Wayne on the Issues
The panel on the right side of this page contains a few of the speeches taken from my time in the Ontario Legislature. I’ve tried to highlight some of the issues many of you have asked me about over the past few years but this is only a small sample of the many things I have brought up at Queen’s Park. If there’s an issue you’d like more information on or something that’s important to you that you would like to discuss please don’t hesitate to call me directly – Wayne
Mr. Wayne Gates: The wine industry is a great example of a booming local market. We need to do everything we can to support it. It creates jobs, and it puts money right back into the local economy. Here’s something that maybe the minister should listen to: When you buy a local VQA wine, over $11 goes back into the local economy; when you buy a foreign wine, just over $1.04 goes back into the local economy. That’s why we need to support them and give them more shelf space-not temporary shelf space, but permanent shelf space that goes longer than three years, sir. I’m proud of the wineries in my riding and what they have been able to do. They can count on my continued support. I hope this government will do the same.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I can’t go without talking about Hydro One. Listen, we don’t want to sell 1% of Hydro One. The Conservatives want to sell 49% of Hydro One; you want to sell 60% of Hydro One. Don’t sell one bit of Hydro One. It’s a mistake-the biggest mistake this province has ever made.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I spent the entire summer, day in and day out, meeting with every community group in my community that wanted to meet. Sometimes it was at my office; other times it was at places where they serve Niagara’s most in need.
I toured Project Share’s food banks and Nova House women’s shelter. I met with our local social assistance workers in their own offices. I did this because in my riding it’s clear that there are people who need help.
Niagara has been hit hard by the economic downturn. People, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs. Some of them needed, and still continue to need, a helping hand up. However, what I hear from these community groups was exactly the same: Since 2008, the need has gone up but the funding has gone down.
Shelter beds are full; I’ve seen it. Our local women’s shelter is filled with children and women to its capacity. Food banks are running empty. Transit vouchers are being eliminated. When people have their gas or electricity turned off, they have nowhere to go.
The community groups in my riding are unanimous. Niagara is a large region. We don’t want special treatment-only the funding that the region deserves based on its size. Hamilton’s population is roughly the same as Niagara’s, yet Niagara receives around 20% of the funding that Hamilton does.
I hope the Premier and the government will take the social needs of Niagara into consideration when they implement their budget.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’m guessing that that might be a no, but I will go to this, because I want to answer your question: There are 1,000 direct and indirect jobs tied to the Fort Erie Race Track. It is a cornerstone of this community.
A few months ago, the Auditor General said that the Slots at Racetracks Program was cancelled without proper planning, without proper community consultation, and without any consideration of what this would do to tracks like Fort Erie, or the local economy.
To your response: We need to reinstate the Slots at Racetracks Program and increase the racing schedule from 37 days to at least 74, because you can’t run the track and protect 1,000 jobs with 37 days.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Mr. Speaker, the fact is, this government isn’t anywhere near their stated commitment of a 15% reduction in auto insurance rates for consumers. The minister responsible has gone from promising to reduce the rates by 15% in two years to no longer committing to a time line. That’s because this government is placing too much emphasis on reducing costs for the insurance companies today, while its wait-and-see approach for Ontario leaves people struggling to keep their cars on the road.
Mr. Speaker, will the Premier commit today to reducing outrageous auto insurance rates for all Ontarians by 15% immediately?
Mr. Wayne Gates: Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on one aspect of government spending from last year that affects my entire riding and the entire region of Niagara. That’s the new Niagara Falls hospital. When I was running in the by-election that first brought me to this House-and I’m very proud to be here-over two years ago, the Premier came to Niagara Falls and unveiled a banner at the site of the new Niagara Falls hospital which said, “Funding grant approved.” If we go there today, the banner looks almost like it’s going to fall off. We know we’re in stage 1A, but some people are saying that this hospital is years away.
People in Niagara can’t wait years. They have a right to decent medical care in a timely fashion. We need to see movement on this hospital and we need to see it soon. We have a chance here to increase our medical services in Niagara Falls and put local people back to work. It’s a win-win. Despite last year’s commitment to health care, we still don’t have a shovel in the ground here today. Let’s change that.
In the auto industry, we have found that for every job created directly in a car manufacturing plant, there are eight other spin-off jobs created. When we create 1,000 jobs, we’re actually giving the province 8,000. From those 1,000 jobs in Windsor, you would have gotten 8,000 jobs. Imagine what that would have done to the high unemployment in Windsor. When we miss out on 1,000 jobs, we lose 8,000.
Let’s come up with an Ontario-wide auto policy, and let’s lower our hydro rates. That will actually help manufacturers.
But I also believe the members across from me need to step up and support our workers. Windsor is a great example-that money that won’t go back into our province and the jobs that won’t go to people who desperately need them. That’s exactly the same story we saw over the last 10 years: 3,000 jobs were lost in St. Thomas-we’re talking about the auto sector-2,000 were lost in my home local in St. Catharines and 3,000 in Oshawa.
Every other country in the world is supporting manufacturing because they know how important it is to the overall health of their economy and putting good-paying jobs-it doesn’t matter where it is. It could be in the United States, it could be in Brazil, it could be in Sweden, it could be in Finland-they’re all doing it. I’m encouraging this government to do the same thing.
Our children and grandchildren need that to happen. We can pass a motion like this and be done with it or we can fight to protect our manufacturers, our exporters and the workers who depend on the sector right here in Ontario for the betterment of our kids and our grandkids.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Just today I spoke with another constituent who has a bill right now totaling $50,000 for treatment he has received in Florida. He pays $3,000 a week in medical bills, plus what it costs to live down there. He has to leave his family, his friends and his job just to try to get treatment so he can function in his daily life. He told my office that the last year of his life has been wasted trying to find a diagnosis for this disease. Think about that. He couldn’t get one here in Canada and Ontario. Now he flies to Florida to receive treatment for Lyme disease.
Mr. Speaker, what’s even more troubling is that when we contacted him, he already knew-when I talked to him today, he already knew-of three other people in the city of Niagara Falls who have Lyme disease and are getting treatment in New York state.
These are people who are being bankrupted by these treatments. Just think about the pain they must go through if they are willing to spend their entire life’s savings to go into debt just to get treatment. I thought we came to the conclusion a long time ago that no one in the province of Ontario should have to choose between good health and poverty.
These are employed people, too-people with good jobs. Imagine what it would be like to be on social assistance or to be unemployed with Lyme disease. You would never be able to go and get treatment. I have no doubt in my mind that if the people I’ve spoken with so far are coming to my office, there are people living below the poverty line with the disease who can’t afford to get treatment.
When you have the symptoms of Lyme disease, you can expect to spend weeks, if not months, in and out of the hospital, trying to figure out what is wrong with you. Our medical testing is falling behind. It’s frustrating already sick people. The only reason people keep coming back to the doctor instead of giving up is because of how hard it is to live with the disease. These are people living in Ontario who need medical help.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Local leaders are concerned that the Wynne Liberal government is ignoring their call for full-day GO train service to Niagara Falls and to provide much-needed stimulus for the local economy. Regional leaders across Niagara are urging this government to extend daily GO train service to Niagara, because they recognize how vital it is to our local economy.
They talk of building more campuses in Niagara Falls. Full-day GO train service is a way to get students to any new university or college campus built in the city, revitalizing our downtown, and we all understand how important it is to have vibrant downtowns.
Daily GO train service will also bring tourists, who would travel from Toronto and other communities to get to Niagara Falls. As MPP, I will make sure this government takes action by committing to a timeline to bring daily GO train service to Niagara Falls.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak today.
I’m happy to say we had the Premier from Quebec here, who gave an excellent speech today. I’m happy he was here so I can illustrate a point. The Premier of Quebec’s province is one of five provinces in this country that currently regulates gas prices in some way. Though they all do it differently, there are regulations in place which help to stabilize the market and, in some cases, protect the consumer against unnecessarily high gasoline prices.
In my riding in Niagara this weekend, gas prices rose 14 cents a litre without any large change in the price of oil-that’s around a 56-cents-a-gallon increase. Oil prices since the start of this year have not increased substantially. We enjoyed paying 85 cents a litre then, yet gasoline prices have steadily climbed since then and now we’re paying $1.13-an increase of over 30%. People are having a hard time covering these bills. Everywhere they look in Ontario-gasoline, hydro, food prices-everything is rising.
This government needs to take a serious look into the price of gasoline. If other provinces have turned to regulating their gas markets, why wouldn’t we at least talk about it? If oil prices are dropping, then we may have an opportunity to make sure that people can drive to work for less and have a few extra bucks in their pocket to spend in their communities.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Yesterday I was happy to attend the opening of the Fort Erie Race Track, which is celebrating its 118th year. With post time at 4:15, we had nine races that saw an increase in both track betting and off-track betting. I can tell you-I was there last year-attendance was up and sales were up.
The residents of Niagara had a great time yesterday. They want to keep having a great time. That’s why we need more race dates. Forty is a good start from where we were, but we need 77 race dates.
We also need to return gaming to the track in the form of slots. With the slots back and more race dates, the track can become self-sustaining and not need a dollar from the province or the town.
Three years ago, the Premier committed to integrated horse racing with OLG, including gaming, which would bring the slots back to Fort Erie. In fact, it was the Premier’s idea. There are over 1,000 jobs that could be protected there and 200 that could be created with the return of gaming to Fort Erie. That’s jobs for the community that are absolutely needed. By returning gaming to Fort Erie, the province generates revenue and the town gets to keep their race track.
This is something that needs to happen now, so that we can continue to see more days like the very successful day we had at the Fort Erie Race Track yesterday.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I’m proud to rise today to talk about my riding of Niagara Falls. I’ll start with Fort Erie.
This year, the Fort Erie Race Track, with its new owners and hard-working employees, had the best year they’ve ever had in their 117-year history. We still need more race dates and a return of the slots to the track in order to continue to grow and protect the long-term future of our racetrack.
The Canadian Motor Speedway presents the opportunity to create hundreds of jobs, with nearly $700 million in direct and indirect private investment.
Also in Fort Erie, the Miller’s Creek Marina project has the potential to bring investment and help create jobs.
Meanwhile, in Niagara Falls, we have a request for pre-qualifying out for the entertainment centre, which will have up to 7,000 seats. I know how important this project will be to help create good jobs and help make Niagara a year-round tourist destination.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, tourists continue to pour into the town to support our wineries, our craft breweries, our craft cideries. And there is still no better place to go than the Shaw Festival to see a show.
Niagara is in a position to help lead this province in its economic recovery. With a GO train expansion all the way to Niagara Falls, we’ll be even more prepared to make it happen.
Speaker, it’s time for Ontario to recognize the opportunities in my riding and help bring these investments to Niagara. They will build our communities, help our local businesses, support our local workers and their families, and will make my riding of Niagara Falls an even better place to live and raise our families.
Mr. Wayne Gates: We have so many young, talented, smart people coming into the riding and taking advantage of the craft beer and craft cider markets. I will say without a doubt that we have the best craft beer scene in the province, maybe in the country. Go to Oast, Silversmith, Brimstone, Exchange, the Niagara Brewing Company or Niagara College, and you’ll see for yourself that we’re second to none.
This is a market that is growing rapidly. This government missed a chance in the last budget to offer all the support it needs to fully flourish and create jobs. I hope they will take a serious look this year at what the craft brewing and the craft cider markets need and will give them the tools they need to succeed.
Mr. Wayne Gates: According to the IPO the government put out about their reckless privatization of Hydro One, the CEO of the new private company would make $4 million a year. That is a 500% increase from the current CEO. How many in this chamber got a 500% increase in their wages? Anybody here?
This is simply ridiculous. The current CEO of Manitoba Hydro made $463,000 in 2014. Can this government really stand there and tell the House that the difference between those two jobs is worth $3.5 million? Somehow, I doubt they can.
This morning the government spent a lot of time telling us they couldn’t afford to increase pay for the best doctors in the world, Ontario doctors. They can’t afford to do that, but they can afford a 27% increase in CEO salaries at CCACs over the last four years. Again, that’s ridiculous. Yet we can’t get a collective agreement at CarePartners for our nurses in Niagara. And the CCAC HNHB, in anticipation of the AG’s report on CCACs, walked out 10 middle managers in one day last week. Does that tell you how top heavy they are, that they can get rid of 10 in one day?
This government has broken promise after promise and wasted billions of dollars in the fallout. It’s time for them to stand up and do the right thing. It’s time to cap public sector CEO salaries.
Mr. Wayne Gates: I would like to rise today and talk about one of the most important projects in the province of Ontario today, the Canadian Motor Speedway in Fort Erie. This is a project that is going to bring half a billion dollars of investment into our community and create good-paying and stable jobs for the people of my riding.
The talented Canadian Motor Speedway team and their executive director, Azhar Mohammad, have been working tirelessly with elected officials from all levels of government over the last few years to eliminate barriers and get this project completed. I’m happy to say we’re very close to achieving that goal.
This is a project that has partnered with Niagara College, Brock University, McMaster University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and invested in research and design that will benefit the people of this province. It’s working with the automotive industry to ensure that the bright young minds of our province have the funding to innovate for a greener, more successful future in this industry.
Simply put, this is a project that can help make Niagara the economic engine that drives the growth of this province and I’m proud to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that the members in this House will stand with me and ensure that we get this project completed, which can create thousands of jobs for this riding and bring in millions of dollars of economic development year after year after year.
Mr. Wayne Gates: Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak today. I’d like to use my time to highlight something I see happening across my riding and across the province.
We’re seeing people really starting to support their local communities by buying local. They are turning to local farmers’ markets, local wineries and local workers, to highlight a few examples. They are even going on staycations, where they stay at home and see their local sites and entertainment, giving back to their community and the tourism sector. I’ve been calling on communities to buy local for years. I’m very happy to see that so many people are supporting that initiative.
In my riding, I’d like to commend Dan Patterson, president of Niagara College, for opening up their pre-qualifying bid process to allow bids from local contractors. This kind of thing creates an opportunity for skilled tradespeople who live and work in Niagara. By expanding their list of pre-qualified bidders, they were able to include two local companies. By making room for locals and supporting our local electricians, construction workers and builders, we’re making sure good, decent jobs get back into our communities.
I’d like to see this trend continue, especially with our new hospital in Niagara Falls. I’d like to see this province buy local and support our local wineries and our local arts and culture across the province. By taking into account areas where there is high unemployment and by focusing on buy-local strategies, we can put good, hard-working Ontarians back to work.
Mr. Wayne Gates: The agri-food business brings over $30 billion into the Ontario economy each year and fuels in some way upwards of 750,000 jobs. This industry is a major economic driver and a major job producer. Those stats alone show that this industry needs the support of government. Directly, this is driven by the upwards of 15,000 farmers in Ontario who cover more than five million acres of land.
But there’s more to it. A province that can’t feed itself is a province doomed to fail. Really, this isn’t hard to see. It’s a sad story all over the province of Ontario right now. We have families turning to food banks, turning to local charities to try to access food. We’re talking about seniors and children here who don’t have food.
With proper government assistance, we’ll never need to worry about that in Ontario. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, we have a vibrant and innovative agricultural sector in all corners of this province, producing world-class food and products. If we work together, we can get this food to the people of Ontario who need it. We can do that by supporting our farmers.
Let me say this clearly: Agriculture insurance is a fundamental tool we can use to protect our farmers right here in Ontario. This bill we’re debating today will allow for insurance to be offered to more producers in this province. This is an integral step to giving our agriculture sector the backing they need to be able to grow their businesses. With this kind of insurance, we can make sure that our farmers here in Ontario know that if something out of their control occurs, the government will be there to support them.