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Advancing Your Concerns at Queen's Park

(Queen's Park Report - January 9, 2011) If there’s one thing I’ve always known, it’s that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  It’s advice I often find myself giving to constituents, whether it’s parents trying to save their local school, patients trying to preserve a health service or a municipality unhappy with an arrangement with the province.

In 2010 I spoke up on a lot of issues at Queen’s Park.  Through petitions alone, I rose 71 times in the Legislature to advance local concerns.  18 times for medical labs, 16 times to oppose the HST, 12 times to support keeping and repairing Elmvale District High School, and the list goes on.

During Question Period, I debated the premier and his ministers 17 different times on issues ranging from skyrocketing hydro rates, the need for a business risk management program for farmers, the DriveTest strike, post-secondary education, tourism, cutting Old Age Security for convicted criminals, and the list goes on.

I also used Members’ Statements to rise in the Legislature to salute local people, like the late Joseph “Chic” Simonato of Collingwood or the Alliston Hornets for winning the Ontario Junior ‘C’ hockey championships.   I also used these legislative statements to advance local issues, including: the need for traffic signals for Green Briar on Highway 89 in New Tecumseth, pension reform for Simcoe County paramedics, relief for apple growers affected by the tornado, to support local pharmacists and stop healthcare cuts, and to help children at-risk at the Simcoe County Children’s Aid Society.

In the fall I met regularly with the Queen’s Park press gallery to talk about serious provincial issues, like the Windsor Hospital’s decision to hand out cigarettes to patients or Dalton McGuinty’s refusal to tell families what happened to the 143 criminals who were mistakenly released from Ontario prisons.

When the McGuinty government announced it would spend $30 million to give lucrative $40,000 per year scholarships to foreign students, Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak and I stood up and launched a province-wide campaign to put Ontario students first.  We held a press conference, launched a petition, held roundtables with students and I did interviews and had debates on CBC Metro and Ontario morning, The Agenda with Steve Paikin and many other news outlets.

In our riding, our traditions are rooted in our agricultural heritage.  That’s why I used the one opportunity I had this year to debate the need for the province to bring in a business risk management program for farmers in all sectors.  It’s a rare opportunity that an MPP gets to debate and vote on a bill of their choosing, and I felt strongly about using my chance this year to stand behind our agricultural community. 

As a member of the Standing Committee on Government Agencies, I also have the responsibility of reviewing government appointments.  Committees are good chances to raise local issues.  When a Minister comes to committee, I always use the opportunity to talk about local issues, like I did when I debated the Minister of Health about medical lab closures at the Standing Committee on Estimates.  I did the same sort of thing when we were trying to get St. Paul’s School rebuilt in Alliston.  I debated the topic with the Minister of Education at committee a few years ago, and it helped.  The school is rebuilt and looking great. 

While there are many other issues untold in this column, and many other ways to advance them, I hope this helps inform you of some of the work I’ve undertaken on your behalf, at Queen’s Park.

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