Ontario budget ‘really designed’ for Peterborough riding: Leal
Posted: May 4, 2017
(April 28, 2017)
By: Joelle Kovach
MPP Jeff Leal says the new provincial budget is one that’s tailor-made for local people.
“This was a budget really designed, in many ways, for the residents of Peterborough riding,” he said.
Take the promise of free prescription medication for Ontarians under age 25, for instance.
Leal says there are 39,270 people in his riding under age 25 – and they all stand to benefit, regardless of family income. The program is expected to cost about $465 million to operate for a year.
Meanwhile, Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC) should see a three per cent budget increase this fiscal year. That’s because the budget calls for $518 million in additional spending for hospitals.
There’s also $1.3 billion, over the next three years, to reduce wait times for surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.
“It will reduce wait times significantly at PRHC,” Leal said.
It’s about time the province starts spending on hospitals, said Roy Brady, chairman of the local chapter of Council of Canadians.
“This is coming after years of hardly anything (for hospitals),” he said.
Brady is a constant watchdog of the hospital budget. He would have liked
to see funding specifically to reduce wait times at emergency departments.
Instead the province is handing over money to hospitals with crowded ERs and hoping administrators will deal with the problem.
“They’re saying, ‘OK you guys – fix it,'” Brady said.
Meanwhile, the budget also includes $58 million more for long-term care homes – a two-per-cent increase.
Residents of long-term care homes will likely be better-fed, too: the food budget is increasing by six per cent.
That’s good news, said Coun. Keith Riel, the chairman of the board at Fairhaven long-term care home.
Fairhaven is co-owned by the city and the County of Peterborough, and it’s been facing a dramatic shortfall due to the cost of raw food and hydro.
Last fall, Riel was part of a local delegation that went to Queen’s Park to try to lobby the government for more money.
He said he was particularly pleased about the extra funding for food.
“The cost has gone through the roof,” he said.
Yet Peterborough has been passed over for more long-term care beds. The budget document mentions that the province has allotted 963 new long-term care beds across the province, recently – but none for Peterborough.
That’s too bad, Riel said – the waiting list at Fairhaven has 640 names (there’s room for just 262 residents).
When asked why there were no long-term care beds for Peterborough, Leal emphasized the increased spending for long-term care homes generally.
“This will address some of the pressures Fairhaven is under,” he said.
That’s not good enough for MPP Laurie Scott, a Conservative member for the neighbouring riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
In a release, she stated that 4,500 people in her riding and in Peterborough are in urgent need of long-term care beds.
She also noted that the budget doesn’t have anything in it for farm families – she states that the agriculture budget was cut by $47 million.
Leal, who is the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said farm families aren’t being ignored.
He points out that the budget includes a plan to cut hydro rates by 25 per cent, by this summer – he says that will help farms a lot.
While Scott called the budget “reckless” because it won’t end Ontario’s “hydro crisis”, Leal begged to differ.
“I can sum up this budget in a couple of words,” he said. “It’s building Ontario for tomorrow.”