DOUG Ford’s first budget will hit all of us in Northwestern Ontario especially hard.
Our region hasn’t dodged Ford’s cuts, up to this point. Since taking office, frontline jobs at the Thunder Bay Generating Station have been moved elsewhere, and frontline workers at the Thunder Bay Office of the Child and Youth Advocate have been laid off. With cut after cut, including education and health care, Doug Ford made a choice: he believes you deserve less.
Now, Doug Ford’s first budget slices deeper.
Our schools will be underfunded, our hospitals will get more crowded, and our universities and colleges will struggle, thanks to Ford’s budget. School boards are warning that this level of funding will mean class sizes of up to 46 students, fewer courses and thousands of fired teachers. Hospitals have already warned that this level of funding will mean cuts to services and layoffs of frontline staff.
Added to that, organizations across our region have been left guessing what their funding will be next year. Women’s shelters and legal aid clinics and others, who do vital work in our communities, may have to lay off staff or close their doors.
The ministries we rely on in the Northwest have been slashed, including:
• $1 billion cut from the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.
• $225 million cut from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
• $566 million cut from the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.
• $142 million cut from the Emergency Forest Firefighting.
• $73 million cut from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry budget has been cut by $162 million. That’s in addition to millions cut by the previous government. Few details were provided on the review of the forestry sector, Far North Act or the Ring of Fire. The only new announcement in the budget was a moose tag advisory committee. The government is dropping the ball on MNRF, and that’s unacceptable. This ministry is of critical importance to our economic development and environmental sustainability.
Some key priorities were missing, including a new jail in Thunder Bay, twinning local highways, and more money specifically for local police. There was barely a mention of the Ring of Fire, and no concrete plan whatsoever. There was little about job creation in the Northwest.
Remember, the Liberals failed Northwestern Ontario. For 15 years, they starved critical services. Schools closed, hospitals became overcrowded, and industries shut down. But this budget makes clear that Doug Ford’s Conservatives are going to make things worse. Doug Ford just doesn’t believe it’s his job to help the North.
Northwestern Ontario deserves better. The provincial government should not cut the programs and services we rely on. We need to make investments in education and health care. We need a government willing to make the investments that will bring more jobs to this region, including getting development in the Ring of Fire going.
That’s what the NDP wanted to see in this budget, and it’s what we’ll keep fighting for.
MPP, Thunder Bay-Atikokan