I don’t think anyone would disagree we are frustrated to see that the beginning of 2022 looks more like the beginning of 2021 than we hoped. With that said, working together, we’ve won some big victories this year on behalf of Niagara-on-the-Lake. While this is a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19, our hope is that this wave will ebb quicker than the ones before it and finally put an end to this nightmare.
While it seems like a lifetime ago, 2021 began with its unique set of problems. During that time we had discovered Premier Doug Ford had diverted life-saving vaccines from Niagara and offered no explanation as to where they were sent. As a community, we stood together and said this was unacceptable. Together, we made a commitment to get Niagara’s fair share of vaccines and we proudly delivered on that commitment.
Within weeks, Niagara’s vaccines would be made readily accessible to seniors in our community and finally to all residents wanting protection against this persistent virus. I must admit, my frustration was not well-hidden when I saw the same issues in the vaccine rollout present themselves in December as we did in those early months. Simply put, after two years of this pandemic, every level of government should have a plan in place to rapidly distribute the excess vaccines and tests we have available in the provinces. Every day these vital tools go unused is a day one of our loved ones is at-risk. We ensured that Niagara got its fair share of vaccines and we’ll do so again.
Unfortunately, as so many saw, vaccines were not the only area of our healthcare system that lagged behind residents’ needs. A perennial issue we’ve faced here in Niagara has been availability of MRI scans. Imagine – residents are told an MRI scan could be the difference between a benign issue or a life-altering diagnosis. After they receive that information they are then told they won’t know which it is for another 12 months. The province sets a bench mark for a reason, and that bench mark must be met. In 2017, I was proud to work with every single party in the Legislature and get legislation pass unanimously to clear Niagara’s MRI backlog and provide more funding for diagnostic services. In 2021, I discovered that our list had once again grown out of control. With help from the residents of the town we once again ushered the support of Ontario’s political parties and raised this issue in the Legislature. Once again, we used our voice together and secured a commitment for more funding. I will be watching this issue closely to ensure that list is cleared.
I am so proud to say we’ve successfully advocated for provincial funding to support one of our hardest-hit sectors – arts and culture. Without visitors or audiences, sources of revenue dried up for this sector which has brought our town so much fame. Proudly we stood beside cultural institutions such as the Shaw Festival and our galleries to ensure they received the funding they need to stay afloat until we can welcome back their visitors. We successfully pushed for support to our trails and natural spaces that preserve our greenspaces for generations to come.
Of course, there are issues we are still pushing for. Once again, we saw the Ford cabinet use its powers to rip up greenbelt spaces. So far, we’ve saved Niagara-on-the-Lake’s greenbelt from this and we continue to watch the situation closely. We cannot lose the town’s cultural and historic spaces. What we love about this town must be preserved and that means ending the unaccountable process used by this government to build on greenspaces.
The collective fight for safer classrooms continues. I think we can all agree that the best place for our kids is in classrooms. Since September, we’ve been pushing for a safer schools plan. This would’ve meant smaller classrooms, resources for schools and ready access to rapid tests for students, teachers and families. Unfortunately, that advice was not taken by Premier Ford, but my message to him is that it’s not too late. Actions can and must be taken now to get kids safely back in school. I believe there’s a common sense plan to make that commitment and we remain committed to seeing that through.
As you know, I am willing to work with anyone of any party. If a policy benefits the town, I’ll support it and if it hurts the town we’ll raise our voice. Doing this we’ve won some big victories and overcome some hardships over the last year.
While this virus has dampened our hopes for the early days of 2022, I believe better days are ahead very soon. I think if we work
together and listen to one another, we can get there even quicker.