Jim McDonell – This Week at Queen’s Park – Bill 166/160

The week in Queen’s Park revolved around Bill 166, which implements reforms of new home warranties, and Bill 160, which brings in new requirements for medical professionals to disclose any financing they receive from pharmaceutical companies, as well as amending and enacting a raft of new health-related legislation.

Accountability for healthcare dollars and public access to health services have always been top-of-the-mind concerns for many residents of SD&G. My office often receives calls from residents whose local primary care physician retired or moved, and who now find themselves without a family doctor. In times when government money is scarce, and the health sector faces the challenge of a growing aged population, the way we manage and account for healthcare dollars should leave no doubt as to the system’s focus on the citizens it should serve.

Our health system is beset by debatable spending, especially where the bureaucracy and massive projects such as E-Health are concerned. The Official Opposition and I fully support transparency in the health sector, including the disclosure of financial relationships, of whichever magnitude, which exist between prescribing professionals and the companies that manufacture the prescribed products. This reform does not tackle the source of the greatest inefficiencies in our healthcare: the fact that residents, especially in rural areas cannot access health services locally when they need them. It is far cheaper to prevent our residents from getting sick or sicker through regular involvement with primary and preventive care. Our region’s hospitals’ concerns regarding funding decisions that affect their ability to budget for the future are yet to be addressed in a permanent and sustainable manner. Clearly, the government could and should do more for patients.

Bill 160 also implements tighter regulations concerning sonographers and other medical practitioners who use energy to perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, including ultrasounds. I have met with advocates for such regulation over the years and heard how unlicensed and untrained individuals could hold themselves out as professionals and perform these procedures, often at the risk of great harm to the patient. As the bill moves forward and gets eventually examined at Committee, I look forward to hearing more feedback from stakeholders on the issue.

On Wednesday, Official Opposition Leader Patrick Brown moved an Opposition Day Motion to have the current government issue an official apology to Ontarians for hiding the true cost of the Fair Hydro Plan. According to the Auditor-General, the government improperly created a legal smokescreen around the massive borrowing required to implement a temporary reduction in Ontarians’ energy bills. As a consequence, the Province’s official accounts will not reflect this debt, allowing the government to trumpet a “balanced” budget when balance is nowhere to be seen. Moreover, this smoke screen will cost Ontarians an extra $4 billion, which could be saved if the debt is properly accounted for in the first place. If the government is not willing to use proper Canadian accounting standards, then they at least owe the people of Ontario an apology.