I was very disappointed to see the decision to close R-O secondary, North Stormont Public and SJ McLeod schools. Like the hundreds of other closures across the province, their demise was not a result of poor performance, but to cuts in education funding and changes in regulations put in place by this government that gave school boards few options. I want to commend the parents, community leaders and the public who stepped up and put in the countless hours required by this flawed process. This is the second round of school closures in under ten years, and more will come if we don’t review how all government services are delivered, including education, outside of the major centres. We debated such a motion just a few weeks ago, and while the government talked of supporting rural schools, at the end of the debate, they voted against them.
The agri-food industry, supported by rural Ontario, is arguably the number one employer in Ontario and has been challenged by this Premier to lead the province in job creation. Over the past number of years, we have seen a hollowing out of provincial services outside of major urban areas. Our residents, particularly seniors, are forced to drive to Ottawa for driving assessments. We have lost many provincial services, including access to health services and those provided by Service Ontario, our agricultural college and other educational institutions and services. When you add this to the closure of almost all of our rural community stores and many of our industries, it makes growth very difficult, if not impossible. As an example, a few years ago when we were looking at hosting the student athletic games in Cornwall and area, we were told that we lacked the appropriate facilities. This government is quick to force its wind and solar farms on us, but will not support the infrastructure and reforms needed to allow us to grow and succeed.
The government’s media machine roared into action over the past couple of weeks, releasing a barrage of internet and radio ads promoting the new hydro plan, which amounts to temporary relief paid for by mortgaging our grandchildren’s’ future. Taxpayers should be furious as the government changed the rules two years ago to strip the Auditor-General of the power to block such blatant self-promotion on the taxpayer’s dime. Anyone crunching the numbers will find that the 17% rate cut will add $25 billion in interest payable after the next election. The cost of the waste and mismanagement of this government will hurt generations of Ontarians to come. These latest ads are being paid for through the cuts in health care, education and local services. It’s time to say, enough is enough.