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Vanthof comments on the Ontario Legislature

Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof says that it has been quite the ride since February.

Now that the legislature has been adjourned, Vanthof and other MPPs across the province return home to their constituents for the summer, before returning to Queen’s Park in September.
With a late start to the summer, Vanthof says that this year was different, in many ways.

“From my perspective as an MPP, usually the last week of legislature, regardless of past fights, we’re happy to be out and wishing each other a happy summer. That wasn’t the case this time,” he said.

Vanthof shares that the last two pieces of legislation that the Ford government put through “left a really bad taste in the legislature”.

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“Bill 195, Reopening Ontario, essentially enables the premier to effectively bypass Queen’s Park legislature for the next two years. Emergency orders… we’re getting used to them but it’s not normal. It’s not normal for the government to tell you if you can be with your friends or not. It’s not normal for businesses, even though they’re operating legally, to be told to shut down. Those aren’t normal times. They’re done for a reason. Now the government has up to two years to approve the legislation. That’s very scary. They say they won’t abuse their power, and they’ll set up special committees but the way I look at it they’ve given themselves power that no democratic elected government needs. And that left a bad taste in our mouths.” said Vanthof.
The second, Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, left Vanthof with that “same bad taste”.

“It was supposed to be a COVID recovery bill. It was supposed to help people. Help people that have fallen through the cracks of the federal programs. Extending the marriage license was great, but they scrapped the Environmental Assessment Act in the process. They gutted it to no public scrutiny.” he said.

Vanthof says that the government needs to look at where he believes the issues really lie.

“Look at commercial rent. A lot of people are losing businesses because they can’t pay their commercial rents. Air conditioners in long term care homes… they identified that issue but it was nowhere in the legislation. Schools… They changed the qualifications needed for directors of education but there has been no plan placed on how we’re going to bring kids back to school. The issues of rent with both tenant and landlord side. People couldn’t afford to pay rent, the landlord couldn’t get their rent and have troubles with their payments. That’s huge. Daycare as well. I’ve been getting lots of calls from both parents who need and want to plan ahead, as well as employers who can’t get their employees to come in steadily because they have no child care.” said Vanthof.
Vanthof says that he and other MPPs would have been willing to stay at Queen’s Park to figure it all out.

“The government is essentially saying the school boards need to figure it out. The premier says it’s ok for the kids to go back to school full-time, which we are approving and are in favour of. But if you’re going to do that, and really put proper social distancing in place you’re going to need smaller classes, more classrooms, more busses and that’s going to cost a lot of money. You can’t tell the boards to come up with a plan and not fully tell them you can finance that plan or not.”

He says that the school year is only a few weeks away.

“We’re at the end of July already. The government has missed the boat. That’s my opinion and not my party’s. But the Conservatives are so focused on business. They believe business trumps everything and as long as you help business it makes it easier for everything to get fixed. But this economic crisis caused by COVID is not a business crisis. It’s a people crisis. The economy stopped not because of the business world it stopped because people were getting sick. They need to look at ways to get people back into the system. Then the economy will reset.”
Another one of the big tests Vanthof says will be how future outbreaks will be handled.

“As the economy re-opens and more people are traveling how are we going to handle outbreaks? Allowing certain things to open might force other things to close if an outbreak starts. How we handle these scenarios are going to be important. We’ve been very, very fortunate in the North and across the province. The people have done an excellent job at social distancing and the numbers show it. With more risks now with traveling, it’s going to be a big test.” finished Vanthof.


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