Wayne on the Issues
Below are 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 people of Niagara Falls have been promised a new hospital. They have been told that this hospital is coming. We’ve had not one but two unveilings of billboards. We were told that the mental health unit and the labour and delivery unit were taken out of a Niagara Falls hospital because it would be replaced by a new state-of-the-art hospital. If you can imagine, you can go to Niagara Falls and make babies; we just can’t deliver them. And yet, years later, residents are driving across the region for services they need. There is no reason why we can’t put a shovel in the ground on this hospital today. The government is in the process of dismantling the LHIN, outsourcing those services. How can they also now be planning the necessary services in the new hospital? Can the minister confirm that we will not be losing any services? When will the first shovel break ground and when will the residents finally see their hospital go up?" - March 19, 2019
Mr. Wayne Gates: After what the Government did to Fort Erie, this government should not even think twice about removing services from the town. We will absolutely raise our voices against this. You will hear this from people from Fort Erie: the seniors who earned better care throughout their lifetime of working; young people flooding to Fort Erie and starting new families; the tourists who visit us; and those who have been there for their whole lives. - December 9, 2019
Mr. Wayne Gates: "I want to talk quickly about the environment in Niagara and a piece that needs to be removed from this bill immediately. Anyone from Niagara remembers the controversy our region had with the last board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, so I won’t rehash that here. What is clear, though, is that the people of Niagara wanted changes to the governance of that board, and they worked very hard to make sure those changes happened. What we now have is a citizen-led board that is mostly comprised of citizen appointees who make sure that everything that happens there is transparent and accountable. Above all, they make sure that the decisions of the board best protect our local environment and natural heritage, not big developers. Of course, in the Ford administration, we’ve seen the Premier try to open up our protected greenbelt to develop it more than once.
So I’m going to finish—I won’t be able to get through it all. But I’m certainly going to finish by saying we must protect the NPCA. We must leave all the citizens who are on that board today and not get rid of them and give it back to the government. It makes absolutely no sense. Nothing is more important, outside of getting rid of COVID-19, quite frankly, than protecting our environment for our kids and our grandkids."
Mr. Wayne Gates: "Home care is something that is deeply important to me, and it’s important to me for a number of reasons. Above all, in Niagara, we have one of the highest populations of seniors in the entire country—not just in the province, but the entire country. So for me, it’s an issue of respecting our seniors—seniors who built our community, who built our communities right across Ontario; seniors who deserve the respect of their community and their government after a lifetime of work. What we have in Ontario right now falls vastly short of that goal. Instead of seniors being able to rely on home care properly, we have a system that is broken. Let me say that again: The Ontario home care system is broken. We know the past Liberal government ignored this problem for years. Frankly, they ignored the issues facing our seniors for a long time, whether it was in home care, long-term care or hospital care. It was not adequately dealt with under the last government." - March 5, 2020
Mr. Wayne Gates: "Upwards of 70% of the calls our first responders and police get are from people experiencing a mental health crisis. We have a hallway medicine crisis in Niagara. Doctors, nurses, front-line health care workers are trying their best, but they cannot devote the time necessary to help someone who needs that help right away. Frankly, it’s shameful that the government is forcing them to do this simply because they don’t want to provide the funds—not that this government hasn’t promised that funding for the people in Niagara. In December 2018, this government unanimously passed a motion given to us by front-line mental health workers in Niagara—supported by every member from Niagara, by the way: St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Niagara Centre and Niagara West." - March 4, 2020
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: 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: "We can use single-sports betting programs to bring jobs back to the Fort Erie Race Track. Since the slots were denied to them without any public input—I’ll repeat that: without any public input—we are left with a track that still has the capacity for gaming, and yet no gaming. If we’re going to bring in single-sports betting, the track would be a prime place to do that. I hope this government will support that. I hope they’ll come to Fort Erie and work with us to introduce single-sports betting there. It would create good-paying union jobs. It would bring in tourism. It would help the track get additional revenue, which I hope will lead to more race days, because that’s what we really need down in Fort Erie: We need more race days. I will never, ever give up on that track or the jobs there. Single-sports betting should be allowed to happen there so we can continue to support our track." - April 15, 2019
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: 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?
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: 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: 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: 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.