Many thanks to all who attended my November 6, 2017 Hyde Park Townhall Meeting!
This report provides a summary of the topics that were discussed. Special appreciation goes out to Ward 7 City Councillor Josh Morgan, who stayed for the entire meeting and responded to the municipal concerns raised.
In the past, my townhalls have focused on specific issues, such as seniors, student debt, hydro, jobs, long-term care, mental health, and autism. This was my first "ask me anything" neighbourhood townhall meeting, and it was a great opportunity to hear people's thoughts and concerns about a wide range of issues.
When people contact their MPP or share concerns during public townhalls, there are a number of ways that MPPs can help. For example, we can:
- resolve the issue by contacting the relevant ministry on the constituent's behalf
- write a letter to the minister advocating for policy change
- reach out to the media to raise public awareness of the issue
- ask a question of the government during Question Period
- collect signatures on a petition urging the government to act
- introduce a Private Member's Bill (PMB) to change legislation
- share constituent stories during legislative debates at Queen's Park
- incorporate the issue into our party's election platform
As MPP for London West, I have successfully used each of these strategies to solve problems and advance issues on behalf of the people I represent.
The townhall began with an overview of some of the issues I have been working on locally and with the NDP caucus at Queen's Park:
- Chronic hospital overcrowding, the explosion of hallway medicine, and wait-times for orthopedic surgery that are longer in London than anywhere else in Ontario
- Lack of supports for Londoners struggling with mental health, and the Liberals' ongoing refusal to approve a pilot project to help relieve the pressure on hospital mental health services
- Unacceptably long waitlists for autism diagnosis and treatment
- Crisis facing children's mental health agencies in London and across the province, with 12,000 kids on provincial waitlists
- Negative impact of college strike on students and government's failure to avert the strike or help reach a negotiated settlement
- Auditor General report showing that the Liberals spent an extra $4B to finance their $40B hydro borrowing scheme
- Financial Accountability Officer's projected 6.8% increase in hydro rates after June 2018 election
- Ontario NDP push to expand the scope of the enquiry into long-term care to include staffing, quality and system capacity
- Urgent need to increase the stock of affordable housing and improve the condition of social housing
- Challenges created by high cost of child care in London for middle-income families who don't qualify for subsidy but can't afford the equivalent of a second mortgage
- Troubling statistics on London's low rate of workforce participation (lower than any major city in Canada), coupled with some of the highest rates of opioid hospitalization and child poverty
1. Health Care
- Lack of access to family physicians
- Completely inadequate supports for family members who are caring for aging parents at home, with no accountability for quality of home care services
- Hospital overcrowding while smaller hospitals close
- Greater focus needed on health promotion, through incentives such as physical activity tax credit
- Fears among college students about potential loss of semester due to college strike, with no answers from the government about reimbursement for tuition and costs of the strike
- 9 year old student with autism receiving only 1 hour of EA support per week and feeling overwhelmed in a large classroom
- Need for specific provincial plans to address climate change
- Support for decommissioning Springbank Dam but concerns about algae buildup
- Increase in traffic violations, red light infractions, and road work makes cycling difficult and dangerous for cyclists
- High cost of London Hydro bills is partially because of water infrastructure charges
- Lack of parenting resources for new immigrant families
- Workplace harassment and violence and role of Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB)
- Lack of access to family physicians forces people to rely on walk-in clinics or emergency departments, which not only costs the health care system more but leads to poorer patient health.
- Ontario's home care system is broken. The burden of care is falling more and more on family members, who are experiencing record levels of stress. Two recent Auditor General reports have highlighted quality concerns and lack of accountability for privatized home care services.
- Liberal government inaction during the five-week college strike let both college students and faculty down. I stood in the Legislature multiple times to question the government on its handling of the strike. Students were left in the dark about whether they would be financially compensated or allowed to repeat the semester without penalty. Instead of working with the colleges to prevent the strike from happening by addressing the over-reliance on contract faculty, the Liberals sat back and did nothing. They then refused to use their legislative authority to act in the public interest and reach a negotiated settlement.
- More and more children are being identified with autism without the necessary diagnostic, therapeutic and educational supports in place.
- Liberal cuts to special education means fewer EAs in schools, and deprives students with special needs of the supports they require to be successful.
- Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, expands the mandate of conservation authorities to deal with climate change and flood planning. My September 11, 2017 speech to the bill emphasized the need for increased funding to implement these expanded responsibilities.
- The NDP supported the cap and trade system as a means of combatting climate change, but cautioned that the success of cap and trade will depend on whether it is fair, effective and transparent. In particular, it should not place an unfair financial burden on low-income people, or those from rural and remote communities.
Councillor Morgan reported that a decision about Springbank Dam would be made by council in December.
- In September, the Ontario NDP introduced Vulnerable Road Users legislation to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Instead of adopting this approach, a "zombie law" was introduced by a Liberal MPP in October that would ban pedestrians from using their cell phones while crossing the road.
Councillor Morgan stated that green painted bike lanes were introduced as a means of forcing drivers to pay more attention to cyclists.
- Hydro rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB). Although the OEB's mandate includes consumer protection, rate increases are regularly approved that make hydro even more unaffordable for Ontarians.
Councillor Morgan explained that water bills are made up of both variable usage costs and fixed infrastructure charges.
- Agencies like the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration provide vital services for both Muslim and non-Muslim immigrant families, but face ongoing funding challenges. London has welcomed more refugee newcomers than many other communities, whose experiences of war and trauma make the need for specialized services even more important.
What steps is the provincial government taking to prepare for climate change?
A public consultation on the government's climate change strategy is being held in London on March 12, 2018 from 6pm to 8pm at Museum London.
Is there a connection between the shortage of family physicians and international medical students leaving Canada once they complete their medical training?
Canada does not track how many international medical students remain in our country to practice after they complete their training. However, studies have found that the higher the level of education attained in Canada and the longer the program takes, the more likely an international student will seek permanent residency. Unfortunately, despite 800,000 Ontarians without access to a family doctor, the number of unemployed doctors continues to grow. Clearly, the real cause of the family doctor shortage in Ontario is years of funding cuts by the Liberal government.
I hope you find this report interesting and informative. If you were not able to attend the Hyde Park Townhall, several more townhalls are planned in February and March (see my website for details). As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions!