McDonell wants to ‘set the record straight’ on education funding, health care

MPP Jim McDonell. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

The following is a column entitled This Week at Queen’s Park where MPP Jim McDonell has outlined a number of issues that have been the subject of protests and public debate.

Every day, my constituency office staff receive dozens of calls and emails. We are always happy to help in any way possible to resolve their concerns.

Along with those issues, however, there has also been a noticeable increase recently in constituents who contact us because they have seen or heard rumours of actions the government is taking. I wanted to set the record straight about a few of the misconceptions that are currently making the rounds in Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

1. Education Changes – Contrary to what you may have heard, the Ontario government is increasing education funding, not cutting it. Even so, the hard reality is that student enrollment numbers across the province continue to decrease, which makes it difficult to maintain current teacher levels, especially when many schools are already well below capacity. However, our government is committed to ensuring that none of our dedicated, hardworking teachers will lose their jobs by providing $1.6 billion in new attrition protection funding. At the same time, we want to improve the education your children receive so they have the skills they need for successful futures.

2. Health Care Changes – Ontario spends about $60 billion each year on our public health care system, but are we really getting the care and services we need for the money we are spending? Our government believes we can do better by keeping all our frontline staff in place, including nurses and doctors, but eliminating the bloated bureaucracy and duplicated services that are costing billions of dollars. The government is not cutting or privatizing services. We are actually increasing funding for our public health system by $1.7 billion.

3. OHIP Out of Country Coverage – In the past, OHIP has provided very small reimbursements for Ontarians who have incurred out of COUNTRY medical expenses. Typically, these amount to far less than 5% of the total costs (for example, someone who goes to an out of country emergency room would only be a maximum of reimbursed $50 CAD). This program was roundly criticized by the Auditor General as costly and inefficient, which is why the government has chosen to discontinue it.

It is important to remember that the government inherited a financial mess. Our province is currently spending $30 million per day on interest payments to service our $350 billion debt, the largest sub-national debt in the world. The government has to act to restore balance while protecting those services we value most. It won’t be an easy job, but it is important for our future as a province.

My constituency office staff are always happy to answer your questions and clear up any confusion stemming from misinformation and rumours. I urge you to call us if you have questions of your own.

Recently Eastern Ontario and Muskoka was hit with severe flooding. This government is responding and I have been asked to sit on a task force with two of my colleagues that will engage with the public to listen to concerns about disaster support programs. Public meetings are being held in Muskoka, Ottawa and Pembroke over the next two weeks where we hope to hear ideas on how we can improve how we respond to these types of disasters.