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Let’s put this crisis to good use

Posted: May 6, 2022

(May 4, 2022)

By: Richard Mahoney, The Glengarry News

They are off and promising. Another election campaign has officially begun in Ontario, where for the next month strategists and candidates will be seeking the hearts and ballots of voters.

Talk is cheap. And that is a good thing because everything else costs an arm and a leg.

Inflation is one of the many reasons the masses are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore. Governments could be blamed for the soaring cost of living. However, while politicians may claim they can put a chicken in every pot and help everybody buy a new house, government policies are only one factor in the determination of prices.

Consumer demand, global conflicts, supply chains, greed and the weather all have an impact on prices. Oh yes, and there is that world-wide pandemic? Who would have thought two years ago that plywood would become as scarce as hen’s teeth? Who would have predicted the spike in house prices, in Eastern Ontario?

Of course, governments could help ease consumers’ burdens by lowering taxes on essential goods and services. Take gas taxes. They are enough to drive a person into checking out the price of an electric car. Governments generate massive sums of money on gas taxes. A reduction of fuel taxes would be a vote winner, particularly in rural parts where public transit is not accessible and most people need at least one truck and own at least three gaspowered tools.

The ruling Tories promise that, if re-elected, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, they will ease your misery at the gas pumps.

But if you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter, a.k.a. the taxpayer, is going to face a shortfall. And how is that gaping hole in the public coffers going to be filled? Public expenses, and services, will have to be cut, or some other source of revenue, another form of taxation, will have to be found.

You just can’t get ahead. There’s no free lunch. Pay now or pay later.

But that stark reality will not dissuade from the parties from making that age-old commitment: They will pledge to strive to ensure that all Ontarians will be able to live full, healthy, safe and prosperous lives, while carefully investing taxpayers’ hard-earned money in services and programs that will meet the current and future needs of everyone.

Expect to hear that pledge, over and over again, during the campaign that will end with the June 2 election.

Over the next four weeks, the respective parties will bring you the same basic promises with their own versions and variations. And, to keep things interesting, there will be the inevitable posturing, preening, strutting and finger-pointing.

By the way, it may be no coincidence that this is also wild turkey mating season.

Anyway, the gauntlet was tossed down long before the campaign officially started.

Not surprisingly, health care and long-term care homes will be among the hot issues as the COVID-pandemic continues to strain resources, patients, and patience.

Despite increased investments in long-term care, the government will inevitably be criticized for its handling of the pandemic, which exposed chronic problems within a system that is supposed to tend to the most vulnerable.

In recent weeks, groups such as the Cornwall chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition have been red-flagging “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Long-Term Care” after the province set up a web site providing details on long-term care homes.

An analysis found that non-profit and municipally owned and operated homes have the longest wait lists and that private homes had the shortest lists. “This shows that people seeking care clearly prefer a non-profit option,” says Elaine MacDonald, Co-Chair of the Cornwall Health Coalition. Despite the clearly expressed wishes of the population, the Ford government continues to show a bias in favour of private companies, often not based in the province, for funding of new and upgraded beds, says Betty Yakimenko of the Ottawa Health Coalition.

You cannot be picky. That is the reality many people must face when they are seeking a long-term care home close to home. A serious malaise is eating away our vital health services.

Government detractors were unleashing pre-emptive strikes before the budget, the de facto Conservatives’ campaign platform, was rolled out last week. Thursday’s budget announcement was little more than a cynical election ploy that Ontarians see through, charged the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“Ontario spends less on public services per person than any other province and it shows in the burnout of front-line workers, the capped wages, the schools and hospitals and child-care facilities desperate for resources,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “After more than two years of an unprecedented crisis that only exposed and worsened an already-gutted system, we’re long overdue for real and significant investments. Instead, the Ford Conservatives are presenting a budget that won’t even pass by election day, meaning it’s doing little more than serving as an election ploy. This is what we’ve been getting for far too long: lip service and self-serving posturing instead of bolstered public services.”

CUPE Ontario “is concerned that this will be another missed opportunity to invest in public services, make the wealthy pay their fair share, strengthen workers’ rights, raise wages and tackle the cost of living, and fight inequality and the climate crisis.”

Of course, Tories can bat away those grievances by saying that they have spent the last four years repairing the damage caused by the Liberals who, some may remember, ruled the province for a very long time before Doug Ford was swept into office.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” we have been told.

The pandemic has indeed been an opportunity to admit that many things need to be fixed.

Pointing out the problems is a cinch. The hard part is coming up with solutions everyone, or at least most of the people most of the time, can live with.

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