Mike Mantha March Message

Michael Mantha letter to minister of transportaion

january 23rd, 2020

Mike Mantha update

 

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Now that the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season is over, I’m happy to say I feel refreshed and eager to tackle the many issues that affect all of us as Northern Ontarians. I know we are already two weeks into the New Year, but I want to wish everyone all the best in 2020.

Over the holidays I exchanged similar greetings with friends, neighbours and loved ones I met. I received a Christmas card from a constituent that threw me a bit of a changeup with her greeting, “Happy 2020, Mike.” I chuckled and then went on to read her very poignant message. She explained that she chose to use that particular phraseology because whenever we hear the number 2020, it brings to mind the idea of the perfect vision score. She said, “I wish you and your colleagues will experience clarity and perfect vision in your work in leading our province.” Wow, pretty cool thinking I thought. So I too wish everyone a Happy 2020 with the same sentiment in mind.

Without doubt, the unrest in Education at the moment is causing rising concern in the minds of all Ontarians. No wonder as our children’s wellbeing and future is without question our greatest asset. It will seem but the blink of an eye -- the world will be in their hands and we will be counting on them to make this imperfect old world work.

Clearly it is rather unusual to have the public interest so involved in any regular contract negotiations. But then again, the outcome of labour negotiations in this matter will have a huge impact on almost every Ontarian, either directly or indirectly. So this is where my Happy 2020 wishes come into the picture. It is imperative that the People of Ontario have clarity of vision on the offshoot educational issues at hand.

Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Leece have really painted the entire education sector into a corner crisis. Not since 1997 under Conservative Premier Mike Harris have Ontarians seen the government at odds with all teacher unions in the province involved with job action. That occasion also was brought about by monumental changes and cuts to education.

Lets not forget that the Liberals were caught not playing fair during teacher negotiations. In 2012 the Liberals were taken to court by Ontario teachers for passing Bill 115 which the courts found to be unconstitutional. The legislation imposed contracts for all teachers in order to totally avoid potential strikes. The imposed contracts froze teacher’s wages, prohibited their ability to strike and swept away payouts for unused sick days, all without negotiation. The court decision resulted in forcing the Government to pay restitution. As they say, “Liberal – Tory, same old story.”

In this case, there are two main issues bogging down negotiations; the education professional’s opposition to increasing class size – bringing about the loss of thousands of teaching positions – and the mandatory completion of two online courses in order to achieve a high school diploma.

It is also important to note that the Toronto Star recently obtained a government document, marked confidential, that indicated that the Ford Government is planning to make completion of two online courses mandatory until at least 2024. Then, at that time, they plan to allow students to earn their diploma entirely on line – without ever setting foot in a classroom. Hardly a recipe for a well rounded education with the benefit of social interaction and learning to work interactively and collaboratively with peers.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Not only do the Ford Conservatives see eliminating teaching jobs as a way to save money, they have now even found a way to turn education into a business for profit. The Toronto Star also learned that the Province was considering creating an all online curriculum and then selling it to other interested education departments across Canada and in the United States. How all of a sudden is making the objective of our education system to make money for the government an acceptable goal?

It’s hard for the public to have a clear view of an issue when what they are informed of is only partially made visible and filtered by political spin-doctors. Minister Lecce has been appealing parents and the general public time and time again to rise up against the teachers as they are only fighting against legislation that limits any financial increases to just one percent over the next four years. All the while Ford and Lecce say they are bargaining in good faith with the teachers. Really?! Does creating legislation solely intended to hamstring contract negotiations with the government constitute bargaining in good faith? I think the People of Ontario’s vision of this argument is pretty clear.

No matter what spin the Ford Government tries to put on this, there is no question that the main interest of Ontario teachers is first and foremost the success of our children. That’s just who teachers are. If a student has low achievement, the teacher’s job is not to find blame in the child but rather to figure out how to help that child find a learning/teaching pathway to success. For only when the child succeeds does the teacher succeed.

The truth be known, Doug Ford is well aware that the People of Ontario’s vision is just fine. He knows the Province is fighting a losing battle. What other explanation would there be for the Ministry of Education to offer compensation of up to $60 per day to parents for any inconvenience they experience due to rotating job actions taken by the teachers? Nothing says commitment, devotion and integrity like buying public support by handing out pocket money.

It would seem to me that Ontarians visual acuity is just fine. Like I said, “Happy 2020.”

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin

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sunday, december 15th

Update From Mike Mantha

 

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Readers of this weekly column well know the importance that New Democrats put on providing our youth with the best education, support, safety and opportunities that the people of this province can. Quite literally, our youth truly does represent the future of not only this province but of this world. That’s why I make visiting students from primary grades through to college a high priority. It also explains why I find wide ranging issues facing our youth so troubling. Ontario youth are under attack in terms of education, health, safety, training, finance and even the physical and mental wellbeing.


For example, I’m very concerned about funding cuts for public education which ultimately leads to problems at the bargaining table between the Ministry of Education, The Ontario Schoolboard Association and the various teachers unions. Teachers genuinely care about our children in every respect. They see firsthand what effects funding cuts have on the quality of education our youth is receiving. Thank goodness they are in a good, but unenviable positon of standing up to the Ford Government to speak up for our children. Mr. Ford knows that the right thing to do is reverse his deep and hurtful cuts to education. He has taken us to the very brink of a full-blown labour strike just because he is determined to plow ahead with his reckless money saving scheme to cram more kids into classrooms, force high schoolers to take mandatory classes online, rip course options away and take thousands of caring adults out of schools. We know students, parents and education workers don’t want this. The NDP is urging the premier to stop picking a fight with teachers, stop using our kids as pawns, and start bargaining in good faith.

Regular readers of this column will recall references to numerous similar education issues. Such references included reducing grace periods to begin student loan repayment, confusion and chaos regarding school curriculum issues, disrepair of school buildings, calling student unions - who see to the wellbeing and safety of postsecondary student bodies - as Marxist troublemakers and meddling with autonomous college and university fee structures. I can’t imagine the stress that all these issues and actions are raising for our youth.


Another major concern I have is for the health of our youth and the government’s reluctance to demonstrate any genuine effort to protect our children from harmful substances. Of course here I am referring to the issue of the effects of vaping on people’s health. In truth, science does not know a heck of a lot about the long-term effects of vaping. Without doubt, the government has a role to play “in loco parentis” as teachers well know is Latin for “in place of a parent.” All of us need to help to look out for our youth.

It is imperative that Ontario takes a precautionary approach when allowing things such as vaping products onto the market. Ontario is far behind other jurisdictions when it comes to protecting our youth from the predatory practices of the vaping industry, and it is time to catch up.

For this reason, MPP France Gélinas, NDP Health Critic France Gélinas has put forward the Vaping is not for Kids bill. This bill sets up firm obligations on the Ministry of Health to prevent Ontario youth from picking up vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine. It would prohibit the promotion of vaping products, regulate what flavours are available, set a maximum amount of nicotine per milliliter of e-fluid, restrict sales to specialty shops, require Ontario Health to prepare an annual report on vaping usage and health effects and set tax money aside for research.


Michael Perley, the Ontario Medical Association’s chair at the Ontario Coalition Against Tobacco, supports this NDP bill. Perley stated: "Thanks to an inadequate and permissive federal vaping legalization framework and to the aggressive promotion of flavoured vaping by the tobacco industry, more and more Ontario kids are becoming addicted to nicotine every day. The provincial government needs to take strong action now to block industry nicotine promotion to our kids. Banning all flavours except those specifically permitted, and restricting vaping sales to specialty vaping stores, as Madame Gélinas proposes, will help align vaping regulation with tobacco regulation.”


As well, Dr. Atul Kapur, Executive Director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, also supports Gélinas's bill, stating, "It took decades for us to learn the health effects of smoking. We are now at the same early stages with vaping. If we are going to learn the lessons from smoking, we need to be more cautious in how we allow these products to be marketed.”

I think I can pretty safely say that without exception, any parent would do whatever it takes to protect their children. I truly believe that responsibility also falls onto the shoulders of elected officials because, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child. New Democrats are proud to join many thousands of parents, educators, health care providers and youth organizations in challenging the Ford Government to get its priorities straight.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Michael Mantha Update!

I am always honoured to be invited to visit schools across Algoma-Manitoulin. Frequently I am invited to meet with secondary students taking civics and careers classes, but in truth I visit all grades from primary to college. One question I can almost always count on being asked is what I think is the most important thing that an MPP does. In short, I reply that it is to bring the collective voice of the people to Queen’s Park. In an effort to make life better for all Ontarians, New Democrats are proud to bring the thoughts, concerns and needs of our constituents to the attention of the Government, day in and day out. Recently my colleague, NDP MPP Guy Bourgoin, presented a bill that would have improved winter maintenance of Highways 11 & 17 by upgrading their designation to class 1 highways such as the 400 series and Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) highways. Class 1 highways require contractors to remove snow to bare pavement within 8 hours of the end of a snowfall. Highways 11 & 17 are an essential link for people and commerce here in the North. When Hwy. 11 and the TransCanada highways are shut down, so are the lives of people who must travel to work, school, medical treatment and other important services. Closed roads mean thousands of tons of necessary freight and supplies are left stranded on the side of the road – escalating costs, depleting the consumer’s wallet and putting many business operations into jeopardy. In addition to the inconvenience to people’s lives and havoc for business, poorly maintained roads costs lives. Each year too many Northern Ontario families and communities are shattered by horrific injuries and deaths. While we may be able to put a price tag on the cost to business operators, no such assessment can be derived from the loss of loved ones. Bill 125, Making Northern Ontario Highways Safer Act, would have gone a long way to reduce the horrific statistics. Northern drivers and their families have waited long enough. My office receives many calls, letters and emails of complaint - not that there is snow or ice on the roads but rather complaining about the poor winter road maintenance services response in the North. Northerners expect bad storms and poor conditions. But they also expect Ministry of Transportation winter road crews to be out there doing their utmost to make the roads as safe as possible. But contractors only have to achieve the minimum standards. In December of 2017 in the Legislature I raised this issue reading out the headlines of stories the people of AlgomaManitoulin read in their papers: “Highway 101 Open after Multiple Collisions”—multiple deaths; “Victim Identified in Fatal Collision” near Chapleau; “OPP Identify Man Killed in Wawa-Area Single Vehicle Crash”; “Man Dies in Collison on Highway 17, North of Wawa”; “Two Killed in Crash Near Massey; Three Others in Hospital”; “Driver Identified in Fatal Highway 17 Accident”; “Fatal Crash Closes Highway 17 at Whitefish”; “OPP Investigating Fatal Accident North of Elliot Lake”; “Two men died in a head-on collision in Sudbury”; “Multi-Vehicle Crash Closes Highway 17”; “Three Vehicle Crash North of the Sault”; Two-Vehicle Collision Snarls Highway Traffic.” Unfortunately, the Ford Conservative Government unanimously voted against Bill 125, so it was quashed in second reading. Further, three Conservative Northern MPPs chose to be out of the legislature on other business to avoid having to be recorded voting against a bill that would benefit their own voters. North Bay MPP Vic Fedeli said that the service level for Hwys 11 & 17 are based on the number of vehicles on those highways and their proximity to other cities. He went on further to say that Northerners do not need to have their roads to be classified as 1st class because these two roads are usually cleared in an average of just 7 hours. Well, some might be – perhaps the ones in Fedeli’s PC riding. Fideli posted on social media that, MTO has made enhanced public information a priority. Public messaging includes driving according to road and weather conditions.” Recently Sudbury MPP Jamie West said, “People are white knuckled on unplowed, icy highways, and it’s even scarier when it’s your kids out there. Families don’t want to hear about the dollars supposedly saved by making us less safe. And families sure as heck don’t want to hear that the priority is ‘enhanced public information.’ Northern families want and deserve enhanced snow plowing and road safety." I’m no statistical scholar, but I can tell you this; the problem with using averages is that they are not able to provide you with any actual record of incidents. They leave you with a very misleading overall picture. Do averages help us to understand the loss of a parent who is the sole breadwinner of a family? Do averages take into account the cost of losing a business, job or even worse, a limb? The fact is, average numbers are highly skewed by localized fast responses. For example, you could have 100 reports that indicate response was complete in say 5 hours, but 100 responses that took over 24 hours to be completed. If you are in those areas that are below the average, what good does that do you? But mathematically the numbers can be skewed to look good. Averages tell you nothing about the actual incidents and often leaves one with a faulty overall understanding. Professor Aaron Levenstien says it best: “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” It was revealed that last year the government issued $291,000 in penalties against highway maintenance contractors who violated their service agreement, of which the largest penalties were levied against contractors in Sault Ste. Marie who also maintain roads in Algoma-Manitoulin. Such penalties are levied when contractors don’t meet the requirements to keep the roads safe, plowing the roads quickly after a snowstorm and salting the roads adequately. It’s not even officially winter, and already Northerners have experienced road closures and learned of fatalities. Already people have been stranded on the road and freight delivery has been delayed. And the thing is, unlike most other regions, here in the North we have no access to alternative routes home. It is more than clear that the Ford Conservatives consider the safety and needs of Northern Ontarians to be second-class – both figuratively and literally. New Democrats say the Conservatives are putting a price tag on the lives of Northern Ontarians. They dismiss these complaints as grandstanding and political gamesmanship. In truth, New Democrats see this matter for what it is – a matter of life and death. As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899. Michael Mantha MPP/député Algoma-Manitoulin 

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