The Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines have released a draft Strategy and are seeking public comments and feedback on the goals and directions included in this document, to inform work towards the final Strategy and Action Plans. The Strategy adopts an integrated multimodal approach that considers highway, marine, air, rail, and other modes of transportation, and will guide transportation policy, program and investment opportunities for a modern and sustainable transportation system in northern Ontario.
QUEEN’S PARK – With Hydro One’s deal to buy and merge with American energy producer Avista, Ontario families are paying billions to once again own coal-fired power generation – an environmentally devastating business Ontarians have already paid to get out of.
“Kathleen Wynne is spending billions so that Ontario can once again own a dirty coal plant – that’s incredibly frustrating,” said Peter Tabuns, the NDP’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change critic. “By selling off Hydro One, she ensured that Ontario would lose control, and this merger shows just how little control the government has over a privatized Hydro One.
“She set us up for this type of deal – one that’s so environmentally unsound, it wouldn’t even be legal in Ontario.”
Coal-fired power was outlawed in Ontario in 2015, but Kathleen Wynne is now signing off on using Hydro One cash in a deal that includes partial ownership of one of the biggest coal-fired power plants in America. The massive Colstrip operation emits 13.5 megatonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
“They hypocrisy of Kathleen Wynne is astounding,” said Tabuns. “I think Ontario families have made it clear that they want her to stop privatizing hydro. They want her to stop driving up their bills. And they want to do their part for the environment. With one swoop, Wynne betrays us again on all three counts.”
The Avista merger, which will cost Hydro One $6.4 billion, is yet another step in Wynne’s privatization of hydro.
Ontario’s Conservative party first pitched selling off Hydro One and OPG, before Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals took over and sold off most of the former Crown corporation, driving hydro bills sky-high in the process. The merger with the American corporation further ships out Ontario’s ownership and control.
While the Conservatives say they would keep Hydro One privatized, Andrea Horwath and the NDP’s plan will reverse the privatization, bringing hydro back into public ownership so the province has more control over hydro prices again. That plan will lower hydro bills, and result in profits being returned to the provincial coffers to help pay for services families count on, like hospitals and transit.
The recent announcement of job cuts at Bell Aliant (formerly Ontera) should come as no surprise to Northern Ontario residents, who know the privatization story well…
Initially, Ontario Northland Telecommunications was established in 1902 by the Ontario Government, under the umbrella of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC). The objective was to provide business and residential telecommunications services throughout Northern Ontario, using the telegraph lines alongside the Ontario Northland railway. As Northern pioneer towns lacked both the money and infrastructure support to build their own telephone systems, the Ontario Government recognized that universal access was only possible through a publically-owned telecommunications system.
Despite changing names over the years, from O.N. Telcom to Ontera, the principle remained the same: “all Ontarians deserve equal access to services and resources, no matter where they live”. The Ontera telecommunications system was one of the Province’s crown jewels; it connected all of Northern Ontario, from North Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, up to Moose Factory. Complete with fibre optic cable to bring high-speed internet to the North, Ontera provided service to areas of the North that could not support a private, for-profit carrier; in turn, the entire province benefitted from Northern Ontario’s enhanced contributions to the economy.
Over time, each successive provincial government kept its commitment to supporting telecommunications (and transportation) throughout Northern Ontario. After 100 years of stable public ownership, the Progressive Conservatives attempted to privatize the ONTC in 2002. Despite their initial cries of outrage, the McGuinty Liberals soon made a similar effort to divest the entire ONTC in 2012. Though Northerners successfully united to save the ONTC itself – minus passenger rail services – Premier Wynne ultimately sold off Ontera to Bell Aliant in 2014, for 10 cents on the dollar.
As we all know, history has a funny habit of repeating itself…
Similarly, Ontario’s hydroelectric system was developed in 1906, in response to power generation opportunities at Niagara Falls. Based on Sir Adam Beck’s principle of “Power at Cost”, the Government established Ontario Hydro to cheaply and efficiently distribute electricity throughout the Province at minimal cost to the taxpayer.
Again, after 90 years of stable public ownership, the Conservative Government of Premier Harris decided to privatize Ontario’s hydroelectric system in 1998- this action was successfully opposed in court. In 2015, Premier Wynne moved closer to full privatization by selling off 60% of Hydro ONE Networks to private shareholders.
How many times do the people of Ontario need to hear this story, in order to know how it ends?
Here’s the ending: When any public government service is sold off, private companies will move in to provide service – but only in communities and locations that are profitable.
Since acquiring Ontera, Bell Aliant has discontinued service to regions of the North where profits margins show losses, and has laid off employees to limit workforce costs. Bell Aliant is a private company, which allows them to focus on reducing the bottom line, and boosting corporate profits.
In contrast, it is the role of the Ontario government to make sure all citizens receive fair and equitable access to the services necessary to run our businesses, keep in contact with family and friends, and heat our homes -regardless of where we live.
Clearly, if it is left up to private companies to provide telecommunications, transportation, and hydroelectric services, people living in remote, rural and Northern Ontario will never have the same access to services that other Ontarians take for granted.
Historically, the NDP has opposed the sale of essential public services; we will continue to enforce that opposition at every opportunity. Though Wynne’s Liberals lost the Ontera telecommunication network, it is not too late for us to rescue Hydro ONE from privatization. To date, the Ontario NDP are the only party to put forward a plan to bring majority control of Hydro ONE back in public control. It is the only way to ensure that all Ontarians will have equal access to the energy resources they depend on.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs is looking for public input about new Bill 148, “Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017”
The Topics include:
1) Minimum Wage Changes
2) Proposed Changes to Employment Standards, including…
– Equal Pay for Equal Work Provisions
– Scheduling Rules changes
– Overtime Pay changes
– Paid Vacation changes
– Public Holiday Pay changes
– Paid Emergency Leave
– Family Medical Leave changes
– Physician Notes for Absences changes
There is an overview of the bill here: https://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2017/05/proposed-changes-to-ontarios-employment-and-labour-laws.html
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has a simple explanation of the new bill here: http://mailchi.mp/cleo/on-the-radar-changes-coming-for-ontario-workers
You have until Friday, July 21, 2017 to send your written comments to the Committee, at:
Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs
Room 1405, Whitney Block
Toronto, ON, M7A 1A2
QUEEN’S PARK – Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was joined by Hamilton MPPs Monique Taylor and Paul Miller at a roundtable with Hamilton residents this morning to discuss the ongoing crisis in seniors long-term care in Ontario. Horwath called for a broad, two-part inquiry into seniors care across the province, stemming from the circumstances of the Wettlaufer murders, and expanding to include an investigation into staffing levels, funding and safety conditions in care homes across the province.
“Residents are being left in bed for 18 hours, seniors don’t always get the basic help they need to bathe and change their clothes regularly, and parents and grandparents aren’t always getting the help they need to get to the bathroom on time,” said Horwath. “Our loved ones deserve care that protects their safety, health and their dignity. It’s time to get to the bottom of these problems, and do something about it.”
Horwath outlined plans for a two-phase public inquiry, and said if Kathleen Wynne fails to do the right thing and investigate the broader, systemic problems in long-term care, a New Democrat government would expand the inquiry after the coming provincial election.
“The last Conservative government made deep cuts to health care and front-line health care staff, and Kathleen Wynne did even more damage with cuts and underfunding,” said Horwath. “Together, they’ve swept problems under the rug and refused to talk about it.”
“Ontarians know there is a crisis in long term care that calls for a much broader inquiry than the one the government is proposing,” said Taylor, MPP for Hamilton-Mountain. “We need an honest picture of the problems in seniors care homes, so Ontarians can feel assured that our seniors are getting the standard of care they deserve, in terms of safety, quality and availability.”
“Workers in care homes are doing the best they can – but they’re run off their feet and aren’t getting the support they need,” said Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. “If Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals won’t take action to fix this crisis now, an NDP government will launch an inquiry within 100 days of taking office.”
The NDP MPPs were joined by families with loved ones in care, who echoed calls for a broad inquiry, and action.
QUEEN’S PARK – NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced Wednesday her plans for a complete public inquiry into the state of seniors long-term care in Ontario – not only into the circumstances that led to eight residents in care homes being killed; but an investigation into staffing levels, funding and safety conditions in care homes today.
“Our parents and grandparents deserve care that protects their safety, health and their dignity,” said Horwath. “But more and more, I’m hearing reports of residents left in bed for 18 hours, seniors who don’t always get the basic help they need to bathe and change their clothes regularly, and parents and grandparents who led dignified lives, and now aren’t always getting the help they need to get to the bathroom on time.
“Workers in care homes are doing the best they can – but they’re run off their feet and aren’t getting the support they need. It’s time to get to the bottom of these problems, then do something about it.”
Horwath laid out parameters for a two-phase public inquiry held under the Public Inquiries Act. She said if Kathleen Wynne fails to do the right thing and investigate the broader, systemic problems in long-term care, a New Democrat government would expand the inquiry immediately after the election.
“The last Conservative government made deep cuts to health care and front-line health care staff, and Kathleen Wynne did even more damage with cuts and underfunding,” said Horwath. “Together, they’ve swept problems under the rug and refused to talk about it.
“Ontarians know there is a crisis in long term care. In safety, quality and availability that calls for a much broader inquiry than the one the government is proposing. The government should not be afraid of a broader, fuller inquiry. We need an honest picture of the problems in seniors care homes throughout the province so we can take action to give our parents and grandparents the care they deserve.”
Horwath was joined at Queen’s Park Wednesday by families with loved ones in care, who echoed her call for a broad inquiry, and action. Donna Corewyn said that her mom returned to her care home from the hospital with a broken pelvis after a fall – only to be left in an upright recliner at the nurse’s station because the home did not have enough resources or staff to keep her safe in her room.
Mira Bazzul said that she recently arrived at her mom’s seniors care home in Sudbury only to find that mom had been left in bed for 17 hours – and obviously hadn’t been assisted in getting up and with the morning routine hygiene, was not dressed and was left with a soiled brief, not fed breakfast, uncomfortable and at risk of infection.
“An independent public inquiry with a broad mandate is required to determine what went wrong in the Wettlaufer case and how to improve care for all residents. We see the problems in long-term care as a growing crisis that must be addressed now,” said Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE).
“More and more, we’re hearing about vulnerable residents not receiving the care they need, overburdened staff and increased complaints about the quality of care in long-term care homes. Residents are uniquely dependent on long-term care homes and their staff for all their needs and we must ensure that the system is providing safe, quality care to all residents.
“An inquiry into the Wettlaufer murders is necessary – and so is a broader inquiry into the care that residents receive across Ontario,” said Meadus.
The Wynne government put a new Long-Term Care Homes Act into effect in 2010. It doesn’t have any requirement at all for a minimum front-line-staff-to-resident ratio at long-term care homes.
June 6, 2017
LCBO President & CEO
55 Lakeshore Blvd East, 4th Floor
Dear Mr. Soleas;
I am writing on behalf of the residents from the small community of Larder Lake which is located in my riding of Timiskaming-Cochrane. Recently and without warning, LCBO Corporate Affairs made the decision to close the LCBO store in this community, citing safety and structural concerns in the present building. At this time I would like to ask that LCBO Corporate Affairs reverse the decision to remove LCBO services from the Town of Larder Lake. If the present facility is no longer feasible, an alternate location should be sourced.
Many of the 1000+ people who live in Larder Lake and the surrounding areas rely on seasonal tourism to maintain the local economy. For tourists, Larder Lake is a popular summer get-a-way, a place to enjoy the beauty of Northern Ontario with amenities close by. There are many lodges, tourist camps, campgrounds, marinas, private cottages and permanent homes located on the lake which supports the tourism industry. With no public transportation, the town relies on complimentary business activity to maintain and sustain the commercial base. When people are forced to travel to get essentials, they usually complete all their shopping at the distanced location. The LCBO store is beneficial to the town’s grocery store, restaurants, motel and local Legion by adding to the one-stop shopping experience for both locals and tourists alike. Having that type of synergy has made a small and successful business core in Larder Lake. Without the LCBO in the Town of Larder Lake, people will be forced to travel over 30 km to access the next available LCBO location in Kirkland Lake which is unacceptable without public transportation.
We encourage LCBO Corporate Affairs to reconsider this decision. The Larder Lake area needs the continued access and quality service that LCBO has provided for over 50 years.
QUEEN’S PARK – Today, Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson raised the case of a Timmins couple struggling with the cost of life-saving medication.
Richard Madore had a stroke two years ago. After losing his physiotherapy treatment at the local hospital due to Wynne government cutbacks, his wife Teresa was forced to leave her health care job to take care of him full-time. Richard is 64 – he doesn’t yet qualify for Ontario’s senior drug program and he doesn’t have coverage from anywhere else.
“The NDP has proposed a universal Pharmacare plan that would help all Ontarians, including people like Richard,” said Bisson. “I don’t understand why Wynne would leave people like Richard and Teresa to fend for themselves when it comes to getting the medication that Richard needs to stay healthy.”
The Madores are on a fixed income – they just scrape by every month. There is a $900 deductible to access the Trillium program that Richard needs to get his prescriptions filled – it’s too much for them.
“You shouldn’t have to empty your wallet to get the medicine you need,” continued Bisson. “No one should ever have to choose between paying for their prescriptions and paying rent, or putting food on the table. This premier has left the Madores behind – it’s incredibly disappointing.”
Last month Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced that she and the Ontario NDP will create the province’s first universal Pharmacare program – so that all Ontario families will have drug coverage.