While the Liberal candidate in the upcoming provincial byelection says she wants the Sault to have ‘a seat at the table’, her Ontario PC party opponent says the table is broken.
At a campaign event at the F.J. Davey Home this morning, Ontario PC candidate Ross Romano said the Sault’s previous representative at Queen’s Park was not able to stop cuts to nurses and other frontline health workers and preventing waste and misspending.
"In 2016, we lost 1,600 nurses in our province — 35 nurses and frontline staff in Sault Ste. Marie alone. I am committed to fighting to ensure the money that gets invested into health care, gets invested into the front lines, where it matters the most. To care for the people we love," said Romano.
"We had a Liberal MPP in Sault Ste. Marie for the last 13 years, a hard fighter for Sault Ste. Marie and someone that everyone in this community knows in Mr. David Orazietti. He was a cabinet minister, he was at the table. And we still experienced the cuts we experienced to this day. He wasn't able to move the needle like I am sure he wanted to do in his own Liberal government. I think it's fair to say we are dealing with a government that is plagued by scandal, waste and mismanagement for years. Billions of dollars being thrown away,” said Romano.
The PC candidate said he does not want to be at Premier Kathleen Wynne’s ‘table’.
"I would be happier to fight on behalf of us, from the other side of the table and let her know — Ms. Kathleen Wynne — your table is broken and we are going to identify that on a regular and ongoing basis on behalf of the residents of our city," said Romano.
Debbie Amaroso, Ontario Liberal candidate in the June 1 byelection, said in a news release yesterday the Liberals are the best vote for residents of Sault Ste. Marie because they hold a majority government until at least the 2018 general election.
“If you elect a member of the opposition,” she said, “I’m afraid they won’t have the access or influence that I will,” suggested Amaroso.
During this morning's campaign stop, Patrick Brown, Ontario PC leader, said members of the opposition can be very effective in reversing the government’s course when it comes to policy, citing previously-planned cuts by the Liberal government to Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI) therapy for children with autism.
"It was ridiculous, but every day in the legislature we got up and exposed the government. We told the stories of children," said Brown.
"On Saturday I was in Sault Ste. Marie, and a mother told me that because of IBI therapy her child was able to say 'I love you' for the first time. They were non-verbal. IBI therapy works and because we told those stories, the government cancelled their cuts to IBI therapy," said Brown.
He added, “I can tell you, on the issue of autism — all of the Liberal MPPs said it's fine to kick kids off (of IBI therapy at age five).”
Brown and Romano highlighted the Sault’s lack of access to positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, which are used to diagnose various forms of cancer and other diseases.
Brown said Sault residents must drive to the Greater Toronto Area to receive a PET scan.
"Do you think a Kathleen Wynne apologist here is going to point out that it's wrong people have to drive nine hours for a PET Scan? We need someone who is actually going to stand up in the legislature and point out where the government hasn't acted,” said Brown.
In 2015, Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s health minister, announced the government’s intention to make a PET scanner available for the Health Sciences North Centre in Sudbury.
"Why would we complain if we only had to travel three hours to get to Sudbury? But here's the head scratcher — Sudbury is still trying to develop the funds, the $10 million or so it's going to take to obtain this PET Scanner and it's going to take at least another two years for them to obtain it," said Romano.
Brown said a permanent PET scanner in Sudbury ‘is great’, but suggests a mobile PET scanner would be cheaper and could be made available ‘immediately’.
"This is unacceptable that people in the Sault have to drive to Toronto to obtain services that we could obtain right here, right at home," said Romano.
Amaroso said she came out of retirement because she believes the Sault needs to make the most of this next year by remaining a part of the government.
“If you vote for me, your Liberal candidate, the Sault will remain a member of the majority government and there are significant benefits that come with being aligned with the government,” wrote Amaroso.
“I could take the minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to lunch and insist that I want to protect our community from bears and that the Sault won’t accept anything less than our guaranteed safety,” she said when citing various examples of how effective she believes she could be as member of provincial parliament.