Now that the leadership race for the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has been settled, Ontarians can focus on the issues. The provincial election is less than three months away. In South Dundas, as in much of rural Ontario, there are two main issues of importance: education and health care.
Just over a year ago, South Dundas was at risk of losing its high school, and one of its two English-Public elementary schools. That concern has been settled, for now. The province has established a moratorium for school closures, and set up some new funding for rural and northern schools. The moratorium has no end date, but significantly, the new funding only runs until the end of the 2018-19 school year. There is no guarantee that a new or re-elected government won’t reopen the closure matter at any time.
PC leader Doug Ford said during a leadership debate on CFPL-AM in London that he would look for efficiencies everywhere, and claimed it did not make sense to leave half-filled schools open. The Liberal government’s track record is known and well documented. Meanwhile the NDP have not released any platform information to date.
Health care is another issue in this provincial election. Rural Ontario continues to face a doctor shortage, including here in South Dundas.
Recently the government announced expansions or renovations to medical facilities across the province. Regional examples include the expansion of Brockville General Hospital and the new Children’s Treatment Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. Yet, wait lists for specialized and basic services continue to climb.
Families are waiting two-plus years to get a family doctor in this region: over 500 children on the autism spectrum are waiting for needed Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy. Ironically wait list times increased on both after the Ministry of Health added funding and “streamlined services.”
For every example noted, there are many more that could have been pointed out. Education and Health Care issues need to be top-of-mind this election, for the parties, their candidates, and the voters. These are the most basic, yet also most important services we expect government to provide. When voters go to the polls on June 7th, we should expect to have clear, established platforms from all the parties, so we can make the best choice.