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Sep. 25, 2020 | Friday
Editorials and Opinions
Wayne Gates: Fighting for better health care, education in Niagara
Wayne Gates is MPP for the riding of Niagara Falls.

Wayne Gates

Special to The Lake Report

As my team prepares to return to the legislature, we have a number of initiatives we will be driving forward.

As always in politics, I believe the job of an elected official is to support good laws that benefit our community and oppose those that I think are not to our  benefit.

In February, when the legislature resumes for 2020, I suspect we will have our fair share of both.

I look forward to continuing to work constructively with the minister of health to get Niagara’s new hospital built so we can provide much-needed relief in our communities.

However, as you have seen – the Doug Ford government has moved us from bad to worse in many areas.

I continue to fundamentally oppose the cuts to our health care system. While I agree that the previous Liberal government all but abandoned Niagara’s health needs, cutting these services even further is a disastrous path.

This summer Niagara topped the charts when it came to hospital wait-times. We have an aging population that is coming to rely on accessible and timely hospital services, access to home care and proper attention in long-term care.

Even more concerning was the recent auditor general report which showed that deaths and injuries inside hospitals are skyrocketing. (See page 109 of the report.) 

The auditor found that since 2016, nearly 800 patients were denied transfers because no beds were available. These patients urgently needed care and 10 died while waiting for that care.

Our seniors have earned these benefits through a life of work for our community. Instead of addressing the hallway health care crisis that the previous Liberal government created, the Ford government is cutting $2.7 billion from health care, according to the province’s financial accountability officer.

This government’s callous cuts do not stop at health care—the Tories also are looking to alter the education system in Ontario.

I will continue to be part of a broad coalition consisting of the official opposition, teachers and parents determined to fight for our children’s education.

As many of you know, I came from a background of collective bargaining and I know for a fact that 98 per cent of collective bargaining meetings get a deal – so why is Education Minister Stephen Lecce among the 2 per cent that can’t?

The answer is simple – Lecce either doesn’t want to, or doesn’t know how to negotiate.

Parents have already seen the effects of cuts to education: Cuts that mean overcrowded classrooms, less access to resources and far fewer adults in the buildings where our kids learn.

On top of that, they have implemented an Alabama-style learning plan that transitions kids out of classrooms and into online courses without any regard to learning ability, quality of instruction or even reliable access to the internet.

In our highly complex and technologically driven world, our children need the best education possible to succeed. They simply cannot be expected to perform at their best when they’re fighting for a teacher’s attention in classes of 35 kids without enough textbooks. These kids deserve a fighting chance at the best future possible.

As the official opposition in Queen’s Park, it is the New Democrats’ duty not only to critique but also to provide solutions. We know that when we push back on government decisions by bringing the concerns of our communities right to the halls of the legislature, we can get results.

This past year we had serious concerns about the potential amalgamation of distinct Niagara communities, like Niagara-on-the-Lake. Fortunately, the government heard us loud and clear and backed down on their amalgamation plans, which would have stripped Niagara-on-the-Lake of its voice at the municipal level.

With health care, education and so much more, we have offered numerous plans that continue to provide services to residents in a fiscally responsible way.

I’d like to thank everyone in our community for their advice, kind words and encouragement. In 2020, we plan to continue representing this riding at Queen’s Park and ensuring that Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie have a strong advocate in the halls of the legislature.