A moment to set the record straight . . .

MPP Jim McDonell
MPP Jim McDonell

                       - MPP, Jim McDonell

        Every day, my Constituency Office staff receive dozens of calls and emails. We are always happy to help in any way possible to resolve their concerns.

        Along with those issues, however, there has also been a noticeable increase recently in constituents who contact us because they have seen or heard rumours of actions the Government is taking.  I wanted to set the record straight about a few of the misconceptions that are currently making the rounds in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

        1)  Education Changes – Contrary to what you may have heard, the Ontario government is increasing education funding, not cutting it. Even so, the hard reality is that student enrollment numbers across the province continue to decrease, which makes it difficult to maintain current teacher levels, especially when many schools are already well below capacity. However, our government is committed to ensuring that none of our dedicated, hardworking teachers will lose their jobs by providing $1.6 billion in new attrition protection funding. At the same time, we want to improve the education your children receive so they have the skills they need for successful futures.

        2)  Health Care Changes – Ontario spends about $60 billion each year on our public health care system, but are we really getting the care and services we need for the money we are spending? Our government believes we can do better by keeping all our frontline staff in place, including nurses and doctors, but eliminating the bloated bureaucracy and duplicated services that are costing billions of dollars. The Government is not cutting or privatizing services. We are actually increasing funding for our public health system by $1.7 billion.

        3)  OHIP Out of Country Coverage – In the past, OHIP has provided very small reimbursements for Ontarians who have incurred out of COUNTRY medical expenses. Typically, these amount to far less than 5% of the total costs (for example, someone who goes to an out of country emergency room would only be a maximum of reimbursed $50 CAD).  This program was roundly criticized by the Auditor General as costly and inefficient, which is why the government has chosen to discontinue it.

        It is important to remember that the Government inherited a financial mess.    Our province is currently spending $30 million per day on interest payments to service our $350 billion debt, the largest sub-national debt in the world. The Government has to act to restore balance while protecting those services we value most.  It won’t be an easy job, but it is important for our future as a Province.

        My Constituency Office staff are always happy to answer your questions and clear up any confusion stemming from misinformation and rumours. I urge you to call us if you have questions of your own.

        Recently Eastern Ontario and Muskoka was hit with severe flooding. This Government is responding and I have been asked to sit on a Task Force with two of my colleagues that will engage with the public to listen to concerns about disaster support programs.  Public meetings are being held in Muskoka, Ottawa and Pembroke over the next two weeks where we hope to hear ideas on how we can improve how we respond to these types of disasters.


Ontario is heading off the invaders . . .

Friday, May 17th - The Ontario government is protecting what matters most by investing $850,000 in the Invasive Species Centre to support ongoing research and management of invasive species across the province. The Invasive Species Centre, based out of Sault Ste. Marie, brings together government, academic, industry and Indigenous communities and organizations to conduct invasive species research, response planning, management and habitat restoration.

        “We recognize the importance of prevention, early detection, response, and eradication of invasive species for our natural environment and the people of Ontario,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

        “With this investment we are prioritizing research and response strategies to prevent long-term impacts to our land, lakes, rivers, and economy,” adds Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. “We believe the Invasive Species Centre is in the best position to protect our ecosystems province-wide.”

        The ministry will continue to work with conservation partners to coordinate prevention, management, and research activities to help address this serious threat while promoting public education on the negative impacts of invasive species.

        "The Invasive Species Centre is committed to working together to find efficiencies in the fight against invasive species and thanks the Government of Ontario for its support and commitment to protecting our natural spaces and economy," said Bob Lambe, President, Invasive Species Centre Board of Directors. “The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan recognized that preventing invasive species is the single most effective and least costly method to manage invasive species. In fact, for every dollar spent on coordinated multi-jurisdictional prevention activities, $3 in mitigation, regulatory and depletion costs can be avoided if only one such pest is prevented from establishing.”

Quick Facts . . . 

        •  The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commits to protecting our natural environment from invasive species by working with partners like the Invasive Species Centre and using tools to prevent, detect and respond to invasions.

        •  Since 2008, Ontario has invested over $15 million in the Invasive Species Centre.

        •  This year, the Ontario government is investing over $2 million in invasive species programs and education.

         •  Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has standalone invasive species legislation. The Invasive Species Act provides legislative tools to prohibit and restrict certain invasive species and carriers that facilitate the movement of invasive species.


Improving connectivity in SD&SG . . .

Friday, May 17th - Ontario is taking a giant step towards improving mobile broadband and curing cellular dead zones in eastern Ontario today, as the province announced $71 million in funding. The investment will make people safer and lead to greater economic growth.

        “Our government has committed to help people get the broadband and cellular connections they need,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure. “This is a matter of public safety and economic opportunity.” About 10 percent of rural eastern Ontario has no mobile broadband connection, leading to dropped calls, missed emergency services and a lack of opportunity.

        “It is essential that proper infrastructure is in place to support public safety across the province, especially in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, where cellular coverage is often lacking,” adds MPP, Jim McDonell. “Our government is taking action to improve connectivity so that people can feel confident and safe, at home and on the road.”

        With today’s announcement, Ontario is committing $71 million to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) project to virtually eliminate coverage gaps in the region. The public-private initiative requires contributions from the federal government as well private sector and municipal partners. Total value of the project is estimated at $213 million. To date, the federal government has not committed to funding, although Ontario is hopeful they will commit to funding their share of the project.

        “Last week the federal Liberals said the people of Ontario’s priorities were their priorities,” said Minister McNaughton. “Well, this is a huge priority in eastern Ontario. It’s about public safety, economic growth and development and convenience. We are investing in people and building our province’s future.”

        With today’s announced support for EORN, the provincial government is fulfilling a commitment to invest in cellular and broadband infrastructure.

        "Our government made a commitment to invest in broadband and cellular expansion. Today I am happy to say: promise made, promise kept." said McDonell.

Quick Facts . . .

 

        •  Cellular connectivity refers to wireless access to voice, text and data services through a mobile device (e.g. a smart phone).

        •  The project involves all Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) members and 10 separate municipalities.

        •  The goal of the project is to bring cell coverage to 99 per cent of the region where people live, work and travel.  Unpopulated areas, including forests, swamps and protected lands are not included in that goal.

        •  EORN was created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and has already completed a major project to build a high-capacity fibre-optic backbone network in Eastern Ontario.

        •   In the 2019 Ontario Budget, the provincial government committed $315 million over the next five years to regional and shovel-ready projects.


Province announces "Hats for Hides" . . .

      -   from the office of MPP Jim McDonell . . .

 

Friday, May 17th - The Ontario Government is making it easier for hunters to be responsible stewards of our natural resources.

         Today John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, announced that the province is investing $100,000 in a made-in-Ontario business that encourages responsible harvesting and contributes to the province’s hunting industry.

         “Our government supports Ontario’s hunters and recognizes that they are good stewards of our resources,” said Yakabuski. “We want to work with hunters to ensure no part of their harvest is wasted while supporting a local business and local jobs.”

         The Hats for Hides program, operated by BRT Provisioners, supports good hunting practices by collecting hides from hunters in exchange for a hat or a crest, ensuring resources are not wasted and sold as goods.

         “Hats for Hides supports thousands of hunters across Ontario, by making life easier and reducing waste,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stomont-Dundas-South Glengarry. “The program gives a positive alternative to casting off unwanted hides.”

         Hides collected support Indigenous artisans and local jobs producing locally sourced products made and sold in Ontario. The government is pleased to show support for small businesses like BRT Provisioners and is working hard to make life easier for hunters.

         “Our government recognizes the importance of Ontario’s hunting industry and is committed to making things better for hunters,” said Yakabuski. “We have frozen hunting licence fees and we’re currently reviewing how moose are managed in Ontario to make hunting fairer, and more accessible for hunters. The Hats for Hides program is one more way we are supporting hunters and ensuring a sustainable hunting industry for years to come.”

 

Quick Facts:

        •  Hunting contributes over $431 million to Ontario’s economy annually.

        •  Freezing fishing and hunting licences and removing the service fee will keep approximately $4.3 million in the pockets of hard-working hunters and anglers.

        •  Ontario invested $1.1 million in the Ontario Fur Managers Federation to support the trapping education program and licence services for Ontario's trappers and trapping instructors.


Province upping speed limit (maybe) . . .

Monday, May 13th - The Ontario Government is exploring new ways to improve traffic flow and safety on provincial highways by introducing three speed limit pilots on select highways. At the same time, Ontario’s Government for the people will launch province-wide consultations on how to safely increase highway speeds to align with other provinces, and how people currently drive.

         MPP Jim McDonell, announced today a speed limit pilot on Highway 417 from Ottawa/Gloucester to Ontario/Quebec boarder from 100 km/h to 110 km/h and explained how the government will listen to people’s suggestions on how to best modernize Ontario’s highway network to better serve their needs.

         “Results from the pilot and all feedback received during consultations will be carefully considered as a part of the final decision-making process,” said Minister Yurek. “We’re also working with our road safety and enforcement partners.”

         Three sections of highways are planned as pilot locations in Southern Ontario where the highway speed will be posted at 110 km/h starting in mid-September:

        Highway 402 from London to Sarnia; the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) from St. Catharines to Hamilton; and Highway 417 from Ottawa/Gloucester to Ontario/Quebec border.

        The Ministry of Transportation is exploring options for a fourth pilot in Northern Ontario.

        “Safety is the government’s number one priority and each pilot location was carefully chosen based on a number of factors, including its ability to accommodate higher speed limits,” said Yurek.

       Our government is adding extra safety measures such as increased signage and messaging. We will also protect the safety of drivers by proposing amendments that keep the street-racing penalties at 150 km/h. This means in the speed limit pilot zones, the street-racing penalties will apply at 40 km/h over the posted speed limit, not the usual 50 km/h over.

         “Public safety on our roads and highways is our number one priority.  We  believe a speed limit of 110 km/h, with appropriate enforcement, can be safely implemented to evaluate the impacts of increase speed limits on Ontario ‘s road,” said MPP, Jim McDonell.

         “The Ontario Safety League traditionally bases their position on science, and the science tells us that although excessive speed is a factor in many crashes, under normal driving conditions and with reasonable driving attention it would have virtually no impact,” said Brian Patterson, President and CEO, Ontario Safety League.

         "CAA is pleased to continue working with the Ministry of Transportation to help educate and inform motorists on safe driving. It is important that drivers pay particular attention to weather and road conditions and adjust accordingly, regardless of the posted speed limit. A pilot program is an ideal way to gradually explore the subject of raising speed limits and determine the impact on road safety," said Elliott Silverstein, CAA South Central Ontario.