HUNTER: The last thing Ontario needs is a snap election


Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa holds up a printout of a mocked up vote result from a vote tabulator as he demonstrates an electronic voting machine during a media availability in Toronto on Wednesday May 9 , 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

MITZIE HUNTER

Given everything that is happening right now — the COVID-19 pandemic, economic calamity, increasing violence on our streets — how can the Doug Ford government be thinking about electioneering?

Ontario has a fixed vote date of June 2, 2022, and Premier Ford needs to stick to that.

Ford and his Progressive Conservatives hold a majority at Queen’s Park. There is no reason to even consider a snap election — other than polls showing Ford’s popularity far above where it was a year ago. Does he not want to take gamble of it dropping again the longer he waits?

Now is not the time for such cynical self-interest. There is plenty to do, starting with Ford delivering the rest of his long-overdue plan to manage the second wave of the virus.

Also, on the list: fix the rocky restart to schools; truly protect our seniors in long-term care settings; and address the pandemic’s growing, disproportionate, detrimental impact on Black, Indigenous and people of colour.

COVID-19 testing and contact tracing are far from keeping up with demand. The need for more and better coordination on testing is evident as people languish in long lines.

Still, not enough on the government’s plate? Ontario is facing other major crises:

— Housing: Tenants are facing a tsunami of evictions. A rent freeze does not go far enough, and does not address the root causes of unaffordability or predatory practices by landlords.

— Food security: Foodbank visits have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Daily Bread Food Bank reporting a 25% increase since March. The pandemic has particularly impacted students that relied on school nutrition programs to supplement their food security.

— Mental health and addictions: Local public health units are reporting a drastic rise in opioid overdose deaths since the pandemic began, compared to the same period in 2019. The Ford government defunded programs for mental health and addictions prior to the pandemic.

— Gun violence: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the root causes of gun violence, as unemployment remains high and barriers persist in accessing community and mental health resources. The government needs to treat gun violence as a public health issue and invest in communities and after-school programs.

Amid these pressing issues, the premier and his PC caucus are spending time electioneering, with 72 MPPs reportedly acclaimed last weekend and the party openly aiming to nominate candidates in all other ridings by next February – a full 17 months ahead of the fixed election date.

This has to stop. Other members of the legislature are calling on the premier to pay attention to what really matters.

I introduced a motion in the legislature to formally end this election chatter. I noted that “the people of Ontario are facing immediate, critical needs which are worsening under the COVID-19 pandemic. Our systems are strained and overburdened, and the provincial government has not stepped up to provide relief.”

On Oct. 5, Ford and his MPPs will have the opportunity to vote on this motion — to affirm that they will stick to the fixed election date and do the work now that they were elected to do to keep people safe in all aspects of life.

Our province is at a critical juncture, and the people of Ontario need leadership, not politicking. The government’s actions at this point in time will determine how Ontario fares in the wake of the pandemic, both for our health and our economy.

One thing that will surely not help is a snap provincial election.

— Mitzie Hunter is the Liberal MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood



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