SOUTH DUNDAS – Seeking his third term as MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Jim McDonell is on the road looking for support across the riding.
“I’m on the road going everywhere,” McDonell told The Leader. “There’s a lot of miles in this election.”
McDonell was first elected MPP in 2010, succeeding two-time Liberal MPP Jim Brownell. Being in the riding for this long, he has a good idea of the issues facing residents.
“The cost of energy is hurting a lot of people,” he said. “The jobs we’re lacking; the businesses that are not locating here; the seniors that are hurting. We can’t be paying more than everyone else in the country and expect to get anywhere.”
He said that Quebec offered the province inexpensive electricity generation in 2004-05, an offer turned down by the government.
“They wanted a made-in-Ontario solution,” McDonell said. “When the government tries to reinvent something, it just doesn’t work.”
He went to explain that energy was the tip of the iceberg of issues.
“The costs of living has gone up so far. Transportation. Housing, Everything is so heavily taxed. [We] just can’t afford the little things anymore.”
Despite being in opposition, McDonell was happy with the work he has done this term in the riding, especially when it comes to resolving constituent issues and health care in the SDSG.
“We’ve had some success with health care, and finally got some long term care beds. The province has said no to adding more beds in the area until 2030, now all of a sudden we’re getting them.”
He explained that he’s worked to raise the awareness of opportunities that are being missed in the riding too, along with operational issues.
“There’s been no funding increases to health care and for social services,” McDonell said. “You’ve got hospitals operating more beds than they are getting funding for, and everyone’s being told to be quiet about it.”
He said that a problem with the health care system is the number of bureaucrats, such as in the Local Health Integration Networks across the province.
“We need to put people in the front lines and seeing patients,” said McDonell. “You need some centralized planning, but they aren’t providing doctors, and we need nurses. Throwing more money at the problems is not a solution.”
Throwing money at problems was echoed in McDonell’s opinion of the school closure moratorium.
“It was too little-too late,” he said. “A simple moratorium is not good. If we want to keep rural schools, and our rural money is scarce, there needs to be effective use of facilities.”
He said the different school boards are saying they are sharing, but more needs to be done. Twice he has brought motions to the floor at Queen’s Park to evaluate school funding.
“For more than a decade we’ve heard the government say about more shops in schools for example, or updating our schools to improve technology. More teachers. More teacher’s aides. Making schools community hubs. They haven’t done anything.”
For McDonell, cooperation between school boards is part of the pledge of efficiencies that the Progressive Conservatives are running on this election. PC leader Doug Ford has vowed to find four cents in efficiencies for every dollar in the provincial budget. Outside of education, he said that health care and transportation are places where efficiencies can be found.
He questioned the timing of some of the 401 overpass projects that have taken place on in the past four years.
“Unless there is an imminent issue, why aren’t you reconstructing these as needed,” he asked. “The 401 has sections with paved shoulders, and then some with out. By itself there is no more expensive way to do it than in chunks like they are.”
With increased traffic, the incumbent sees the frequent construction restrictions as an issue.
“Human error enters into it, it’s hard to see if there is a stop in front of you,” he said.
He added that the government needs to have a plan for highway improvements.
“There needs to be an overall goal, then work towards it. We’re lacking that planning right now.”
McDonell cited recent accidents on Highways 401 and 138 with construction and winter maintenance.
“[The government] cut plowing in almost half, the facilities were cut in half,” he said. “We received a letter by mistake from the Ministry of Transportation that shows it. Then the government quietly went back and bought plows for the contractors and kept it quiet.”
Municipal infrastructures are a related concern for McDonell. He said a two-pronged approach would be put in place if the PC’s form the next government.
“We’re committed to giving more money to municipalities for infrastructure,” he said. “On a per capita basis, not a grant basis. We’ll give the money back to the municipalities and let them decide what their priorities are.”
He added that when local governments went to the province, the decision on infrastructure grants were based on whether a municipality had tried to borrow the money first.
“First borrow all you can, then come to the government for money,” McDonell said.
He said that would stop with a PC government.
For the agriculture industry, McDonell said that farms are struggling with the regulations brought down by the current government.
“There’s no input from the agriculture industry, yet the regulations keep coming,” he said. “Farmers are behind the gun competing against the US market. They have high hydro costs to deal with as well. [The farmers] do well but could use some help.”
McDonell stopped short of suggesting any subsidies for the agriculture industry only to say there are needs in the industry and that Ontarians need to be heard.
“The people deserve a respectful government and we aren’t having it now,” said McDonell. “A respectful government, finding efficiencies. Nothing fancy, just good governance.”