News from the Park

News from the Park
Would someone please inform Doug Ford that the election is over? Since the Conservatives have now formed government it seems that Ford is having problems transitioning to actually governing with real plans and policies. When you sit back and look at what he has said and done since taking office it seems he has committed the Conservatives to governing using a bumper-sticker, campaign style slogan in developing government policy.

For example, days ago Doug Ford was beaming like a school boy with a new bike to show off when he announced that Ontarians can look forward to “buck-a-beer” days again in time for Labour Day weekend. The Conservatives are bringing back “buck-a-beer” by lowering the minimum price that brewers are permitted to charge to $1.00 per bottle, down from $1.25. It is important for consumers to note, however, that this does not mean brewers will drop their prices. In fact, several breweries have already stated that they can’t sell it for a buck because it costs them too much to make it. By the time they take into account the price of the grains, yeast, hops and even water, it is just impossible. As many of you have experienced, water rates have been dramatically rising, especially in larger communities. Did you know that it takes over 100 litres of water to produce just 10 liters of beer?

Ontarians are enjoying tremendous growth in the smaller breweries and micro breweries who make craft beers available regionally. If the big name, multinational brewers can afford to lower the price, what chance is there for the smaller brewers to reduce their prices? In other words, Ford is doing a great sales job offering Ontarians something that just can’t be bought at the prices he is quoting. But,… he did keep that bumper-sticker campaign promise.

In addition to offering discount priced beer which can’t actually be purchased for the quoted price, the Conservatives are offering brewers who choose to participate in the lower “beer price challenge” “incentives” that would make it worth their while financially. Breweries who sign up for the “buck-a-beer challenge”, as Ford calls it, will get incentives such as time limited discounts, advertising in LCBO stores and flyers, and in-store promotions such as end-of-aisle product display and extended shelving. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli claims that there are no financial incentives paid out by the government and that it won’t cost the province anything to do this.

Andrea Horwath pointed out to the Minister, however, that there is a cost to the province and that LCBO promotions do “have monetary value.” For example, if a brewer wanted to purchase end of aisle placement in LCBO stores, they would pay $170 - $215 monthly to each LCBO store. This translates to $36,000 to $46,000 in lost revenue.

Andrea went on to say, “These product placements or ads in the Food and Drink magazine that the LCBO has, these things have monetary value. We have a premier who is cutting income to the very poorest amongst us as a priority, and at the same time subsidizing buck-a-beer.” New Democrats say that Ontarians expect their government to get on with the hard work of making life better for families. That means things like following through with the minimum income project to the conclusion of the study and using data and facts to make informed, responsible decisions on whether to expand the policy for the good of all people and our democratic society. That means making investments in mental health services – not slashing them by $335 million a year. Ontarians deserve better.

On another note, you may have heard that in the Legislature I brought forward the concerns of frustrated parents, students, and residents of Manitoulin Island who are voicing their concerns regarding measures taken by the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB). RDSB has banned Trustee Larry Killens from all board meetings for the remainder of his elected term. This in effect means the entire region has no elected representative at any school board meetings until after the next election. Upon reviewing the board policy, it seems that the board has no such authority to take this action. This needs to be looked into by an outside authority. If this is true, it is undemocratic and improper.

I have spoken with Education Minister Lisa Thompson on several occasions about this matter. Her response is simply that she is not getting involved because it is entirely a board matter. She says that it’s up to the parents to take this up with the school board. The problem is that parents and citizens have been trying to do this and have been getting no response. In fact parents organized a “town hall” meeting and invited board members and the director to attend to try to help the community fully understand and resolve the issue. The meeting was well attended by over 100 Island community members but no representative from the board appeared.

New Democrats remain committed to standing up for all Ontarians and will continue to hold our leaders to accountable, transparent leadership and policies that reflect care and compassion.

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