A forum, a fever and thought-provoking conversation

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

Pulling all levels of government together is as phenomenal as an eclipse. I’m being facetious, but it is tough; however, the Simcoe Chamber of Commerce recently managed it. Had I not woken up with a fever, the day would have been complete.

As part of the Chamber’s Innovation Frontier Forum – the first of its kind in Norfolk – a lunch panel conversation included MP Leslyn Lewis, Norfolk Mayor Amy Martin, and me. It was a great opportunity to speak to local issues from all three levels of government through carefully curated questions, which made for thought-provoking conversation.

Although this was a Norfolk event, many of my answers would be relevant to Haldimand County. One of the first questions was what I would implement if I had a magic wand. I took the liberty to grab three magic wands and spoke about the desire for affordability for Ontario families. Some have told me they are choosing between heating and eating. Families should not be working harder to pay more and get less.

Building on affordability, I’d use my second wand to create better consumer protection laws for those trying to feed their families, holding grocery store giants to account while protecting our farmers.

Last year travelling the province on pre-budget consultations, it broke my heart to see the homelessness and addictions from town to town, and of course we are not immune locally. It’s sad for the person experiencing these issues, and it creates social problems in our downtowns and drains resources like policing and healthcare. I’d use my third wand to implement a more effective way forward rather than throwing more money at a problem that gets worse.

I likely had a different view on the question about continued growth in the county but as usual I’m being honest in my approach, and it is not guided by anyone but you the taxpayer. Our counties must grow at a reasonable rate with a mix of additional residential taxes but more importantly, industrial taxes. We must create an environment where people get out of bed in the morning and drive locally to a good-paying job rather than commute to Hamilton, London, or the Tri Cities.

Just a few days before the forum, I was at a meeting where Tillsonburg Mayor Deb Gilvesy said she feels they are drowning trying to build the infrastructure to house and service new arrivals. This is proof that the idea of “building” is not the path to economic prosperity.

I’m going to insert a question that was teed up but not asked due to time constraints: How I can support the idea of a new hospital campus in Norfolk? A previous question eluded to the problem attracting physicians to the area – this is not unique to HN. A worldclass healthcare facility would be welcome news with commitment from the government and the community. But my warning was “if we build it, will they come?” “They” meaning healthcare workers. A hospital bed is merely a piece of furniture if there is no staff to look after the patient in it.

I’ve run out of room in this column, but these were, in my opinion, a few highlights. Some questions focussed on how I can help our municipal partners move projects forward. I will repeat, so long as I know what our municipal partners are looking for, I can be their biggest champion. For example, this past week I had two productive conversations with two key cabinet ministers on two key local projects. If projects are kept secret, conversations can’t happen.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk