Before welcoming newcomers, fix Ontario

By MPP Bobbi Ann Brady

When I survey the state of the province, it seems obvious that Ontario cannot support the people already here. And on top of that, I’m regularly hearing from many in Haldimand-Norfolk that life has become too expensive.  So, at the end of September, I took my concerns to the Legislative Assembly floor to ask the top man, Premier Doug Ford.

The motivation behind my questions was the fact that Canada is welcoming thousands upon thousands of newcomers to Canada, which means the vast majority will be coming to Ontario. But how can we welcome roughly 800,000 people to a place where critical services upon which we rely are in chaos? The answer is, we can’t without first fixing what is currently broken in Ontario.

That framed my first question to the premier: “Will (the premier) stand up for Ontario and tell Ottawa that we must take stock and get critical services back on track before welcoming more people?”

As I mentioned to my Queen’s Park colleagues, I detect that the premier is frustrated when answering questions in the media because he knows the conditions to build 1.5 million new homes aren’t there. And yet, at the same time, there’s an ad campaign welcoming more people to live in Ontario. As any real estate professional or savvy businessman like Premier Ford knows, government does not dictate the housing market, it’s supply and demand that dictates the market. More people means more demand.  More demand means less affordability.

The federal government was recently in the news as they contemplated a cap on the number of international students. Numbers are currently greater than 800,000 students, a drastic increase from 2011 when there 239,000. Although international students help the economy, they also need student housing. This also feeds into the supply and demand equation in university and college towns.

Riffing on the affordability note, I reminded the chamber that far too often, I’m hearing from families who are looking to leave the province because they’ve lost hope for being able to afford Ontario’s cost of living.  I also provided the premier with signs that potential newcomers have discovered that we are no longer the land of opportunity as permanent resident applications have plummeted.

In the spirit of affordability, my supplementary question summed up what I think is the crux of Ontario’s problem: “What is this government’s plan for making life affordable for the families of Ontario working so hard to make ends meet and yet falling further and further behind?”

By the way, I was quite pleased that Premier Ford was there to take my questions and didn’t pass them to a cabinet minister. He agreed with me that the cost of living is too high.  He also said they will be building thousands of homes in Haldimand-Norfolk and pointed to cost-savings his government has ushered in such as eliminating licence plate renewal fees and licence plate stickers for passenger vehicles, cutting the tolls on Highway 412 and 418, and reducing gas prices by 10.7 cents (per litre), and holding the federal government accountable for the carbon tax.

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my concerns around Nanticoke, and when I hear the premier of Ontario saying they’ll be building thousands of homes in Haldimand-Norfolk, there is a shudder sent down my spine.  But putting that briefly aside, before anyone else populates our province, work must be done to make it more affordable and livable.  Rest assured I’ll keep the pressure on wherever I can to help make that happen.

Bobbi Ann Brady is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk