome and Terry Fiset, and the other business people? When were they considering the other residents, over all these years while making their long-term energy plans? They never took the actual people who were paying the bills into account, until now that their poll numbers are going down. It’s too little, too late!”


Premier Wynne allowing privatization of health care through rise of for-profit clinics and services: NDP

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Queen’s Park – France Gélinas, NDP health critic, continued Wednesday to press Premier Kathleen Wynne about her choice to allow the growth of private for-profit health clinics and services, while she continues deep cuts to public health care in the province.

“People shouldn’t have to pay up, or wait longer for the health care they need. But that’s exactly what’s happening under this premier,” Gélinas said.  “Companies are charging people to jump to the front of the line.  They’re doing it unchecked, on the premier’s watch.”

Wynne is allowing people to be charged – and allowing wait times for everyone else to get longer – as private, for-profit health companies are flourishing following Wynne’s deep cuts to Ontario’s public health care system. 

“For-profit companies like Maple are charging people for services like diagnosis and writing prescriptions,” Gélinas said.  “Does the premier believe it’s ok for companies to charge Ontarians for seeing a doctor or getting a prescription?

“If your child is sick, you should not have to reach for your credit card to buy answers.”

Gélinas said that companies are charging people to see a doctor and to get a diagnosis, asking them to rack up credit card bills. Maple says it charges fees for services like doctor’s visits and getting a prescription written because those services are “not covered by OHIP.”

“Under the Wynne government, parents of a sick child are basically given the choice between paying up, or waiting longer.  And they have to watch while those who pay up, leapfrog ahead of them onto the surgery list,” Gélinas said.

“So when did the Premier decide that people have to choose between paying up – or waiting longer – to get their family the care they need?”