April 2023 Community Update Welcome to my community newsletter. Spring is in the air and legislators are still hard at work at Queen’s Park. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
On Thursday, March 23, 2023, the Minister of Finance unveiled the Ontario budget. The budget is the largest in provincial history with more than $200 billion in spending. While there are some good things in this budget, such as support for small businesses, farmers, and electric vehicle production, the budget leaves much to be desired in many areas including mental health and addictions, housing, education, environment, and healthcare.
The province has allocated $202 million for supportive housing in the 2023 Budget, however, this amount when spread across the province is well below what is needed to make a significant impact to operate and build supportive housing for those struggling with mental health and addictions. In addition, the 2023 Budget does not mention affordable housing.
When it comes to healthcare, there was no plan to address the shortage of medical students choosing family medicine, nor was there any mention of dropping the appeal to Bill 124. There was also no additional support for children or teachers in the classroom.
Asking for More Changes to ODSP
Recently, I called on the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services to extend the $1000 for earned income threshold clawbacks to include CPP Survivors’ pensions. Constituents like Linda have been left behind and are falling through the cracks. Click the link below to watch my full exchange with the government.
The Real Cost of Hydro
Ontario has not had a long-term energy plan since 2017. Instead, the Government of Ontario has allowed hydro subsidies in Ontario’s budget to balloon to $6 billion (about $400 a person in Ontario). For comparison, that’s close to the amount that the province spends on long-term care. Future electricity usage depends on all sorts of policies, like housing, industrial strategy, electric vehicles or home heating. So, our long-term energy plan can’t be delegated to the people who operate our electricity system, as it is now. It should be done at the whole-of-government level. Click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll-lHERr52U&feature=youtu.be to view my Member’s Statement.
Federal Government Cracking Down on Provinces Allowing Fee for Service Care
In the past few months, an increasing number of companies throughout Canada have been offering online doctors’ appointments at a steep rate of 50 to 100 dollars per visit. The Canada Health Act prohibits insured patients from being charged for care deemed “medically necessary,” these companies have exploited a loophole whereby doctors can see patients from a different province than the one in which they are practicing medicine, making the person thereby technically “uninsured.”
The federal government is putting pressure on provinces to prevent patients from being billed by these companies. Provinces that allow businesses to continue can see their federal health transfer payments reduced. Read more about the federal government’s plans here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/fees-virtual-doctor-physician-canada-health-act-1.6773607
City Working to Move Residents of ICH Encampment Despite Lack of Funding
The city has been working to move residents of the encampment to shelters, having created 50 new spaces over the past few months. As the March 21 deadline for residents of the encampment came and went some residents are still onsite near the Integrated Care Hub, claiming that sufficient truly low-barrier shelter options do not exist.
I called on municipalities across Ontario to receive sufficient and sustained provincial funding to allow them to work on a system to address homelessness. However, the budget released in March has failed to provide it.
Cities must be able to offer low-barrier and accessible shelters to diverse clients, housing that supports those receiving treatment and working towards independence, and increased support to tackle the addiction and mental health crisis.
A Look at the Kingston Walk-In Clinic Situation
The Ontario Ministry of Health website indicates that there are six walk-in clinics available in Kingston. Out of the 6 clinics listed, one is Hotel Dieu Urgent Care, three are closed, one only allows online booking and there is a wait for appointments, leaving only one clinic open that accepts walk-in patients. With the ever-rising number of Kingstonians without a family doctor, our emergency room and urgent care centre will continue to be burdened with patients that would be best served by a primary care provider. My office is hearing from so many people who must go to the hospital or take their children to the pediatric out-patient clinic just to refill prescriptions vital to their quality of life.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce Panel
In March I met with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to discuss Ontario’s energy needs and how our province should be planning for its long-term electricity supply. We also talked about northern development, mining and the TransCanada highway as a strategic national asset.
In the Riding
Celebrating World Autism Day
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 2 World Autism Awareness Day as an opportunity to encourage member states to raise awareness about people with autism spectrum disorder and to support research on finding new ways to improve wellness and inclusion.
On Sunday, April 2, my Constituency Office team attended an event hosted by Stride Academy in celebration of this important day. My team collected feedback from individuals and parents of children with autism that I will use to raise concerns about services, funding and wait times with the newly appointed Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. Early intervention is important in the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder, yet some children have been waiting for years to receive assistance.
Meeting with Queen’s Policy Studies Students
Disinformation, partisan competition, sensationalism, shortening attention spans, polarization and the decline of local journalism have led to a decline of trust in government and a decline in citizen engagement. I was grateful to have spoken to students and faculty, as a guest speaker at the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, about why this has happened, and what we could do about it.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Receive Ontario Trillium Fund Grant to Support Mentoring Programs
On March 31st I was happy to celebrate the awarding of an Ontario Trillium Fund grant to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of KFL&A. It has allowed the creation of a new Kingston program known as Mentoring Southeast, which connects adult volunteers in the community to mentoring programs that support the growth and development of children and youth in need. It is a collaboration with Boys and Girls Club Southeast and Youth Diversion. Thanks to their work, the barriers and adversities faced by youth can become, with the help of a mentor, opportunities to grow.
Bloom Skills Centre Community Café at Centre 70
The food and drinks were great at the Bloom Skills Centre. This non-profit organization in Kingston offers programs and opportunities for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are open from 7am-4pm, Monday to Friday – check them out!